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Trial by Twitter, Facebook & other Social Media

A consultant hired by Casey Anthony's attorneys analyzed more than 40,000 opinions on various social media sites and blogs where her attorneys then used them to craft their trial strategy.  According to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, "When bloggers and others in social media sites started to attack George Anthony about his alleged mistress, the defense team beefed up their questions against him."The Casey Anthony trial has brought social media into the courtroom. While jurors may be prevented from tweeting or updating their Facebook status from the courtroom or during the duration of a trial, the jury of public opinion is running rampant, 24/7 with their opinions of the trial.
According to Amy Singer, the social media consultant in the case, her team of five individuals would scan a variety of sites, blogs and tweets to gauge opinions about the trial, wtiness testimonies, evidence and the body language of the defendant. Those opinions were given the the defense attorney where they adjusted their tactics based on what they learned on line.
With the Casey Anthony trial now over, public opinion still wages on in social media circles, but one thing is clear, Facebook and Twitter have changed the way lawyers defend or prosecute a case.  Fraser Trebilcock, through its subsidiary, Fraser Consulting, has access to public relations and public affairs experts who monitor social media on behalf of a number of clients and respond when a response is warranted. Fraser Trebilcock also recently launched a Litigation + Strategic Communications practice group to help clients manage the message in the courtroom and out.
For more information, please visit www.fraserlawfirm.com or contact Daniel Cherrinat dcherrin@fraserlawfirm.com.

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Trial by Twitter & Facebook

A consultant hired by Casey Anthony's attorneys analyzed more than 40,000 opinions on various social media sites and blogs where her attorneys then used them to craft their trial strategy.  According to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, "When bloggers and others in social media sites started to attack George Anthony about his alleged mistress, the defense team beefed up their questions against him."The Casey Anthony trial has brought social media into the courtroom. While jurors may be prevented from tweeting or updating their Facebook status from the courtroom or during the duration of a trial, the jury of public opinion is running rampant, 24/7 with their opinions of the trial.
According to Amy Singer, the social media consultant in the case, her team of five individuals would scan a variety of sites, blogs and tweets to gauge opinions about the trial, wtiness testimonies, evidence and the body language of the defendant. Those opinions were given the the defense attorney where they adjusted their tactics based on what they learned on line.
With the Casey Anthony trial now over, public opinion still wages on in social media circles, but one thing is clear, Facebook and Twitter have changed the way lawyers defend or prosecute a case.  Fraser Trebilcock, through its subsidiary, Fraser Consulting, has access to public relations and public affairs experts who monitor social media on behalf of a number of clients and respond when a response is warranted. Fraser Trebilcock also recently launched a Litigation + Strategic Communications practice group to help clients manage the message in the courtroom and out.
For more information, please visit www.fraserlawfirm.com or contact Daniel Cherrin at dcherrin@fraserlawfirm.com.

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Corporate Social Responsibility -- Is it really about being green or being good?

I am not sure if you caught it, but among today's Sunday circulars, Target focused theirs on "Celebrating Earth Week & Save."  Not only did they feature green products but they also shared their report on sustainable practices by the Target Corporation.

According to a recently released study (March 29, 2010) by Penn Schoen Berland, Landor Associates, and Burson-Marsteller, more than 75 percent of consumers say that it is important for companies to be socially responsible. Target understands their consumer base. We are buying products because we are told they are good for the environment and we like to shop their because we know they care about the things we care about. For example, according to their circular, Target:

  • Recycles 950 pounds of cardboard
  • Donates grocery overstocks to soup kitchens and after-school programs
  • Rethought their supply delivery and how they package their deliveries to minimize their carbon foot-print.

Their circular also directs you to an "Eco-Friendly" website where you are able to add your email to receive coupons by email or phone, or enter a contest. They are using the various media to engage their customer -- Although I did not see anything on their Facebook or Twitter (corporation) site talking about their sustainable practices and directing consumers to their "eco-friendly" site.

Nonetheless, they used the Sunday circular as a great opportunity to share with others how the care about the environment and what they are doing to create a more sustainable corporation and world.

As we start Earth Week, it is important to consider how we all are being good corporate citizens. Are we providing pro bono work to non-profits; even in a down economy are we working to benefit our community; and, how and are we doing anything to reduce our carbon foot print.  If we are, then it is important that you share with others what you are doing. It will not only help further the cause of initiatives you are supporting but it also will give others another reason to consider doing business with you. Using your website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other media will help you share with others, your contributions to make our community a better place. Happy Earthy Week!

