Sustainability (and such)

Archive for the ‘Social media’ Category

9-11 Twitter Fail

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on September 9, 2016

The gift that keeps on giving…untrained employees and social media.


Miracle Mattress posts 9/11 ad

Miracle Mattress in San Antonio recently posted an appalling  ‘9/11 Twin Towers Sale‘ ad with two employees knocking over two mattress stacks as a spokeswoman (identified by angry commenters as the owner’s daughter) asks, “What better way to remember 9/11 than with a Twin Tower sale?” Backlash was immediate, with the chain’s owner first issuing a letter of apology on Facebook.

But, as everybody knows, apologies won’t stop the fire. This company, and others, face deadly floods of Yelp reviews and posts that recycle every time a link or program is aired. (See Amy’s Baking Company and 240Sweet as examples of biz owners facing consequences.)

In this case, the buzz went global and the Miracle Mattress store is now closed indefinitely. Takeaway: Make sure ALL communication matches your core values. Monitor and measure your message consistency and audiences. And learn when to own up and walk away.





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Stand for Girls 2012

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on September 7, 2012

I love Global Washington for framing Washington as a global state; in fact, I’m not aware of an equally successful portal that convenes all the players — from the Gates Foundation to our little nonprofit, Global Spark — in one state’s global development sector.  Their newest initiative, Stand for Girls 2012, is a terrific example of an effective campaign that isn’t glitzy and demanding high energy/donations, yet builds a new audience.  Simply, $12 donations go to 10 recipient organizations that focus on economic empowerment, health, and education for women and girls.  There are also information-sharing strategies, such as a Seattle event on September 22, as well as  tips to network within our own communities on October 11, the Day of the Girl.  Click here for more information and FREE unique toolkits to use with house parties, religious groups, and education.

Why this important:  With traditional platforms and social media leverage, Stand for Girls is gathering steam as a best practices model of cause-related marketing and communication.  And the reasons are clear:

  • 800 women a day die in pregnancy or childbirth from complications that are often preventable
  • Women constitute about 70 percent of the world’s ultra poor, and women still earn less than 75 cents for every dollar men earn
  • Almost three-quarters of the 72 million children not enrolled in primary school are girls

Global Washington describes this as a way to help “women rewrite their story and change the world.”  Personally, I think this is one of the best values-led marketing efforts currently playing out.  Does it inspire you to donate $12 or think more about global women’s issues?

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Launch of our new nonprofit: GLOBAL SPARK!

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on August 6, 2012

New Nonprofit to Aid in Issues of Equity, Education, and Environment

(August 6, 2012)   Global Spark, a new nonprofit organization with three founders in California, Massachusetts, and Washington, is now working with higher education and other charitable groups.  And, as the first step of its soft launch, the organization’s website is now live:

“After teaching and researching together as academics, we’ve formed Global Spark to help other groups that need hard and soft skills,” said Deniz Zeynep Leuenberger, Ph.D. and public administration faculty member at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. “And, with this launch, we’re also looking for other practitioners, scholars, and community members to help us offer a strong menu of services.”

Leuenberger is joined by Danielle Newton, M.F.A. and English faculty at Bellevue College, and Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. and Communication Studies faculty at Bridgewater State College.  Coming from three diverse fields, the three leaders have decades of successful non-profit, educational, and corporate experience in:

  • Strategic planning and capacity building
  • Marketing and communications
  • Grantwriting and fundraising
  • Program evaluation, data collection and analysis
  • Community development, outreach, and mentorship

“One of our first goals is to start sharing information, so we’re sending out a call to students and others who might like to be published on our blog,” says Newton.  “Our website offers many ‘spaces’ for people to discuss issues and for plans to move forward.”

Awaiting formal designation of its 501C3 status in early fall 2012, the organization is already working with American Indian tribal colleges as well as educational and charitable organizations in China, the United Arab Emirates, and across the United States of America.  For instance, the group is aiding with food security initiatives in tribal colleges such as the Oneida Nation’s exemplary program.

“We are also a landing space for resources such as fact sheets and links for others,” Van Leuven noted.  “Right now, groups can find how-to tools for grants development, marketing, and organizational planning.”

For more information, contact Global Spark at, via Twitter  (@Global_Spark), and Facebook.

Posted in Corporate Communication, Corporate Social Responsibility, Development, Marketing, Public Administration, Social media, Sustainability | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

GOTTA HAVE FAITH: and other review sites

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on June 20, 2012

A colleague recently asked if I’d ever posted anything to, one of those consumer review sites that’s a Word of Mouth force for potential employees.  It was new to me…check out the description:

“Glassdoor is your free inside look at jobs and companies.  Salary details, company reviews, and interview questions – all posted anonymously by employees and job seekers.”

Wow, who wouldn’t want to check out an insider’s view of how things REALLY are?   What great potential, this powerful, transparent tool! A quick spin through reviews about this particular employer turned up strong themes BUT such sites can, unfortunately, feature more fake reviews than genuine.  What, you say?  You mean every word you say? 

