Category: Public Relations

There is only so much sand in the hourglass and if you haven’t already figured out what your social media game plan is during a company crisis, please read on immediately.

In today’s age of communications having a social media crisis engagement strategy is critical to preserving your brand. Now more than ever, the public expects an immediate response on social media when a crisis hits. Every minute that passes by without a response is a slippery slope to disaster. According to a recent study on Hubspot 72 per cent of people who complain on Twitter expect a response within an hour. Moreover, 60 per cent of respondents in the survey felt negatively about the brand if they did not receive timely responses.

Here are a few steps to consider on how best to develop a minimal defence on social media when dealing with a crisis:

1. Social Media Monitoring

There are many different software platforms out there but if you do not have a full-time person involved in this process or a person who fully understands how to monitor and what alerts to establish you are far better off to engage the services of a firm that can manage this process for you. The cost of such a monitoring service can run you anywhere from $500+ per month depending on the size of your company. Though software platforms typically cost within this range, the advantage of having an agency manage this for your company is that you don’t carry the additional costs of an employee. At that rate, it makes much more economic sense to outsource.

 

2. Understanding the difference between and issue and a full-blown crisis

Having a clear understanding of the issue is your first step. You should develop a cascade of responses and protocol to ensure that you don’t escalate an issue like an ice cream spill in a retail store to a crisis like a bank robbery in progress.

Make sure the Crisis Communications Team (CCT) has assigned a senior member to be responsible for any communication approvals for rapid response requirements. It is very important that you don’t delay in responding to customer enquiries even if it means providing placeholder responses noting that you’re aware of the issues and you will get back to them promptly. If you have been in these turbulent waters before you understand how quickly a poorly managed issue can soon escalate into a crisis.

 

3. First Responders

Know what the program is once your issue has been detected. Every great crisis management plan has protocols and messaging created in advance. Everyone should know who is on the team and what previously crafted responses are ready to go or need to be quickly modified. Your social media responders have to be empowered with baseline responses and a priority sequence on response levels and messaging. Make sure you have a consistent message that can be adapted across all social media channels.

 

4. Get the message up

Do not waste time pursuing the perfect detailed response. Even if you do not have all the required details, at a bare minimum, you need to inform your audience. Tell them you are aware of the situation and expect to be addressing it more formally within the hour or whatever immediate timeframe possible. This conveys your understanding of the urgency and immediacy of the situation. Also, be sure to display the highest amount of empathy possible. Being abrupt and unsympathetic will only add fuel to the fire.

Make sure your team has a standing ‘if in doubt’ response so that no enquiry goes unanswered. Furthermore, once the correct, informed responses to your issue have been created, make sure your social media manager is able to respond expeditiously, and in the event of uncertainty, that the appropriate level of senior management is available to sign off on the post. Ultimately you will need to post an official response to a situation on your website which will be used by the media, blog writers and others who will be reporting on your issue.

 

5. Pause your scheduled posts

Nothing can be worse than seeing a light-hearted acknowledgement of an unrelated event magically appear during the heat of a crisis. Disable your scheduled posts immediately. Your customer base needs to know that your priority focus is on the issue at hand and nothing else.

 

6. Create a crisis FAQ web page

Having a web page that addresses the most frequent questions around the issue gives you the ability to link to answers more efficiently. Details of the occurrence, contacts at the crisis site, lists of products impacted, geographic regions in question, etc., should all be aggregated in one place that can be easily referenced and shared throughout your social media posts.

 

7. Engage

Once the message is up, make sure you immediately engage with your audience responses. Make sure that you are consistent with your messaging and responding in a polite and caring manner. If you have positive responses, make sure and thank those supporters immediately. There will be individuals that cannot be pleased no matter what the effort and you need to understand this going in.

One tactic you should consider in your response is offering to take the conversation ‘offline’. While you may get a few people accepting this offer, at the very least, you are indicating to the broader audience at large your willingness to address heated and repeated comments directly. Remember, if you are satisfying the majority you have preserved your brand and supporting community.