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Raising cash through social media

In 2008, The Columbus Foundation pioneered a new online giving resource, called PowerPhilanthropy, connecting central Ohio nonprofit organizations with potential donors. Nonprofits interested in being included provide information on their organization and activities through the online Nonprofit Toolkit located on the Foundation’s website. Potential donors search the PowerPhilanthropy database and read profiles of nonprofits in their community, which include information on their programs, finances, management, and services. Access to this information improves donors' understanding of the organization and helps them decide where to give. Soon, there will be a similar effort underway among Detroit nonprofits. It comes at a time when fundraising is down and the need for additional resources is up. To improve the efforts of various nonprofits to profit from social media fundraising, NonProfit 2.0 (Change.org) offers the following tips (which I am posting verbatim here):

Newsweek said it best: "Suddenly, all the world is a-Twitter." Simple and powerful, Twitter is a must for nonprofit organizations. I created and manage a portal to nonprofits on Twitter @nonprofitorgs and based on my experience using site, I have crafted ten of my favorite Twitter Tips for beginners:

Authenticity before marketing. Have personality. Build community. -- Those nonprofits who are most successful at utilizing social networking Web sites like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace know from trial, error, and experience that a “marketing and development approach” on social networking sites does not work. Simply put, it comes across as lame. Traditional marketing and development content is perfectly fine for your Web site and e-mail newsletters, but Web 2.0 is much more about having personality, inspiring conversation, and building online community. Nowhere is this more true than on Twitter. Relax, experiment, let go a bit… find your voice. Be authentic.

Be nice. Be thankful. Reply and Retweet! -- Twitter functions much like Karma. The nicer you are to people in the Twitterverse, they nicer they are to you in return. The more you ReTweet (RT) others, the more they will RT your Tweets in return. And whether it’s Twitter, MySpace, Facebook or YouTube, if someone does something nice for you in the public commons of Web 2.0, it is always a good practice to send them a message of “Thanks… much appreciated!”. Kindness and appreciation will make you stand out from the others and makes an excellent impression.

Follow everyone who follows you. -- This is a hard one for a lot of nonprofits. They want to keep their “Home” view clutter free and controlled and only follow a select few. Honestly, they only want to follow those whose Tweets that they are really interested in reading. But I say this often… “This time it is not about you, it is about them.” Web 1.0 communications is all about us and our messaging i.e, your Web site and e-mail newsletter. Web 2.0 is all about your supporters and their messaging. It’s better to create a personal Twitter profile in order to only follow those select few you are interested in reading, but if you are going out on Twitter behind your organization’s logo a.k.a. avatar, it is a mistake to not follow all your followers in return. Why?

Twitter is about conversation -- You can’t have a conversation on Twitter if you are not following your followers. It is a one-sided relationship. They can’t message you on Twitter if you are not following them. It’s a snub. Let’s face it… people on Twitter want to be followed. That’s what the site is about! How can you build community on Twitter if you won’t even participate with your followers? Have a look around Twitter… you will see the most successful, ReTweeted nonprofits follow everyone who follows them. Use “Favorites” to organize the chaos and feature your most important Tweets! -- So, if you are going to follow everyone who follows your organization (which is hopefully thousands of people) then “favorite” Tweets by those who you are most interested in reading and favorite your most important Tweets. The favorites option on Twitter is a simple, excellent tool to help you organize the chaos.

Don’t tweet about your coffee (unless it is fair trade), the weather, or how tired you are. Provide value to your followers, not chit-chat! -- It’s one thing to chit-chat about the weather, your headache, or how you need coffee to wake up in the morning on your personal profile on Twitter, but it’s quite another if you are active on the Twitterverse via your organizational profile. The messages you send reflect upon your organization. Example of what not to Tweet: “Such-and-such Nonprofit got stuck in traffic this morning. Ugh! I need coffee and a vacation… and I think I am getting a headache!” No one likes a whiner and this just makes it sound like Such-and-Such Nonprofit is not a fun place to work. People follow you because they want good content from your organization on subjects relevant to your mission. Make sure your Tweets provide value and are Re-Tweetable.

Don’t only Tweet your own content -- Twitter is a news source. Participate in news. Tweet articles or blog posts by your favorite newspapers, bloggers, or other nonprofits (yes... other nonprofits! Find allies, build relationships). If it is a good read or a good resource, it reflects well upon your organization that you Tweeted it. There is also a good chance you might get ReTweeted if the article is deemed timely and worthy by the Twitterverse.

Send messages, but not via auto-responders --There are tools out there that will automatically message your new followers. Don’t use them. It’s Spam. It’s not authentic. It’s not human. It's lazy marketing. I think this cartoon sums up auto-responders perfectly. Don’t worry about those that “unfollow” you -- It’s easy to feel slighted when someone stops following you. What did I say? Did I do something wrong? Let it go. Who knows why they followed you in the first place. Give it no more than 3 seconds thought and then move on. Limit your Tweets to 5 per day, and no more than 6! -- I have been polling on Twitter and the Twitterverse has revealed that less is more when it comes to Tweeting.

