The Paedophile Hunter


You may have caught a story on 60 Minutes last week surrounding Stinson Hunter, a British man who in the last two years has helped convict 18 men of paedophilia.

The story made gripping television. It outlined how Stinson lures paedophile’s online and then films them coming to the real world meeting. All video footage is then passed on to the police and posted on the internet.

When asked why he does it, Stinson replies, “I want to know why he (the paedophile) is doing it and I want to put it on the internet.”

In my previous posts on this blog I have explored how PR has been changed by the advent of social media and this story got me thinking about the Police and how social media has been a complete game changer for them.

On the program Stinson makes contact with a suspect posing as an underage girl and after the suspect realises he’s been caught, he agrees to meet Stinson and defend himself. It’s extremely real and thankfully as close of many of us will ever get to meeting a paedophile.

The producers of 60 Minutes have painted him as a vigilante style super hero, someone who has overcome a rough past to protect our kids.

Seeking justice outside of the courts has many dangers, the most obvious being the falsely accusing someone and the irreparable damage that is done to their lives. At the end of the program you are left wondering if the end justifies the means.

The story is wrapped up with the mention of laws being changed in Britain to stop people like Stinson creating his own form of justice. Facebook lit up after the program aired with comments like “Why don’t the police hire him?!” and “Good on him, exposing the vermin of society”.

This post is not about Social Media and how paedophiles are manipulating it but instead I wanted to look at it from a different perspective and see how people’s perceptions of the police are rocked by their inability to accept help from social media do-gooders.

So, what has social media changed for the police? It allows popular opinion to be spread easily, it allows conversations to happen and agenda’s to be set without their input.

My previous post about Local Government adapting to the use of social media has some commonalities with this one. Organisations are now more accountable than ever for their productivity, the police are no different. Their future direction will be driven by social media, by creating good news stories that tell the story of how successful they as an organisation are and keeping public opinion in their favour.

Like it or lump it the PR machine at Police HQ will need to kick into a higher gear or they will face the tide turning on popular opinion.

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The citizen journalist: a double edged sword?

What opportunities and challenges do citizen journalists pose for public relations?  Image source: Tony Webster, Flickr creative commons

Image source: Tony Webster, Flickr creative commons

Much has been written about the rise of ‘citizen journalists’, their influence enabled by the immediate connectivity of smart phones and social media.

Their potential as ‘on-the-ground’ sources of ‘as-it-happens’ information can be a double edged sword, as the ‘news’ they bring to light can go viral with little or no fact checking.

The best practice mainstream media approach to verify such information with due diligence before publishing, reinforced by MSM’s remote and often inaccurate coverage of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

But what challenges do citizen journalists, empowered by the hyper-connectivity of Web 2.0, pose for public relations?

It’s a dynamic which has been discussed as early as 2005, when global PR firm Edelman detailed two sets of ramifications for PR practice, in promotion and crisis management.

“Citizens are no longer spectators. A new era has begun in which regular citizens can become reporters whenever they so desire, and by doing so contribute to public opinion,” Edelman declared, recommending practitioners expand their scope of promotional tactics. (Edelman, 2005)

Ten years later, firms like InsidePR have well and truly welcomed citizen journalists as an opportunity, suggesting PR operators keep track of an individual “with something to say, covers a subject on a consistent basis and moves on to being a contributor to larger and more influential sources”.

How PR practitioners respond to citizen journalists during times of crisis is infinitely more challenging, particularly when faced with those who live up to the reputation of ‘tweet first, ask questions later’.

Both dynamics could be seen unfolding during the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire – a chaotic situation rife with public confusion and misinformation – when a handful of citizen journalists became a thorn in the side for State Government communication teams.

A self proclaimed ‘Voices of the Valley’ social media presence (twitter account discontinued – originally authored by outspoken citizen Simon Ellis) began collating and publishing everything from front line eyewitness photos to speculative rumors circulating the Latrobe Valley throughout the unfolding smoke crisis.