 

8. Internal Employees

Your employees need to be made immediately alert to any social media crisis response campaign. It is critical that company employees do not randomly respond or engage in conversations on social. This protocol should be addressed in your employee handbook to protect the company/brand from rogue engagement. Make sure that all employees are aware of the situation when it breaks and to refer to the section in their handbook for references regarding proper behaviour. Also, make sure you keep your employees up to date on all developments and conclusions as they are reached.

 

9. Document Everything

Make sure you create a log of engagement. Tweets, status updates, blogs, comments on social media—everything needs to be saved in a central repository for future references. Make sure copies of all your emails are recorded. Also, review your campaign. Understand what worked, did not work and your social media activity as it relates to the time series of the event. Review web site traffic patterns and understand where visitors were engaged. Reviewing what happened will only make your campaign stronger the next time it happens.

 

10. Continue to monitor

One of the most common mistakes to crisis management is thinking it’s over and having it rear its ugly head again four days later. Keep a close eye and adjust your monitoring to key in on higher influencers. As well, make sure you are monitoring key date milestones. In other words, expect that someone will trot out “it was one year ago today…” these are common occurrences, and you need to be prepared.

These are but a few ideas that should help you better prepare. Until your next crisis…
HM

Over the past year, the demand for our crisis communications services has been on a considerable rise. Not surprisingly either. With the advances in technology and associated ability to convey issues of consequence through social media, the court of public opinion has become both a ruthless judge and jury within minutes of many issues, grievances and disasters both real and perceived.

If left unattended, perception will always outflank reality and most companies have very little time to respond to a crisis. Every day that passes by without acting to resolve a crisis will negatively impact your brand and often results in significant losses. More often than not the public trust is weakened and, in some cases, irreparable. Sadly, we are seeing these situations in social and earned media on a regular basis.

Most glaring is the amount of time required for companies to respond to a perceived crisis. It is inexcusable. There is no longer room for “no comment” or “next day” strategies. Today, the public expects an immediate response. Failure to do so is usually dealt with a swift blow to the company’s brand.

Given this regular occurrence, more companies are now beginning to evaluate their crisis management plan preparedness for such an event. Moreover, shareholders of publicly traded companies are asking management and board members alike if such plans exist. And yet in a recent Nasdaq poll close to 50% of organizations do not have a crisis communications plan and only 50% felt their companies were “adequately prepared to manage crises effectively” exposing them to serious risk.

While this number is staggering, risk exposure rises even further when one considers the last time many of these companies with a plan in place have had it updated, including vulnerability audits and stress tests to ensure crises readiness.

The harsh reality is that if your company hasn’t updated their plan annually or are not regularly practicing scenarios they are invariably exposed to a wide variety of issues. If you are completely lacking a comprehensive crisis communication management strategy, your level of risk has grown exponentially.

Recently, newer issues have appeared more frequently in the media and public domain and it is probably worthwhile to re-examine the issues that you may be up against. Some of the more frequent issues include:

  • Data breach, identity theft, privacy and security
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Violations of public trust within government
  • Offensive social media transmissions by employees

What can you do to avoid these potential problems?

To begin with, I recommend having an internal team meeting to determine whether or not your company has a current plan in place, and if you do, to carefully evaluate if the plan is sufficient. If there is even the slightest hesitation, bring in an outside expert to review and augment. You may find yourself in the middle of an exercise that requires considerable renovations to your existing plan. If your organization is completely without a strategy you should move quickly to have one built. This is not an exercise that should be taken lightly or handed to someone inexperienced.  Each crisis communications management strategy is unique to each company and while many follow fundamentals, the end strategy can often take between two and three months to assemble.

 What does it cost to hire an outside expert?

 No two plans are alike and therefore careful consideration should be given to the experience and size of undertaking you may be embarking upon. There is no set cost equation or template plan but consider the following to be some numbers to give you a barometer of costs likely to be incurred.

  •  Plan creation – involves multiple meetings with key stakeholders including senior management, legal, tech, frontline staff, etc. Largely depends on size and structure of organization. $25,000 to $50,000+
  • Training – this will include spokesperson training, media training, and mock interview drills to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands the routing when a crisis occurs. $3,500 to $15,000+
  • Stress/vulnerability tests to examine potential problems and create routine response mechanisms. Depends on the size and nature of the company. $10,000 to $25,000+

Keep in mind the scope of your costs will be largely dependent upon the size of your organization, the amount of training involved, and the vulnerability audits and program adjustments required. At the end of the process you should have a manual, a crisis ready communications team and a good understanding of the possible scenarios you may experience and what to do when they happen.