Twitter is what you make of it. You get out of Twitter what you put into it. This is the same of all Web 2.0 social networking sites. Twitter is a fun, valuable tool that can drive significant traffic to your Web site (start watching your Web site referral logs!) and help build and strengthen your brand in the online world of Web 2.0, but just like Facebook and MySpace, Twitter requires time and energy to produce results. You get out of it what you put into it. If you do one Tweet a week, you will get the results of one Tweet. But if you Tweet 4 times daily Monday through Friday… you will get the results of 20 Tweets weekly.

Again, it’s about community building around your mission and programs. Just having profile on Twitter (or MySpace, or Facebook) does not magically produce any results. You have to work these profiles. Find the person on your staff who loves Web 2.0 and enjoys working the sites and/or find a marketing/pr intern from your local university that needs to do a senior project! If they are getting college credit, then you know they have to stay around for at least a semester.

The advice outlined below is general advice applied to for profits as it is not-for-profits. To all of us, now is the time to experiment and become comfortable with social media. In fact, it is time we embrace it. We should learn to say what we need to say, not just in 30 second or 90 second elevator pitches, but in 140 characters or less. We need to refine our key messaging into the screen of our cell phone, we need to learn to verbalize what we can tweet. And we need to become familiar with how messages are conveyed now and well into the future. Just as my 6 year old can pick up my iPhone to use one of the apps I downloaded for her, soon she will be sending tweets to her friends.

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Juries all a-Twitter

This week, Michigan Lawyers Weekly features a story about jurors tainting themselves by Tweeting from the jury box or accessing the Internet from their mobile phones to learn more about the cases they are presiding on. See Juries all a-Twitter, 23 Mich.L.W.847, July 6, 2009. Like the media, the courts need to adjust to the constantly changing landscape of how we communicate and how we access information. The Internet and mobile devices such as the iPhone or Palm provide jurors and others access to instant information about the cases before them. The Michigan Supreme Court amended rule 2.516 of the Michigan Court Rules to prohibit the use of computers, cell phones or other electronic devices during the trial to obtain information on the case. This is mandatory, not discretionary. The rule was amended in response to a number of cases being thrown out due to curious jurors, researching defendants and witnesses and then Tweeting their opinion before any opinion was rendered.

Social media sites, such as Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace and YouTube also provide excellent opportunities for plaintiff's counsel to mine the Internet for information to throw out a case or force a settlement. Mined appropriately and thoroughly, attorney's can learn a lot about the parties to a lawsuit or potential lawsuit.

And finally, some lawyers are using the Internet, the same way they were using television to argue their client's case in the public eye. Instead of turning to investigative reporters or "problem solvers," they are now turning to the Internet to bolster their client's position.

In the article, I caution attorneys to do their own due diligence and see what is being said about their clients on-line. This includes social media sites such as Twitter, You Tube, Flickr, various blogs and other on-line feeds and sites. The same is true for the opposing party, including opposing counsel.

Attorneys may want to consider retaining PR counselto monitor the Internet and/or use the Internet and social media to preserve, protect and enhance their clients reputation on-line. Attorneys may also want to consider hiring a computer forensics or e-discovery firm to see what information they can find on-line. For now, attorneys can set up Google alerts, RSS Feeds, or find other ways to monitor the media.

Regardless, we all need to do a better job of monitoring the Internet. Just as we should secure our credit report every six-months to monitor for identity theft, we should periodically Google or Bing our name, our company name, client's name or other key terms we should be keeping an eye out for.

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Twitter Transparency

Two recent lawsuits are challenging on line transparency, beginning with Twitter. St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa sued Twitter over an account created in his name and Detroit-based PR firm, Tanner Friedman is asking Twitter to reveal the name(s) of those who set up an account and fake agency page on Twitter. (*In full disclosure, one of the named partners at Tanner Friedman is a distant cousin of mine.) According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, La Russo's lawsuit claims someone created an account in his name and sent out "derogatory" remarks, thus damaging his reputation, causing "significant emotional distress."PC World recently commented on La Russo's lawsuit, stating that "Twitter's "Impersonation Policy" clearly states that "parody impersonation accounts" are perfectly permissible. As long as the profile somehow indicates it isn't meant to be legit, it's A-OK by Twitter standards." Although La Russo and Twitter are trying to work out a settlement, TannerFriedman just wants answers as to who is using Twitter to try to damage the reputation of a PR firm and wants to hold that person accountable.

According to a recent post on the TannerFriedman blog, a response states that "Legislators in Texas last week passed an “online harassment” bill making it a crime to impersonate people on social media sites." The bill now awaits the governor's signature. According to On Line Media Daily, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) has introduced a federal measure.

This is uncharted territory for lawyers, lawmakers and public relations professionals. In fact, today, websites and social networking sites are being extremely cautious about what is posted on their site as to limit their liability. However, given the enormous popularity of Twitter, Facebook, Linked IN, You Tube and others, some post or parody is bound to slip through the wires.

To avoid any damage and mitigate any loss to your business and reputation, you should constantly monitor the Internet to avoid anyone to cause you any further damage and continue to work to increase your profile among key sectors, including on line media.

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