So who to believe? Over the last year, some firms have artificially boosted their scores by using bots or reputation management groups to post fake-positive reviews.  Some employers are literally demanding that workers write glowing posts to negate the biased, negative ones.  How genuine, indeed. (And doesn’t management have bigger things to worry about than what’s posted online?)

In the past, I’ve been mostly amused by such sites, mainly because I’ve seen how academics and students brush off – or buy into – weirdly stilted posts in  Especially horrific reviews are dated just before final exams, a prime time for students to insult everything from the physical appearance to the teaching styles of their instructors.  Nope, I wasn’t immune—One student who visited me after graduating confessed to writing a mediocre review of my class just before a final paper was due that he hadn’t started.  “It was just easier to vent on Ratemyprofessor than start my project,” he said, while also asking me to write a recommendation.  And I know all the games they play, because I play them, too.

“When did students start thinking it’s okay to always hide behind snarky reviews, especially when there are lots of opportunities for anonymous feedback during a semester?” one friend pondered.  And maybe that’s the point. Why hide online? After all, can’t people see through the artificially gleaming reviews as well as the beyond-belief horrible ones? This falls under a fact of credibility and appropriate response: if the content isn’t trustworthy, consumers will turn elsewhere. And how did this online trend pick up so much steam, to now slowly face deflation?  Side note:  If you’re offering any product or service, include possible responses to online reviews within your crisis comm plan.  While less valid than Wikipedia (cough, cough), online reviews can help spot trends that need addressing.

I suppose I see anonymous and sometimes fake reviews as symptomatic of a larger problem: whether in our work environments or in classroom settings, if we can’t talk face-to-face, if we’ve lost the desire and ability to negotiate – to talk out – what’s working and what’s not working between us, how do we find relief for the real dilemmas that face us? How can we communicate toward solutions to our problems if we don’t communicateBut I’ll wait for something more…

As George Michael might say:  Life isn’t a Journey lyric.  You don’t always get it any way you want it.  Because I got to have faith-a-faith-a-faith.

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NCA (and Orlando), here I come!

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on June 15, 2012

Woot!   I am going to the annual National Communication Association Conference for a panel discussion entitled “COMMunities of Tomorrow:  At the Intersection of Physical and Digital Spaces”.  The panel abstract:  Digital and physical spaces combine to create communities in surprising ways. This panel investigates communities that exist at the intersection of digital and physical spaces. Papers theorize about the ways that these communities might impact the future of our interactions in physical spaces that are becoming increasingly digital and digital spaces that create opportunities for engagement in built space. 

Sounds a bit surreal, yes?  Panelists will talk about flash mobs, urban community development and mapping, and even Second Life.  I’m especially interested in surreal activism, especially the communities of today’s tech savvy activists involved in Occupy Wall Street and other protest movements.  Here’s my paper abstract:

Digital technology and built spaces have given rise to unique COMMunities as groups such as #OccupyWallStreet stream messages to global audiences from tent cities and community centers. This ongoing study of communication and #OWS since its September 17, 2011, inception examines how divergent technologies (such as social and traditional media) between multiple audiences (including government, grassroots activists, and locals) are creating and sustaining communities of spirit and engagement. By co-opting previously corporate practices and harnessing technological shifts, movement leaders have tweeted and posted 24/7 for each other as well the sprawling #OWS infrastructure. This strategic agitation, unity of effort, and collaborative action has plugged a New York movement into a global arena that questions previous models of leadership and communication amidst the blending of cyber – and physical – spaces.

P.S.  On a personal note, visiting Disney World has been on my bucket list since I worked at Disneyland in the early 1970’s and recruiters argued about why I should move to Orlando for the bigger, brighter experience.  One pitch that stayed:  Disney World’s Main Street is built true-to-life, while Disneyland’s is 5/8th scale.   And, while I would certainly never imply that I ever want to attend conferences based on the location, I should also add that the next ASPA conference is in New Orleans.

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Go Green and Go Home!

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on April 28, 2012

As part of Sustainability Week at Bridgewater State University, I recently spoke about how public officials are grappling with activists about sustainability issues; specifically, I look at how administrators are talking with Occupy Wall Street and Tar Sands Action protestors.  These two movements are toppling traditional, top-down mandates by combining face-to-face interactions with tagging-based media and live-streaming.  The result:  A myriad of social justice issues, including sustainability, are molded into cross-issue discourse that is reshaping guerrilla government and leadership.  This presentation – “Go Green and Go Home!  How Public Officials and Activists are Grappling about Sustainability” – is presented in through different presentation formats.

Part One:  A Sliderocket overview of the project

Part Two:  A Slideshare Ignite talk about research findings

Part Three:  A Prezi about the broader discussion

(References are posted below)


As always, any good research project is collaborative!  Thanks to those who’ve helped with thoughts and insights, including; Deniz Leuenberger at Bridgewater State University; Danielle Newton at Global Spark; Amoshaun Toft at the University of Washington;   and Amanda Ravenhill and Ryan Kushner , who continue to be catalytic leaders about how activism can enhance sustainability goals.  To that end, I thank you all for lighting the torch that ignites public imaginations.  And, to the inspiring MPA Cohort 2 at Presidio Graduate School, I hope you continue your passion in changing the landscape of how public administrators can enhance social justice actions!