Stock Chart for FB

Facebook (FB) stock plunge on Cambridge Analytica data breach

The cost of not having a plan and reacting poorly to a situation can cost you millions and even billions of dollars within hours. At the end of the day, the money you spend now will be considerably less than the money you will have to spend without one.

The likelihood of a company crisis today is not a matter of “if” vs. “when”. Having a crisis communications management strategy in place will undoubtedly help you mitigate your losses and protect your brand.

Hugh Mansfield (hugh@mansfieldinc.com) has over 25 years of crisis communications management experience. Hugh has handled some landmark cases including data theft, privacy, FDA, FTC and State Attorney investigations, Auditor General enquiries, filing issues with SEC, NASDAQ and TSX, along with major labor disputes, public health and safety, consumer product recalls, and numerous environmental disasters.

Using celebrities to endorse products is a staple of advertising but as social media platforms have evolved, there’s now a variety of approaches for employing people with large followings to help sell your brand. Influencers (people who’ve cultivated specialized and specific audiences around their expertise) are valued for their ability to advertise to a dedicated user base but are doing so now on a smaller scale—micro-influencers. Brands now routinely partner with people with smaller followings on social media—typically in the thousands or tens of thousands—but with more highly engaged audiences.

Unlike mainstream celebrities and public figures, micro-influencers are social media users who engage in their own specialized vertical and post frequently to a dedicated user base who actively engage with their content. Typically micro-influencers have better engagement rates with their followers, have a more targeted, narrow audience and are more affordable to do business with.

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A study by Markerly on Instagram engagement rates found that as influencer’s followers went up, the amount of likes and comments from followers went down. Their findings eventually lead Markerly to recommend that brands pursue Instagram micro-influencers on Instagram followings in the 1,000–10,000 range because micro-influencers can reach higher engagement rates with a targeted audience that’s large enough. When comparing macro influencers like the Kardashians to micro-influencers, Markerly CEO and Sarah Ware told Digiday that partnering with 30-40 micro-influencers achieved a higher conversion rate than when the celebrities were promoting the product.

In addition to higher engagement rates and ROI potential, micro-influencers are naturally more affordable than celebrities with millions of followers. High profile celebs can often charge $75,000 for a single promotional post on Instagram. You can expect micro-influencers to charge less than $500 for a promoted post. We should note that often brands will engage several micro-influencers to maximize reach, but even 100 micro-influencers would cost less than a single celebrity on Instagram at these rates.

Another value for utilizing micro-influencers is that they are often perceived as more authentic—they’re real people which makes their content real, too. These power users with several thousand followers are far more likely to post their own content, engage with commenters and promote products they honestly believe in than brands or celebrities with social media managers might—they know that if they’re engaging with a product or a promotional posts, their followers are more inclined to look further into that promoted content. If a micro-influencer engages with a promotional post on Instagram, their followers might be more inclined to click to learn more about the brand they’re posting about. We should also mention that Instagram’s algorithm displays posts from users people follow and interact with the most, so quality, authentic content is usually shown ahead of promoted content from big brands. This can help elevate the content of micro-influencers over that of celebrities if the algorithm knows your engage with their content more.

Mansfield has experience working with influencers on digital, traditional and experential campaigns. For more reading on how to manage relationships with influencers of different magnitudes read our eight tips for negotiating with them here and email as at info@mansfieldinc.com when you’re ready to talk influencer strategies.

“Strategic communicator.”  It’s  a ubiquitous moniker in the PR industry. In practice,  strategic communications plans are anything but consistent. So, what should one expect from a communications expert or agency when one requests a result’s-oriented plan? Here’s our take on the four key components:

Situation Analysis

Before a plan can be devised, a thorough audit of a client or project environment should be taken.  This is a situation analysis and is the foundation from which plan recommendations are made.  

