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Deconstructing A Crisis: After An Accident, 1 Tweet Could Ruin a Contractor’s Reputation



Minutes after the partial collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans last month, videos of the devastating accident flooded the internet. Using just their smartphones, bystanders captured the destruction and chaos that left three workers dead and 30 people injured. Videos and images from the horrific accident spread quickly on social media, from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Snapchat.

Partly because of the shocking footage, the incident quickly became national news, where the videos were replayed on news programs repeatedly throughout the days and weeks afterward.

The fast pace of social media has changed how construction companies need to respond to a crisis, said Anthony Huey, president of Columbus, Ohio-based consulting firm Reputation Management. It makes quickly communicating with the news media more important than ever to make sure the correct information gets out.

In fast-changing situations, platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram sometimes breed misleading and wrong information that often goes viral, said Huey, who has been helping U.S. contractors sharpen their crisis communications skills since 2004.

In fact, most problems Huey has seen in the dozens of crises he’s been involved with relate to misinformation that spread in the first minutes and hours after an accident. He tells clients to make an initial statement within the first 45 minutes to help “set the record straight.”

Here is one example of a video that was tweeted by a bystander that quickly was picked up by the local news station:

“If it takes several hours for you to get back to the media or update your employees, in that vacuum of silence people are speculating and misinformation is leaking out,” he said.

Perfect storm of events

An example of this, Huey said, ​is the day the newly opened Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapsed in 2018. Heavy equipment had to be moved out of the way to make room for emergency vehicles. As the operator of a construction crane moved the piece of equipment off-site, a bystander took a photo and posted it on social media.

The image was picked up by the Miami Herald with the headline “Crane operator flees scene.” Readers quickly jumped on social media to speculate that the driver might have had something to do with the accident, which was later proven to be false. The report also appeared in other local media outlets and as far away as the New York Post and the Daily Mail, a U.K.-based publication.

Huey said the case is an example of how incorrect information can quickly go viral and said the contractor and crane operator should have quashed the report when it first appeared. But no one from either company called the Miami Herald or took to social media to refute the story, he said. “To this day, it’s still out there for anyone to see.”

“Now [news] lives forever on Google.”

Anthony Huey

Ohio-based communications consultant

Via photos and videos, social media can also record small problems and amplify them into big ones, Huey said. “In the past, if someone made a blunder on a jobsite and the TV news didn’t pick it up, it would not make it into the public’s awareness, but now it lives forever on Google,” he said.

Patricia Kagerer, executive vice president of risk management at Jordan Foster Construction in Dallas, agrees, saying that construction firms of all sizes must have a process to monitor online comments.

“Old school thinking was to ignore it,” she said, “but today that is no longer the case.”

It ‘won’t happen to us’

The power of social media to amplify or distort bad news is just one reason why firms need to have a crisis communications plan in place, said Huey. However, a majority of construction companies don’t have one and prefer to think a major catastrophe “won’t happen to us.”

He looks at social media as a double-edged sword, one with the power to spread misinformation but also to create an opportunity for general contractors and subs to communicate to a large number of people very quickly.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter offer potential benefits for promoting positive company news but they can also be drivers of bad news, making accidents seem worse than they are. Not having a plan for how to handle negative information on social media can impact future business, according to Kagerer, who helps to oversee the emergency response plan at Jordan Foster Construction. ​

“If you don’t have a plan as to how to handle the fact that somebody’s out there saying that your company kills people or if you’re not even aware of it, it could cost you a potential job in the future,” she said. “I can assure you that your owners are aware of it.”​

Communication best practices

Bethesda, Maryland-based Clark Construction has a comprehensive emergency action plan in place, according to Sara Guthrie, vice president of communications. She said while she hopes they never have to use it, the plan includes a communication protocol and process for responding to media inquiries. Spokespersons are determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the location and type of event, she said.

“When there is an unexpected event, it’s important to make sure that there is a clear plan for notifying and coordinating with everyone involved — company leadership, the client, local authorities and the media,” she said. “This includes clearly assigning responsibility for notifying and coordinating with each of those entities.”