For future reading….

Blewit, J. (2008).  Understanding sustainable development.  London:  Earthscan.

della Porta, D., & Tarrow, S. (2005).  Transnational Protest and Global Activism.  New York:  Rowman & Littlefield.

Delli Carpini, M. (2004).  “Meditating democratic engagement:  The impact of communications on citizens’ involvement in political and civic life.”  Handbook of Political Communication Research.  Mahwah, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum.

Hiwaki, K. (2011.)  Culture and Economics in the Global Community:  A Framework for Socioeconomic Development.

O’Leary: R.  (2006).  The Ethics of Dissent:  Managing Guerrilla Government. Washington D.C.:  CQ Press.

Roseland, M. (2005).  Toward Sustainable Communities:  Resources for Citizens and Their Governments.  British Columbia:  New Society.

Sandoval, C.  (2000).  Methodology of the Oppressed.  Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press.

Scheufele, D. (2002).  Examining differential gains from mass media and their implications for participatory behavior.”  Communication Research. 29(1).

Spitzer, R. (1993).  Media and Public Policy, Westport, CT:  Praeger

Tocqueville, A (1835/1973). Democracy in America.  New York:  Washington Square Press.

Turke, S. (April 22, 2012).  Opinion: The Flight from Conversation.”  New York Times.

Wilkins, K.  (2000).  “The role of media in public disengagement from political life.”  Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media.  44(4).

Wuthnow, R. (2002).  “The United States”  Bridging the privileged and the marginalized? “  Democracies in Flux:  The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society.  New York:  Oxford University Press.

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Komen, Twitter, and Public Awakenings

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on February 3, 2012

Never underestimate the power of the public.  Because of a phenomenal public outcry, the broken Susan G. Komen brand is flunking basic crisis communication and alienating global audiences.  One thing we know:  Even the most popular do-gooders can’t quiet our quick messages that shine light into buried messes.  Yes, necessity is still the mother of invention, and we (as media producers AND consumers,) will scorn those who scorn us; for instance, Twitter’s new policy of censorship may kick it to the curb very soon.

I want to share a few points gleaned from “Arab Tech Emerging:  Enabling the Next Generation of Innovators”, a lecture sponsored last night by MercyCorps to spotlight the Arab Developer Network Initiative in Gaza and the West Bank.   Technology is especially brilliant in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, which is reforming IT sectors powered by citizen creativity. For example, while most reports measure a 13% Internet connectivity rate in Gaza, it’s probably closer to 60% because so many people cobble together connections.  Staying connected is a community effort including  power outages; if we lift up floorboards, we may see car batteries that are strung together and hidden as backup home generators.

Such scenarios of citizen journalism are critical to human rights and information sharing.  According to those on the ground, more citizens trust the news from Twitter and Facebook than CNN reports. And these young, unemployed, and well-educated Palestinians are revitalizing economic and communication opportunities. It will be fascinating to watch the fruits of their labors unfold over the next few years.

It’s also inspiring to learn how NGOs such as MercyCorps and others are not colonizing these countries, but simply assisting with the tools for their voices to be heard and hidden when necessary; for instance, the Guardian Project protects the location and other identifying factors of Android users.

It’s a brave, new, PUBLIC world.

Click here to read about the first Gaza Startup Weekend  that brought a group of Google and other experts to incubate tech efforts.  And imagine how such new organizations are preparing to replace the Komen, Twitter, and other powers that forget, at times, that we don’t ignore controversy anymore.

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Power of viral loops and the Ford Explorer

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on January 29, 2012

I’m posting a video that’s about to go viral, if it hasn’t already, of two young boys who’ve adapted “A Thousand Miles” to honor their mother.  But it’s much more than an homage; because their mom died in a first-generation Ford Explorer rollover, these boys are urging people to stop driving the cars and demand that Ford buys them back.  This isn’t the first time that social media has pushed this story forward — in 2010, Fast Company’s Adam Penenberg tweeted the $131M verdict against Ford because of the rollover death of Mets star Brian Cole.  It’s another instance of viral loops that increasingly force light into the darkest, most hidden stories that mainstream media skips.

Google “Ford Rollover” and see the building issue…Ford had better surface soon.

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I made the list!

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on April 25, 2011

I’m on it!  Nancy Van Leuven is on the list of the top 92 marketing professors around the world who 1) provide useful content and consistently engage with their followers on Twitter, 2) truly “get it” when it comes to the best ways to use Twitter and other forms of social media, and 3) were active on Twitter as of April 11, 2011.  Now I have to step it up and crack the top 50 list next year!

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DEBUTS: TED Conversation and Fortune 100’s social media usage

Posted by Nancy Van Leuven, Ph.D. on February 17, 2011

The Twitterverse is abuzz today about Ted Conversations, a Quora-like platform to ideate, question, and debate.    Just five years ago, expertise was top dog; today, it’s all about engagement and social discussion platforms.  On a separate note, check out this Mashable blurb — 10 things you need  to know about Fortune 100’s use of social media — as proof of companies moving from top-down, broadcast into narrowcast communication.

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