This process incorporates research,  audits, risk assessment and analysis  in order to gain insight into the current landscape. It should also include thorough briefings with you, the client, and with relevant stakeholders so that business goals, objectives, and target audiences are understood.  A solid comprehension of a client’s position in the marketplace from differentiators, marketing strategies, and public perceptions to market conditions, and an analysis of stakeholder communities all contribute to an insightful situation analysis.

Strategic Approach

Once the situation analysis is complete, your agency should have the information required to make recommendations that forms an overall strategic approach in a summary.  You should expect goals, strategies, objectives and program specific tactics within a defined scope of responsibilities. It also entails confirmation of target audiences.  

Goals are higher-level concepts about what needs to be achieved, a strategy is the approach, objectives are the steps to accomplish a strategy and a tactic is a tool used to achieve the objective.  

To be successful in supporting goals, your agency should commit to objectives that are specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-sensitive (as well as consider overall strategy). And, tactics should consider an integrated mix of activities that ladder up and support the strategy and will reach target audiences, such as media relations, experiential marketing, influencer campaigns, digital and social, events, community outreach, government relations, and employee and internal communications initiatives, etc.

Scope & Budget

It’s important that your agency defines scope.  This allows a client and the agency to understand the roles and responsibilities associated with executing the strategic plan.  Within the scope are detailed timelines, human-resource allocations, program guidelines and key milestones/deliverables.

Strategic communication plans should also include budget detailing costs for all recommended tactics as well as any administrative outlays, third party costs, and out of pocket expenses. Budgets should also be able to scale up or scale down given that communications planning process is often fluid and may require periodic adjustment.

Measurement and Reporting

An approach to measurement and reporting should be set during the planning process and take into a consideration a regular cadence throughout a campaign in order to monitor and assess continuously. Successful communicators do not wait until the end of campaign to evaluate. Reporting could include feedback from research, audits, surveys and focus groups to digital and social data (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter all provide activity and engagement reports), as well as media relations analysis and event management metrics. If possible, integrating business results such as sales or engagement results is a terrific way to connect communications objectives with business objectives.

To find out more about how Mansfield Inc. can create a successful strategic communications plan for you, click here.

It’s the job of destination marketers to come up with new and creative ways to attract visitors to cities, countries or regions but how can you encourage people to share their experiences and advocate for your destination once they’re there?

Interactive landmarks such as 3D signs or placemaking campaigns centred around immersive engagement are effective ways to capitalize on digital marketing—tourists are naturally compelled to share photos of themselves to mark their experiences and as a result, become consumer-to-consumer marketers with every upload, tweet or share. This demonstrates an understanding of the importance of user-generated content in destination marketing and how destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are using digitally-connected visitors to their advantage to shape the destination brand.

Here is our list of notable destination-based installations and campaigns around the world and the impact they’ve created in consumer-to-consumer marketing:

 

I amsterdam

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The I amsterdam letters in Museumplein

 

The I amsterdam sign was installed as part of the city’s I amsterdam rebranding campaign in 2005 but quickly evolved beyond its origins into something bigger—the sign is now recognized as the inspiration to city-marking installations in places such as LyonBudapestGuadalajara and Cleveland. This 3D sign is now one of the city’s most popular landmarks and has grown into four iterations—two are permanent (one in Museumplein and the other at Schiphol Airport) and the other two “playfully change locations around the city“.

In Eye for Travel, David Hornstein calls the sign Amsterdam’s most photographed item, estimating it is shot 8000 times per day during sunny weather.

 

#MTLMOMENTS

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A #MTLMOMENTS frame atop Mont Royal in Montreal

 

Advertising agency Sid Lee was hired to promote Montréal as a destination to travellers in 2013 and launched the #MTLMOMENTS campaign in May of that year. To engage people in the hashtag, large photo frames were installed in strategic locations around the city that were designed to capture every day moments experienced by Montréalers and visitors. This initiative was designed for user-generated content with simple, accessible installations made to coax people into sharing their favourite Montréal destinations and activities in a new light.

Around 350,000 #MTLMOMENTS have been shared via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, web traffic increased by 22 per cent and Tourisme Montréal’s YouTube channel recorded nearly 2 million hits.