The FIU bridge collapse in March 2018 spawned incorrect reports on social media.

Because Clark’s first priority is always the safety and security of employees, trade partners and the public, Guthrie said, company leaders want to make sure they are taking proper steps to communicate necessary information to those parties.

“When it comes to media relations, it’s important that everyone involved understands the process for fielding and coordinating approved responses to inquiries so that they can respond in a timely manner with accurate information,” she said.

The challenge for a large firm like Clark, which employs 4,200 people and has offices in eight states, is that employees are spread over many jobsites, which takes extra work to make sure everyone understands communication protocols.

“We reinforce the plan regularly with our senior leadership and ensure that our project management guidebook is updated with the latest approach,” she said.

The company also developed a short video that is posted on its intranet to explain the process for responding to the media and established a media hotline to ensure employees can quickly notify a member of the communication team regarding a media inquiry.​

Other ways that construction firms can be ready to respond to social media reports during a crisis include some of the following imperatives:

  • Prepare a website in advance that can go live when needed and keep news of the incident separate from the company’s main website.
  • Keep reporters in the loop, Huey said, even with just minimal news in the early hours of an incident. “If reporters can’t get information from you, they will look elsewhere,” he said. “They’re not going to stop reporting on something just because you have no information for them, so give them some facts to use in their reporting.”
  • Use “buy time” statements that contain basic information and that let the media know that company representatives are working on getting answers to their questions, said Carla Thompson, senior marketing consultant for Zweig Group, an AEC consulting group, during a recent webinar sponsored by Engineering News-Record.
  • Designate an employee to monitor the media for disinformation and quickly correct anything that’s false, whether in print, broadcast or social media. “The problem with social media is that what used to be just another channel for the dissemination of information like a TV station or newspaper or radio now has the potential to become a crisis in and of itself if it’s mismanaged,” Huey said. “Once it goes viral it’s almost impossible to manage.”
  • Provide media training for employees, who are often the first line of information in a crisis. “If they complain about taking time out for training, ask them how they will feel with 20 to 50 microphones in their face,” said Thompson.
  • Make sure subcontractors and other partners are on the same page. Guthrie said Clark requires subcontractors to obtain company approval before releasing any information, statements or images to the media or on social media.
  • ​Consider all the types of risks to a contractor’s reputation. In her 20 years in construction risk management, Kagerer told Construction Dive, she typically sees construction firms only planning for two types of incidents: weather events and employee accidents. She urges companies to undertake a hazard vulnerability assessment to look at all aspects of risk, including issues like cybersecurity, worker strikes and construction defects. “What are any of the things that could harm a company’s reputation?” she said.​
  • Realize that negative social media posts or comments don’t always warrant a response. Kagerer recalled a disgruntled former employee of a contractor she worked with who posted many negative comments about the company’s projects and leadership. The company was aware of the posts and its social media manager and legal and risk departments worked together to come up with a plan of action but decided not to respond because it would have resulted in a online battle with a potentially dangerous individual, she said. Instead they continued to monitor the remarks for a period of time until they stopped. “Instead of responding directly, the social media manager posted other stories on the company’s feed that showed the company’s positive culture, benefits, community outreach and happy employees,” she said.

Costs vs. rewards

While developing a crisis communications plan can be expensive and time consuming, the extra costs and time are well worth it, experts say.

​”Remember,” Thompson said. “When stuff starts hitting the fan, that advance planning will help you navigate and survive. Hopefully it will work out like you hope your home or car insurance does, where you’ll never need it.”

Another webinar participant, Magnusson Klemencic Associates Senior Principal Jon Magnusson, an engineer who worked on the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and helped to respond to media inquiries, said he’s even seen companies emerge stronger after a crisis.

“Many clients judge a company more keenly based on how they behave when things go wrong,” he said.

For those of you looking for more information on how to prepare for and manage a social media crisis, check out our article called, 5 Tips for Managing a Social Media Crisis”.


