Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ABA Journal Blawg 100 Nomination - TaxGirl.com

The fourth annual ABA Journal Blawg 100 has nominated, TaxGirl, for its niche blog category. The Blawg 100 represents the best legal blogs as selected by the Journal's editors. Each year, they select a variety of the best law bloggers out there for a vote by its readers.

TaxGirl features sections to get to know Kelly, what her blog is about and opportunities to ask her tax-related questions. The comprehensive archives are sure to have an answer to just about any tax issue you may have. I believe it's an excellent resource for a myriad of people on complex legal tax issues. She is a friend and trusted colleague of mine and I love her blog.

Please take the time to vote for TaxGirl over at http://www.abajournal.com/blawg100/2010/niche

Congratulations on your nomination, Kelly!

Court Rules Social Media Sites Discoverable

I thought you might find this court opinion of interest. It is from the Court of Common Pleas in Jefferson County, PA, and seems to be the trend regarding discovery of social networking sites.

In McMillen v. Hummingbird Speedway, the court allows the defendant to gain access to the plaintiff’s Facebook and MySpace social networking sites during discovery concluding that “Where there is an indication that a person’s social network sites contain information relevant to the prosecution or defense of a lawsuit, therefore, and given Koken’s admonition that the courts should allow litigants to utilize “all rational means for ascertaining the truth,” 911 A.2d at 1027, and the law’s general dispreference for the allowance of privileges, access to those sites should be freely granted.”

A link to the opinion is included below along with some of the key language from the opinion.


Facebook, MySpace, and their ilk are social network computer sites people utilize to connect with friends and meet new people. That is, in fact, their purpose, and they do not bill themselves as anything else. Thus, while it is conceivable that a person could use them as forums to divulge and seek advice on personal and private matters, it would be unrealistic to expect that such disclosures would be considered confidential.

Both sites at issue here do guarantee a modicum of privacy insofar as users may, with the exception of certain basic information, choose what information and posts to make public and which ones to share with only those persons they have identified as friends. Yet reading their terms and privacy policies should dispel any notion that information one chooses to share, even if only with one friend, will not be disclosed to anybody else.


Returning to the four factors identified in Matter of Adoption of Embick, it is clear that no person choosing MySpace or Facebook as a communications forum could reasonably expect that his communications would remain confidential, as both sites clearly express the possibility of disclosure. Confidentiality is not essential to maintain the relationships between and among social network users, either. The relationships to be fostered through those media are basic friendships, not attorney-client, physician-patient, or psychologist-patient types of relationships, and while one may expect that his or her friend will hold certain information in confidence, the maintenance of one’s friendships typically does not depend on confidentiality.

The Court cannot say, therefore, that the community seeks to sedulously foster friendships by recognizing friend-to-friend communications as confidential or privileged. No such privilege currently exists. Friendships nonetheless abound and flourish, because whereas it is necessary to guarantee people that their attorneys, physicians, and psychologists will not disseminate the substance of their discussions in order to encourage the type and level of disclosure essential to those professional relationships, history shows that the same guarantee is not necessary to encourage the development of friendships.

Furthermore, whatever relational harm may be realized by social network computer site users is undoubtedly outweighed by the benefit of correctly disposing of litigation. As a general matter, a user knows that even if he attempts to communicate privately, his posts may be shared with strangers as a result of his friends’ selected privacy settings. The Court thus sees little or no detriment to allowing that other strangers, i.e., litigants, may become privy to those communications through discovery.

The countervailing benefits, moreover, cannot be overstated. Take this case, for instance. McMillen has alleged significant and substantial injuries, some of which he claims may be permanent. Accessing only the public portion of his Facebook page, however, the defendants have discovered posts they contend show that McMillen has exaggerated his injuries. Certainly a lack of injury and inability is relevant to their defense, and it is reasonable to assume that McMillen may have made additional observations about his travels and activities in private posts not currently available to the defendants. If they do exist, gaining access to them could help to prove either the truth or falsity of McMillen’s alleged claims.

The same may be true in any number of cases. Millions of people join Facebook, MySpace, and other social network sites, and as various news accounts have attested, more than a few use those sites indiscreetly. See e.g., The Independent, Facebook can ruin your life. And so can MySpace, Bebo . . ., http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/facebook-can-ruin-your-life-and-so-can-myspace-bebo-780521.html (02/10/2008) (Discussing some of the potential social, career, and legal ramifications of inappropriate social computer networking). When they do and their indiscretions are pertinent to issues raised in a lawsuit in which they have been named,the search for truth should prevail to bright to light relevant information that may not otherwise have been known.