 

The Brisbane Letters

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The Brisbane letters in its permanent home on the banks of the Brisbane River

 

Brisbane’s sign was built as a temporary installation along the Brisbane River to mark the 2014 G20 Brisbane summit but its popularity among Brisbanites and visitors enabled the city council to make it permanent—Brisbane’s Mayor Graham Quirk called it “the people’s sign” and saw tens of of thousands of people taking photos with it during its initial run. However, when it was first installed, people were forced into the road in order to fit the entire sign in photographs so city planners moved it further down the river when the permanent version was made.

Designed to showcase the diversity of Brisbane, officials saw opportunities beyond its effectiveness as a destination marketing tool and chose to involve the community in designing the permanent sign—letters were decorated by local groups including the Queensland Country Women’s Association, Amnesty International and the Multicap Association.

 

 

The 3D TORONTO Sign

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The 3D TORONTO sign illuminated at night in Nathan Phillips Square

Known officially as the 3D TORONTO sign, this installation in Nathan Phillips Square outside Toronto City Hall was built as a temporary attraction for the 2015 Pan Am Games but the city opted to leave it as a permanent attraction after witnessing the engagement it garnered. At three metres tall by 22 metres long, the LED lights can create an estimated 228 million colour combinations, approximately equal to that of what the human eye can sense. You can even submit a lighting request to the City of Toronto to bring awareness for local not-for-profit and charitable causes or festivals.

In 2016, CityNews estimated it’s served as a backdrop for 120 million posts on social media with the hashtag #share3DTO.

 

The 1888 Hotel

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A selfie uploaded from Sydney’s Instagram-ready 1888 Hotel

Relying on user-generated content as a marketing tool has made its way into the private sector as well. When Sydney, Australia’s Hotel Ovolo opened in 2013 (now Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour), it marketed itself as the world’s first Instagram Hotel, offering complimentary stays for guests with more than 10,000 followers on the platform and a free night’s stay to the uploader of the month’s most creative shot. There was also a selfie wall in the lobby with screens throughout showing a stream of auto-updated with the #1888hotel hashtag.

All of these campaigns and initiatives come down to your brand and media hits so when it’s time to rebrand your organization,  engage the media or revamp your social media Mansfield is ready to deliver, and contact us at info@mansfieldinc.com to hear about our destination marketing campaigns.

When it comes to creating images to represent your brand, you want to make sure they are aesthetically pleasing. These images can be used on various platforms, such as YouTube, blog posts, Instagram, Facebook, website pages, videos and even logos. To create images that please the eye there are some basic principles of art that are easy to understand and fundamental to create an attractive image; these include colour, composition and text.

First, use colours that complement each other: the colour wheel.

colourwheel

The simplest way to do this is to use colours at the opposite ends of the wheel (as shown above). These are called complementary colours. For example, yellow is complementary to purple, as green is complementary to red. Another option is to use three colours that are an equal distance from each other, such as red, green and blue, or orange, purple and turquoise.

In the image below, you can see where complementary colours are used. The green and red trees complement each other, the same way that blue complements the orange.

Other tactics you can use are to use all different shades of the same colour such as light blue to dark blue (called analogous) or create a black and white image with a strong accent colour.

colour

Second, use strategic composition: the rule of thirds.

ruleofthirds

Have you ever seen the grid on Instagram before you upload an image? This is a common practice used by artists and it is called the rule of thirds. It is a grid placed over the image that is made of three horizontal and three vertical lines. The theory behind it is that the subjects of your image should be in a box or on the line. Using this principle makes the image more pleasing to the brain and makes it appear balanced. Notice how in the image they are also using complementary colours- blue and orange.

Third, do not use more than two fonts and make the size legible.

guinness

Using one to two fonts will make your text easy to read. Too many fonts will be distracting to your audience.

Keep in mind the destination of the image. If it is a picture going on Instagram where people will be seeing it on a smaller screen, the font should be larger. However, if this is for a poster, the text can be smaller relative to the image. For example, Guinness used smaller font in this image as it was going to be printed large for distribution. They also included only two types of font on their image, incorporated the rule of thirds and complementary colours (although muted, the yellow Guinness symbol complements the purple undertones of the image)

Finally, listen to your gut.