As government departments and power industry persisted with a collaborative communication strategy to transmit consistent key public health messages (through a time consuming inter-departmental approval process) social media users turned to sources such as Voices of the Valley for ‘up to date’ information from the front line.

(It was a dynamic which had government communication teams reactively putting out spot fires of misinformation for weeks on end during the crisis. The government’s communication strategy was later came under scrutiny in the Hazelwood Mine Fire inquiry’s post-mortem)

Meanwhile, the above advice of InsidePR to engage citizen journalists of influence was being put into action by proactive environmental communicator Shaun Murray of Friends of the Earth.

Mr Murray was subsequently taken on board as the communications consultant for Voices, which had since grown to become a proactive community activist group, later authoring the controversial claim the mine fire lead to 11 deaths in the area, which became a large factor in the Labor government’s reopening of the Hazelwood mine fire inquiry.

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Social Narcissism: Can it drive positive change?

Is there such thing as selfless good deed? The age old debate concerning altruism lives on. Joey and Phoebe of Friends argued the point of contention. They concluded that selfless deeds do not exist.

Yet, one thing we can be certain of. Selfish good deeds do exist. Even narcissistic individuals can be driven to do good. The clincher? Social media may rev up the process. Continue reading

Another SMART with social media crisis

Living in the reality which web 2.0 – internet and social media – have been part of our daily life. For PR people, we have to transmit the way we manage relationships from PR 1.0 to PR 2.0. In previous blog posts, we’ve seen how social media can help us to better handling stakeholder relationships with SMART approach. We’ve learnt to prevent from social media crises (the intimate one as an example) by being nice to stakeholders, being honest, and listen to their needs. Continue reading

Communication is key

Without conversation, social media is just another way for companies to plaster their goods all over our feeds, much like advertising on the television and radio. When businesses utilise two way communication, not only does it allow customers to voice their opinions, but the reach of the response also helps to bring in new customers. As we’ve seen in my previous posts, the lack of this communication has failed businesses in the past, for this post I want to focus on the effects that two way has had on businesses that have utilised it, the good, the bad and the turnarounds.

Many start up businesses are finding success by using the voice of avid social media users to sell their products. One of these brands is Sigma Beauty, a company founded only in 2008 that ended last year with 25 million dollars in sales. A large part of their success stems from their savvy social media use, using successful YouTubers to sell their products for them. Not only does Sigma get more customers, the YouTubers also get 10% for every sale from their affiliate links. This is an extremely effective form of marketing, as viewers of YouTube look up to the online stars as friends, not distant celebrities.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out so well. Last year, the New York Police Department invited twitter uses to share their experiences with the law enforcement by using the hashtag #myNYPD. Whilst they had good intentions, they didn’t expect the response to highlight the existing police brutality issues within the force. Instead of responding to this turn of events, they ignored it, which ultimately led to more mistrust surrounding the force.

My final example revolves around the ride sharing app Uber. During the Sydney siege earlier in the year, users were extremely shocked to find that they were being charged a fare increase, due to the heightened use of the app when people were rushing from the city. Instead of ignoring users complaints about their automatic procedure of the rides becoming more expensive during busy times, Uber quickly responded to the complaints and eventually removed the fare increase, a decision that they regretted not doing immediately. Whilst this did reach the media, the negative attention quickly passed due to their immediate response to what their customers were saying, and making changes accordingly.

I’d like to finish this post by highlighting the importance of communicating with your customers, either through social media icons their customers trust or by directly responding to them, as this can be crucial to the future of your business.

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Goldmine or Minefield?

Public relations is a fast-paced, constantly evolving field. Social media has revolutionized the public public relations landscape, necessitating new campaigns, faster responses and timely crisis management.

In my first blog post I visited the Ice Bucket Challenge and the positive reaction and affirmation that spread via social media making the campaign a viral sensation.

In my second blog post, I explored Bud Lights use of social media in their ‘Up for Whatever’ campaign and the benefits that this brings to their public relation campaign.

Not all social media is positive however with social media also proving to be a minefield for public relations in some instances.

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Image source: Flickr-Creative Commons, Tim Rlch and Lesley Katon, 

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