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Ask the Experts: Meet Kathleen Hessert

At every year’s end, I try to wrap up the year with some closing thoughts, so to speak. Predictions, reviews, lists. To wind up 2012, I’d like to take some time to introduce several friends who are experts in the field of crisis/public relations. Here’s your chance to sit down with an expert and get some sage advice on dealing with the challenges and risks of social media.

I first heard of Kathleen Hessert when I worked as a sports information director at Montana State University. Kathleen’s company, Sports Media Challenge, helps sports personalities and organizations navigate the field of media relations and reputation. After her career as an award-winning television anchor, reporter and talk show host, she changed competitive arenas and moved to the other side of the camera.

Since 1989, Kathleen has been a media and speech coach to Olympic gold medalists, college gridiron greats, and professional athletes in the NBA and PGA. In 2004, she founded BuzzMgr, an idea way ahead of its time from a woman who has laser-like strategic vision. The service monitors and analyzes online word of mouth in fan-generated media such as social networks, blogs, fan forums, and measures the influence buzz in sports, entertainment, and lifestyle markets for PR and marketing purposes. Bonus: she is a great Twitter follow—find her @kathleenhessert.

1.      Tell us a little about what you do?

The wonderful thing about my work is that it’s different every day. We have such a wide range of clients, at times ranging from World Wrestling Entertainment to the Radio City Rockettes, and from The Big Ten Network to working with the federal government departments on social media use for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. If I’m bored it’s totally my fault. Basically we build communication champions in sports and beyond, whether at a podium making a speech that we’ve written, or enriching a brand’s social media presence through a well thought out social media strategy. It’s all about helping people listen, understand, and remember our client’s messages so they can act on them in a timely manner.

 2.      What is the most challenging part of your job?

Helping people with little or no background in a subject (these days it’s most often social media) and getting them to understand and adopt our vision for where they need to be going. The variety is the fun part. When people ask me what the difference is between our celebrity athletes and the executives we work with, my answer is…the uniform! People are people with the same fears and insecurities about communicating and even more when it comes to social media. Some are a little more intrepid than others, but they want to lead, know social media is an important vehicle, and are trying to figure it out. We want them to go big or go home!

3.      What are your personal top three social media tools?

  • BuzzMgr™ (our social media monitoring & measurement tool)
  • Hootsuite
  • Kred

4.       Looking back at 2012, what were some of the most alarming trends you saw in how brands used social media in a crisis?

  •  Not using social media at all to deal with a crisis.
  • Not monitoring deeply to even know what the crisis is and in which direction it’s moving.
  •  Enabling a very young person/professional to be community manager for their social media accounts without understanding that it’s the same as putting an intern behind a microphone to respond to defend your brand.
  • Applying tactics with little or no strategy or discipline behind it.
  • Not aligning social media with the business goals. I think I’ll stop there.  

5.      If you could give one piece of advice to brands on how to use social media well in a crisis, what would that be?

Build your community first (well in advance) so that you know who your advocates are and how best to activate the most influential of them and have a plan/protocol in advance to be able to scale quickly.

Many thanks to Kathleen for taking time from her busy schedule to visit with us. You can find more about her and the services that Sports Media Challenge offers at her website here.

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