These principles are great tools to creating a pleasing image, but ultimately it must look right to you. Do not be scared to try new things.

Happy designing!

Find out more about how we can help with your social media accounts here.

April 2017 saw significant (and avoidable) PR crises for two major brands in the span of one week—United Airlines’ violent passenger removal incident and Pepsi’s “protester” ad featuring Kendall Jenner and its ensuing backlash.

With Pepsi, the brand admitted it had “missed the mark” in their internally-created ad where celebrity Kendall Jenner mitigates tensions at a racially-diverse peace demonstration by offering a police officer a can of Pepsi. The ad brought in nearly 1.6 million views on YouTube within 48 hours, earned five times as many downvotes as upvotes, and attracted criticism from people such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, Bernice King, who took to Twitter to mock the ad.

With the bad press for Pepsi still flowing, United Airlines staked its own claim for the worst PR disaster of the month when news emerged that a paying passenger had been dragged bloodied and screaming off a flight due to an overbooking debacle that other travelers caught on video and quickly uploaded online.

So when bad press emerges about a company, how should brands approach the crisis, how can they mitigate the damage and what can we learn from their mistakes?

Act fast

The faster you react and respond, the greater the chance you have of being able to control the message instead of allowing the media to form their own stories about it. Speed is critical in these situations and by letting the crisis build up before addressing it, you’re inviting unpredictable media consequences instead of maintaining a controlled, manageable new cycle for your company.

Take responsibility

Taking responsibility or ownership of the crises, putting your spokesperson out in public and being approachable about the situation gives you the opportunity to say how you’ll prevent the problem from happening again. By being upfront and owning the message, you obstruct the blame cycle and prevent others from assigning blame. The more effective you are in applying these crisis communications methods the faster you can control the damage.

Have a “holding statement”

Along with the speed with which you address the crisis, having a prepared holding statement that lays out the basic facts regarding the incident while laying out how you are actively dealing with it demonstrates recognition, ownership and professionalism while leaving time to formalize a more thorough response.

Your company’s communications staff should frequently draft and evaluate holding statements for several potential crises situations and revisit them regularly to decide if adjustments are necessary.

Make the apology right

Finally, when making the formal apology on behalf of your brand, try sincerely to express emotion and be empathetic to the experiences of those affected by the situation—and above all—get it right the first time. United’s CEO was widely mocked for using airline jargon in the first apology, expressing regret for needing to “reaccommodate customers”. The next day he attempted a more authentic apology, saying he “deeply apologize[s] to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard.”

When you find yourself addressing a crisis for your company, be up front with your customers and those affected, accept responsibility and be transparent about your course corrections and you will be able to manage the situation much more easily.

Learn more about Mansfield’s in depth experience in Crisis Communications and brand management here.

 

 

What the most popular brands are doing right, and how you can too.

Branding today isn’t just about having a nice logo, a digital marketing strategy and a variety of social media handles. We’re now in the age of millennials who want meaningful connections, innovative yet community focused brands, relevant and useful information and top-of-the-line product. Simply covering the bases of traditional marketing won’t cut it anymore. Thankfully, a lot of brands out there are creating content and strategies that we can look to and learn from. Here are some top brands who are going beyond the traditional landscape to gain new customers each day. more

Will Trevor Noah’s image crisis impact viewership?

In early February, long time host Jon Stewart announced that he would be leaving The Daily Show.

At the end of March, Stewart introduced his new replacement, 31-year old South African comedian Trevor Noah. A unique choice, choosing a young international up-and-coming comedy star to take over the seat that Stewart has held for so long.

Then, shortly after the announcement, all hell broke loosemore

Many brands show the love on Valentine’s Day, but few put love on the line.

Some of the world’s biggest brands have been planning their annual Valentine’s Day PR stunts since February 15, 2014.  A bit like West Jet’s ‘Christmas Miracle’ or the UK’s John Lewis Monty the Penguin festive campaign, brands are not only trying to stay ahead of their own competitors, but many brands attempt to “out-do” themselves on their previous years’ efforts.  That said, not all stunts are equal and not all succeed in raising brand awareness and catching our attention.    more