Where there is an indication that a person’s social network sites contain information relevant to the prosecution or defense of a lawsuit, therefore, and given Koken’s admonition that the courts should allow litigants to utilize “all rational means for ascertaining the truth,” 911 A.2d at 1027, and the law’s general dispreference for the allowance of privileges, access to those sites should be freely granted.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Facebook Creates New Mess for EDD: Messages - Add to Social Media Policy

I read on Law.com today that Facebook Creates New Mess for EDD: Messages. This is exactly why social media policies are so important for law firms and other professionals who deal with sensitive and confidential information.
Copyright 2010. Furia Rubel Communications, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Every law firm, accounting firm, medical provider, public relations and marketing firm, etc., should have a section in their social media policy relating to “Messaging Within Social Media.” In fact, if the social media is not part of the company's employee manual, then it should be included there too.

For lawyers / law firms, it should state something to the effect that "Social Media is NOT a platform for attorneys to converse with clients, judges, witnesses, jurors, opposing counsel, or any others regarding business matters. All correspondence MUST be handled via e-mail or traditional mail in order to preserve its integrity, maintain a correspondence log, and protect attorney-client privilege."

The policy should then go on to provide basic template language to empower attorneys and staff to respond to inquiries on social media platforms that should be handled via e-mail or otherwise. For example, the policy could say: "When you receive a message via social media that you would otherwise deem confidential, privileged, important to our business, important to a client matter, etc., use the following template language to respond: Thank you for reaching out to me here. In order to protect our correspondence, please send me your e-mail address and telephone number so I may reach out to you directly. In the alternative, please feel free to call me at {insert telephone number} or send me an e-mail at {insert e-mail address}."

Social media is not only changing the way we handle marketing, public relations and business development, it is also changing the way we conduct business. If your company doesn't already have a social media policy, I encourage you to add it to your 2011 high priority goals.

Monday, November 22, 2010

PRSA AMEC New Metrics Webinar: Thoughts

Posted by Amanda Walsh and Leah Ludwig

As members of the industry organization, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the Furia Rubel team is frequently invited to participate in webinars. A recent webinar, broadcast from London, was especially eye-opening for us because it dealt with contested points within the public relations industry regarding PR campaign measurement and metrics.

Measurement and metrics is an area that has been debated for a long time within the PR industry and there is still no proven equation or metrics. This blog post is intended to give a bird’s eye view of what is currently going on in the public relations industry. As a PR and marketing agency, we believe that the way in which measurement and metric evaluations are communicated with clients depends heavily on the client’s industry.
The webinar marked a continuation of a conference hosted by the Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) and the Institute of Public Relations (IPR) held in Barcelona earlier this year. The outcomes of that conference are proving to be groundbreaking for communications professionals across the globe.

The AMEC declaration of PR measurement standards are known as the Barcelona Principles and are included below:
1 Importance of Goal Setting and Measurement
2. Measuring the Effect on Outcomes is Preferred to Measuring Outputs
3. The Effect on Business Results Can and Should Be Measured Where Possible
4. Media Measurement Requires Quantity and Quality
5. AVEs are not the Value of Public Relations
6. Social Media Can and Should be Measured
7 Transparency and Replicability

To gain more in depth knowledge of the Barcelona Principles, this article from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) in the UK can be found here. Here is another summary from IPR.

The most revolutionary outcome was discontinuing the use of Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) when reporting media relations values.  During the webinar, industry pros attempted to answer some key questions concerning the evaluation of public relations campaigns. Specifically, the question many PR professionals ask is, “What are the validated metrics to be used instead of AVEs?”

Worldwide Director of Strategic Services for Hill & Knowlton, Ruth Pestana, presented some valuable visual charts that showcased PR efforts as a continuum beginning with output moving to outcome to impacting business results.

The grid demonstrated a simplified breakdown of PR efforts:
* PR Activity – Communications professionals tell stories and create key messages
* Intermediary – The message gets distributed through a third party to get message across to target audience (OUTPUTS)
* Target Audience Effect – How the consumer is affected by the stories and messages (OUTTAKE and OUTCOMES)

She urged PR professionals to look forward instead of back and to concentrate on evaluating outcome instead of output. She also stresses the importance of looking at each media hit critically when evaluating results. Measure the quality not necessarily quantity of impressions. She feels that AVEs are no longer accurate to use in reporting value because advertising is paid for and always positive. Earned media is uncontrolled and can result in positive, neutral or negative messages. This is why the AMEC feels that PR professionals must focus on how communications messaging is affecting consumer/customer behavior.