Effective Ways To Personalize Your Customer Touch Points Even More In 2023



Effective Ways To Personalize Your Customer Touch Points Even More In 2023

Will 2023 be the year of personalization? Consumers hope so. For the past two years, shoppers have been craving the personal touch: In 2021, McKinsey & Company noted that 71% of customers expected companies to deliver personalization. In 2022, a Salesforce survey found that 73% of people expected brands to understand their needs and expectations. So, this year is looking like one where personalization can no longer be seen as a “nice to have.”

The problem, of course, is how to get more personalized. Many companies have already started to dabble in this. They greet shoppers by name on landing pages. They rely on CRMs and other tools to use historical information to send shoppers customized recommendations. They offer personalized, real-time discounts to help buyers convert their abandoned shopping cart items to actual purchases.

These are all great ideas. The only problem is that they’ve become widespread. They don’t move the needle on the customer experience anymore. Instead, they’re standard, expected, and kind of forgettable. That doesn’t mean you can afford to stop doing them. It just means you must devise other ways to pepper personalization throughout your consumer interactions.

If you are scratching your head on how to outdo 2022’s personalization in 2023, try implementing the following strategies:

1. Go for full-blown engagement on social media.

One easy way to give the personal touch is through your social media business pages. Social media use just keeps growing. In 2022, there were about 266 million monthly active users (or MUAs) on Facebook, one billion on Instagram, and 755 million on TikTok. Not all these active users will fall into your target audiences, but plenty of them will.

Make engaging with your social followers one of this year’s goals. People spend a lot of time on social media. It’s where many of them “live,” so it only makes sense that it should be a place to drive personalization.

One quick way to ratchet up your company’s personal touch on social media is to personalize all your retargeted ads. Quizzes can also offer a chance for personalization. Simply set up an engaging quiz and allow people to share their results. It’s a fun way to build brand recognition and bond with consumers. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with going very personal and answering all comments. Depending on your team’s size and the number of comments you receive, this might be a viable option.

2. Leverage AI to go beyond basic demographics.

Most companies rely on customer demographic information to bolster personalization efforts. The only trouble with this tactic is that demographics can’t tell the whole story. It’s impossible to get a lot of context about individual users (such as their lifestyles, personal preferences, and motivators) just from knowing their age, gender, or location. Though demographic data is beneficial, it can cause some significant misses.

Michael Scharff, CEO and cofounder of Evolv AI, explains the workaround for this problem: “The most natural, and therefore productive, personalization efforts use demographics as a foundation and then layer in user likes, dislikes, behaviors, and values.”

You can leverage AI’s predictive and insightful capabilities to uncover real-time user insights. Scharff recommends this technique because it allows you to stay in sync with the fast-moving pace of consumer behavior changes. He adds that AI can be particularly beneficial with the coming limits to third-party cookie access because it can be a first-party data source, allowing you to maintain customer knowledge and connection.

To flesh out your organization’s strategy, look to other companies that have gone beyond demographics. Take Netflix, for example, which constantly tweaks its AI algorithm to help improve personalized content recommendations. Bottom line? Going deeper than surface information makes all the sense in the world if you want to show customers you know them well.

3. Keep your data spotless.

The better your data, the better your personalization efforts. Period. Unfortunately, you are probably sitting on a lot of unstructured or otherwise tricky-to-use (or impossible-to-use) data. One recent Great Expectations survey revealed that 77% of data practitioners have data quality problems, and 91% say that this is wreaking havoc on their companies’ performance.

You can’t personalize anything with corrupt or questionable data. So, do your best to find ways to clean your data promptly and routinely. For example, you might want to invest in a more centralized data system, particularly if the personalization data you rely on is scattered in various places. Having one repository of data truth makes it easier to know if the information on hand is ready to use.

Another way to tame your data is to automate as many data processes as possible. Reducing manual manipulation of data lessens the chance of human error. And you’ll feel more confident with all your personalization efforts if you can trust the reliability and health of your data.

4. Go for nontechnical personalization.

It’s the digital age, but that doesn’t mean every touchpoint has to be digitized. Consumers often react with delight and positivity when they receive personalization in decidedly nontech forms. (Yes, you can use tech to keep track of everything. Just don’t make it part of the actual personalized exchange!)

