Perspectives

Perspectives on communications management in a socially-connected world

Perspectives on integrated communications, integrated marketing, communications management and business development

School district site scores an F

June2019 Audit in June 2019 of an incomplete Teacher page

School Districts and educational organisations in the United States face many of the same issues – tight budgets, large personnel cohorts, tens of thousands of students, and thousands of teachers. They face logistics issues with busing kids, have to display frugality in using taxpayer money, need to tell the many success stories provided by their students and teachers, must keep parents in the loop, and face the daunting prospect of communicating catastrophic events like school shootings or extreme weather.

One would imagine that school websites would be considered key infrastructure and that they’d be adequately staffed. You'd be wrong. Many would get a failing grade if they were evaluated. Other districts risk litigation daily due to poor online practices that are unlikely to change unless they are forced to do so at enormous cost - costs that are unnecessary had the district been smarter about staffing, Content Management platform selection, and having management experience in communications workflows.

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Do an annual password audit

PasswordHackCalc

For millions of people, password management and online security is opaque and maddening. Websites with password requirements tell you they have to be a specific number of characters long, be upper and lower case, have numbers and sometimes even special characters - like $#%^1mpo55ibleToRemember! So many people have scribbled passwords in the backs of notebooks shoved into their desk drawer. In many instances, these books or pieces of paper include passwords to sensitive accounts like bank and .gov accounts. In others, the accounts are associated with social media and other public-facing accounts. In the event of an account breach or a fire, the loss of these passwords can lead to firing or even loss of control of online accounts that directly impact how one makes ones living.

Some sites, to reduce the pain of creating an account, may let you choose your own. Users then often choose a 'difficult' password they can remember and use that same password over and over.

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Five years of care

EverestStartup

Today is the fifth anniversary of Integrated Media Strategies. For many small businesses, surviving five years is a significant milestone.  For my company, the first year and a half was an Everest.  I'd left a corporate environment helping North Carolina develop a sustainable advanced biofuels sector to start up my company.  I needed the personal flexibility to support my wife whose breast cancer had returned.  I juggled the responsibilities of managing a startup with trips to the hospital for surgery, radiation, and pain management.  My laptop travelled with me.  I serviced clients on hospital wifi and from my Samsung Note.  When they sent her home, I set up a desk at the foot of her hospital bed in the living room to care for her and for clients scattered across the globe, collaborating with designers and data geeks in North Carolina and Australia in between catheters and tracking her meds.  She lost her battle against breast cancer, which had stalked her for the entire 13 years of our marriage.  I lost a friend, a counsellor, my book-keeper, and the co-founder of my business, and so much more. The struggle in the long, dark nights with little sleep while caring for someone for whom the stakes are so much higher teaches hard lessons that simply are not found elsewhere.

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The price of insecurity

The price of insecurity

I work with a number of small businesses, providing communications coaching and technical support.  A difficulty for small businesses is prioritizing what's important and what's a good return on investment out of the myriad of claims being made on a limited day and a tight budget.  In a digital, always-on world, paying short shrift to your website should not be one of those priorities.  I recently got a call from a small business I'd built a site for.  After providing them with training on how to use it, including the back end or site administrator area, I recommended that they contract with Integrated Media Strategies for technical and marketing communications support.  I told them that if they didn't use my services, they should either ensure they kept the site up to date or found someone else. They turned me down.  I understand that there may be some disbelief after the site is up at the need for ongoing support.  After all, it's up, right?  It still has that new car smell.

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Reputation ransomware - beware business 'directories'

Reputation ransomware - beware business 'directories'

In an internet age, regular reviews of your company's digital footprint and how it may have been appropriated by bots scraping your content is important to do on a regular basis. Sites seeking to mash ransomware with customer reviews are now popping up. The way it works is your information is scraped from your site or social media pages and then a page created for your company.  Reviewers can then post whatever they choose about your company.  You are required to log into the site and 'claim' your listing.  In some instances, you may be charged to transform your 'free' listing into some kind of service-based listing - for example, premium accounts have the additional options they can take when a negative review is posted. In many instances, the identities of the reviewers are obscured so that it is impossible to tell whether the reviewer is a real person or not, or an employee of the review site.  An additional danger is the site may be actively soliciting you to claim the listing with incorrect information and requiring additional information with the goal of data mining, identity theft or levying charges to your bank account.  Treat sites like these in the same way as you would treat spoofed emails from legitimate accounts you own such as your bank account and do not give them your information.