In addition, there is a thoughtful article on PRSA Philly Chapter News by Jacob Farbman, M.A. APR, writes why AVEs are no longer viable ways to calculate Return on Investment.

And the debate continues…

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review: “Shut Up and Say Something” By Karen Friedman

Karen Friedman hits the nail on the head in her newly-released book, “Shut Up and Say Something.”

Right from the beginning with chapter one, “Zip It” to chapters “Talk to your Grandmother” and “Reality Check,” Friedman presents attention-grabbers.  “The backward Z-to-A format reminds us to keep the end goal (Z) in mind when faced with daily communication challenges that are frequently met with resistance and skepticism.” How clever.

“Shut Up and Say Something” is outlined with easy to read bullet points and relevant anecdotes from Friedman’s years in the industry from working as a news anchor and reporter to her experience in the communications coaching business.  She presents key points when dealing with the media and proves their importance through some cringe worthy real-life anecdotes.  She clearly demonstrates just how one sound bite or off-the-cuff remark can be linked to you and/or your organization forever.

As we know at Furia Rubel, excellent communications skills can make or break your success within an organization and this book is shaping up to be an excellent guide to training clients in media relations.  We recommend this for any level executive in a variety of industries looking to successfully navigate the often perplexing communications terrain.

According to the website, “Shut Up and Say Something is an entirely new hands-on approach to help professionals overcome daily communication challenges in order to quickly influence listeners and decision makers.” 

You can check it out at http://shutupandsaysomething.com/.

Great work Karen! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Goodbye SEO! Hello SMO?

Posted by Amanda Walsh

Recently, The Leading Voices section of Paidcontent.org featured a compelling article, "SEO is Dead, The New King is SMO" by Ben Elowitz that may be of interest to The PR Lawyer blog readers. Elowitz is co-founder and CEO of Wetpaint, a web publisher. I also noticed after reading this article that the blogosphere is buzzing with predictions of the end of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Elowitz explores the industry shift from putting utmost importance on keywords, paid links and engineering to valuing the creation of useful content for readers. He predicts that the recent partnership of Facebook and Bing will usher in a new era of Social Media Optimization or SMO.

As the most visited website across the globe, Facebook is at the pinnacle of search and content. According to Elowitz, the partnership with Bing will force publishers to re-focus on creating valuable content that will be seen and shared. Many users are already using the Facebook newsfeed as their go-to news interface for not only updates from friends, but news outlets as well. “Already sites at Wetpaint and other publishers are seeing more audience coming from Facebook than from search,” Elowitz notes.

He may be on to something here. Granted, good content and valuable information will always be king and creating something that will be shared and re-shared on various social media outlets including Facebook will inevitable drive traffic, but all of this depends on your target audience. Although Facebook may be “the most visited website across the globe,” the majority of internet users still go to Google to do things like research a company, look for a specific product, or search for specific how-to information, according to Furia Rubel’s VP of Marketing, Laura Powers.  It is important to keep in mind that Google is still a search-engine giant and coming up high on search results still is a wonderful thing.

Some supporting websites for further food for thought are BusinessInsider and TopTechReviews
(Photo credit: http://blog.socialmaximizer.com)

Friday, November 12, 2010

PRSA Philadelphia Event With Jeff Ansell – When The Headline Is You

Posted by Amanda Walsh

My colleague, Leah Ludwig and I had the opportunity to attend a PRSA Philadelphia chapter luncheon yesterday where Jeff Ansell, award-winning journalist, crisis communications veteran, and author of "When the Headline is YOU: An Insider's Guide to Handling the Media," presented insights and tips for crisis communications.  Leah and I enjoyed the event and wanted to pass along some takeaways to help you and your media training efforts BEFORE a crisis occurs.

Ansell discussed many points including the state of journalism today, why the media training model is broken and tips for facing bad news head-on.

The State of Journalism Today
The fact is that many journalists today are working with less time and resources. They need to tell the story the easiest and fastest way possible.  Today’s news has taken a turn toward sensationalism and emphasis has been brought away from thoughtful, public policy. Ansell comments that often it’s easy to cast characters and find the “village idiot.” We want to avoid having our spokesperson cast as that character.

Why the Media Training Model is Broken
Communicating with the news media can seem like “learning a new language,” so it’s important to train a spokesperson accordingly. Before, media training was all about communicating positive key messages or ignoring tough reporter questions – today we know that this is not always the best way to handle a crisis. If you’re not addressing their tough questions someone else may. The result? Your company loses control of the message and things typically start to spiral downward from there.