Consider writing handwritten thank-you notes to customers after they’ve called in for support or emailed your team, for instance. Or send an extra personalized gift to buyers who make a specific number of purchases. These interactions aren’t technical but can differentiate your customer experience from your competitors’ experiences.

A groundbreaking Deloitte snapshot taken right before the pandemic showed that people were hungry for connection. By folding nondigital experiences into your personalization with customers, you’re showing them that you see them first as valued humans. That’s compelling and appealing, making them more apt to give you their loyalty in return.

Putting a personal spin on all your consumer interactions takes a little time. It’s worth your energy, though. You’ll wind up with stronger brand-buyer connections, helping you edge ahead of your competitors even more.

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Planning for 2023: What Social Media Marketers Need to Win in 2023



Planning for 2023: What Social Media Marketers Need to Win in 2023

January is, for many, a month of reflection, goal-setting, strategizing and planning for the year ahead. 

In line with this, we’ve kicked off the new year with a series of articles covering the latest stats, tips and strategies to help social media marketers build an effective game plan for 2023.

Below, you’ll find links to our 2023 social media planning series, which includes:

  • Content strategy guidelines to help you define your brand’s content mission and set SMART goals
  • Organic posting tips for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest 
  • Explainers on how to research key topics of interest in your niche, understand the competitive landscape, and help you find your audience and connect with them where they’re active
  • A holiday calendar and notes on the best days and times to post to each of the major platforms


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Meta says Trump to be allowed back on Facebook, Instagram



Meta wants the UK to keep some EU e-commerce rules instead of scrapping them in its planned bonfire of Brussels legislation



Social networking giant Meta announced Tuesday it would soon reinstate former president Donald Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Instagram with “new guardrails,” two years after he was banned over the 2021 US Capitol insurrection.

“We will be reinstating Mr. Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said in a statement, adding that the move would come with “new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”

Going forward, the Republican leader — who has already declared himself a 2024 presidential candidate — could be suspended for up to two years for each violation of platform policies, Clegg said.

It was not clear when or if Trump will return to the platforms, and his representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But the 76-year-old tycoon reacted in typically bullish fashion, crowing that Facebook had lost “billions of dollars in value” in his absence.

“Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!” he said on his Truth Social platform.

Facebook banned Trump a day after the January 6, 2021 uprising, when a mob of his supporters seeking to halt the certification of his election defeat to Joe Biden stormed the US Capitol in Washington.

The former reality TV star had spent weeks falsely claiming that the presidential election was stolen from him and he was subsequently impeached for inciting the riot.

In a letter asking for the ban to be overturned, Trump’s lawyer Scott Gast said last week that Meta had “dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse.”

He asked for a meeting to discuss Trump’s “prompt reinstatement to the platform” of Facebook, where he had 34 million followers, arguing that his status as the leading contender for the Republican nomination in 2024 justified ending the ban.

American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero said Meta was making “the right call” by allowing Trump back onto the social network.

“Like it or not, President Trump is one of the country’s leading political figures and the public has a strong interest in hearing his speech,” Romero said in a release.

“Indeed, some of Trump’s most offensive social media posts ended up being critical evidence in lawsuits filed against him and his administration.”

The ACLU has filed more than 400 legal actions against Trump, according to Romero.

– Extremism engine? –

Advocacy groups such as Media Matters for America, however, vehemently oppose allowing Trump to exploit Facebook’s social networking reach.

“Make no mistake — by allowing Donald Trump back on its platforms, Meta is refueling Trump’s misinformation and extremism engine,” said Media Matters president Angelo Carusone.

“This not only will have an impact on Instagram and Facebook users, but it also presents intensified threats to civil society and an existential threat to United States democracy as a whole.”

A US congressional committee recommended in December that Trump be prosecuted for his role in the US Capitol assault.

His Twitter account, which has 88 million followers, was also blocked after the riot, leaving him to communicate through Truth Social, where he has fewer than five million followers.

Trump’s shock victory in 2016 was credited in part to his leverage of social media and his enormous digital reach.

New Twitter owner Elon Musk reinstated Trump’s account last November, days after the brash billionaire announced a fresh White House run. He has yet to post.

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