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Hacks and your relationship with passwords

Hacks and your relationship with passwords

Yahoo was hacked in 2014.  Shamefully, the news was released only in September 2016.  It was one of the biggest data breaches in history and even encrypted passwords were stolen. So, firstly, if you have a Yahoo account, change your Yahoo password now.

But the breach may impact you beyond just your Yahoo account.  When Integrated Media Strategies builds websites for clients or helps them with their small business email accounts, we create long, randomized passwords like s0cnZS)XD'H[4RmkL. We'll get grumbling that they are impossible to remember.  We usually spell out the cost of a site brought down by malware or that's been hacked because of poor security practices.  "Username: Admin Password: Admin" is something we've seen too often.  Clients will also entrust us with access to their hosting and other accounts, and when we see their passwords, it's often a variant of their children, dog or something like "Passw0rd".  They reuse that same password everywhere to save the hassle of remembering multiple passwords, unaware of how a breach in one place can have a cascading impact on all their accounts.

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SEO Snake Oil

SEO Snake Oil

One area of the work we do is helping small and micro businesses as a digital communications service provider and coach.  Having been involved in more than a dozen startups over my career, I know that money and resources are usually tight at startups. So nothing irks me more than getting the type of call I did recently from a client saying they were going to work with a 'SEO specialist' who had told them the web platform their site was built on was unsuitable for SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, and that it needed to be redone and then they could get them page one rankings in a week. 

The platform on which their site was built is a leading open-source solution well-suited to the application for which it was built. For small business owners, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

So let's look at the changing landscape of SEO and whether a technical solution will produce the results promised.

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Keeping video services operating efficiently

Keeping video services operating efficiently

One place where organizations may be able to get more bang for their buck is in how they are producing or procuring video. Video is an expensive medium and video services departments are often hard-pressed keeping up with the multiple demands they face.  

This is because more and more media-rich information is online, smartphones play video, and video is a key element in digital communications, social media, marketing and customer retention. Given this, it makes sense to evaluate how organizations' video services departments are meeting strategic communications needs - or not.  

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Simple steps to protect yourself against fake social media connections

Simple steps to protect yourself against fake social media connections

In a 48-hour period, I received a series of Friend requests on Facebook, all from people I didn't know or with whom I hadn't done business. The requests were out of sync with my marketing, and statistically were unlikely. This blog looks at ways to protect yourself from requests to connect from fake accounts.

My first thought was that in the run-up to the U.S. elections, this was probably part of parties and candidates building up fake account portfolios to be able to bolster support for positions by using these bots as a kind of greek chorus. These are the accounts that shout the talking points and jump on naysayers.  If you have enough of them, their point of view becomes overwhelming.

But these are not the only source of fake accounts. Fake and malicious connections on social media are used to put together pieces of data needed for ID theft and other scams.

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Memes skewer PR & branding #Fails

Memes skewer PR & branding #Fails

I live and work in the state of North Carolina, which this year saw it's Republican-dominated legislature call a special session and enact what has become known as the Bathroom Bill.  It was initiated and signed into law in a single day. It is a misguided piece of legislation that strips a number of well-established workplace rights from citizens, along with the clauses pertaining to transgender people and bathrooms.  From a marketing communications and positioning perspective, it has been an unmitigated disaster for the state, and it has garnered a lot of ironic humor skewering the people and issues the bill supposedly addresses in the form of memes.

Despite the protestations of Governor McCrory to the contrary, the negative fallout was quick and brutal, and the ongoing impact is continuing. Estimates have put the loss of revenue at $5 billion annually from industry and business pullouts, boycotts, and withdrawal of Title IX federal dollars. Other estimates put the cost to the state at 20% of its annual budget. This goes hand in hand with changing the perceptions of the state from moderate to a conservative backwater. This directly negatively impacts its ability to tap into the progressive, forward-looking and innovative thinking required by entrepreneurs and and modern companies seeking employees with competitive skills-sets in a disruptive, 21st Century economy.

While comments sections generate more heat than light, especially in a year in which Donald Trump has made racism and intolerance mainstream again, the growth of a plethora of memes ridiculing the legislation and regressive policies deserves some consideration from a marketing communications and positioning perspective.

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