“You’re only as good as your worst quote” 
We’ve all seen it happen – the media frenzy that can make or break a company’s reputation and ultimately ruin their bottom line. Ansell notes the BP crisis as an example and the famous, “I’d like my life back” quote from BP’s former CEO Tony Hayward. 

Ways to avoid these gaffes:
1. Breathe.  The first reaction many spokespeople experience is holding their breath in a stressful situation. Breathing will help blood flow to the brain and increase clear thinking.

2. Acknowledge the problem. Pretending not to hear a question will not make it go away. Nor will repeating positive key messages help resolve the situation.

3. Frame the Story. It all boils down to how the story is framed. Ansell shares a story of two priests who are speaking with a monsignor. One says, “Father, may I smoke while I pray?” to which the monsignor replies, “of course not!” The other priest tries, “Father, may I pray while I smoke?” and his answer is, “Of course, my son.” A-ha!

4. Emotion Always Wins over Fact.  You can offer all the facts in the world in the face of a bad news story, but emotion will always win. Sometimes it’s ok to be honest and address the situation for what it is. When concern is high and trust is low, don’t shy away from using the negative words that traditional media training warns against using at all costs.

One of my favorite points of Ansell’s talk was that often times in the middle of a media frenzy, a CEO begins to only listen to the lawyer and the accountant. In order to effectively media train, it is important to get the lawyer’s buy in. Furia Rubel has a unique niche in this market because our CEO/President, Gina F. Rubel is a public relations and marketing expert AND a lawyer.

Ansell talked about a value compass and how to get to the root of the company’s values.  Meeting with decision makers and getting them to say out loud, what are we made of? What does our company stand for? Some examples of value words include caring, concerned, accountable, or maintaining high quality standards. Take into account how the stakeholders feel and how the company can enhance their well-being. Gaining buy in from all parties will result in proper training and provide opportunities to cultivate quality answers to tough questions.

To read more about this topic, check out Ansell’s book, When the Headline is YOU: An Insider's Guide to Handling the Media.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Facebook Posts and Free Speech

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has declared that Facebook posts are legally protected speech and that terminating an employee based on their comments and status posts regarding working conditions is unlawful.

However, think twice before airing your workplace greivances. According to the NLRB's Facebook page:

"When do Facebook comments lose protected concerted activity status under the National Labor Relations Act? A four point test applies: (1) the place of the discussion; (2) the subject matter of the discussion; (3) the nature of the employee’s outburst; and (4) whether the outburst was, in any way, provoked by an employer’s unfair labor practice."

Many employers today will search multiple forms of social media for an employee's profile to gain a better understanding of the person they intend to hire. So, although it may be legal, it's not always smart.

Read the full New York Times article...


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Revolutionary Email Based Reminder System :: Small Business Marketing Blog from Duct Tape Marketing

Duct Tape Marketing is one of my favorite blogs. They always have great technology to check out. Here's a link to John Jantsch's review of Nudgemail - I'm definitely going to check it out. Revolutionary Email Based Reminder System :: Small Business Marketing Blog from Duct Tape Marketing

Friday, November 05, 2010

Philadelphia Accounting Firm Citrin Cooperman Holds Wine Tasting Event

Posted by Katie Noonan

Below are photos from Citrin Cooperman's recent wine tasting event in Philadelphia. The event included many of Philadelphia's movers and shakers including football legend Vince Papale.

Laura Stegossi, Gina Rubel, Michael Zyborowicz, Sara Canuso and Pari Hashemi

Vince Papale, Gina Rubel, Roger Braunfeld and Mark Carrow

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Social Media Makes It Hard For Americans To Forget To Vote

Posted by Amanda Walsh

Without crossing the line of addressing politics, I wanted to highlight one Election Day Web 2.0 change that caught my attention today on Facebook.

This morning on the landing page, at the top of my news feed, a box appeared that read, “Today is Election Day.” This box featured a running counter of all Facebook users who had clicked "I voted" including a personalized running tally of my Facebook friends who had gone to the polls today.

Wow, what a nice reminder to voters. To make things more convenient, the Election Day box also had an embedded link for users to find out where the closest polling booth is in their neighborhood.

I checked out the headlines on CNN.com where I found this article, No dearth of U.S. voter resources online by Mark Milian. Milian reports on the Facebook reminder box and Politics Page, that is visible to even non-Facebook users (there are still some of you out there). The article continues and highlights Google's Election Center, which among other things, offers an Elections application that allows users "to search for election information by entering their home address."

With Election Day reminders all over social media platforms this year, as Milian notes, it will be unbelievable for many Web-surfing Americans to try the old "I forgot to vote" excuse!