Archive for the ‘brand’ Category

How to handle mistakes on social media

March 22, 2012

We’re all human.  As such we make mistakes.  But when we make a mistake on social media, it is out there forever and it cannot be undone.  This can be very, very scary for some, and it keeps many people on the sidelines and away from Facebook or Twitter.

Some mistakes are bigger than others.  Take McDonald’s for example.  They started a social media campaign about McD stories which quickly got away from them and made them look pretty stupid.

But the potential for making a mistake should not deter you from using social media. Indeed you could actually turn a mistake into a strategic advantage.

Here’s one way to handle a social media mess-up:

  1. DO NOT HIT DELETE.  Remember, this stuff is out there forever. If you do delete it, someone will dig it up and throw it back in your face, making the situation even worse.  So resist the urge to click delete.
  2. Address the issue.  If you make a mistake, own up to it and quickly apologize to all offended parties.
  3. Learn from it.  Once is a mistake, twice is a habit.  Learn from your mistake and incorporate what you learned into your social media strategy.
  4. Blog about it.  Yup, you read that right.  If you make a mistake, share what you’ve learned and use it as an opportunity to connect with your audience.  While you’re at it, offer concrete recommendations on how others can avoid making similar mistakes.

With this approach, you can create critical thought leadership and offer compelling content for your audience.  In fact a mistake could turn a negative situation into a positive one and improve your reputation.

One final point: don’t let the fear of making mistakes deter you from using Facebook or Twitter.  Instead, use these challenges as teachable moments so we can all benefit from your errors.

In the long run you will benefit with an improved reputation, greater wisdom and a more socially engaged company.

More Social Media Abuse

November 22, 2010

Recently I launched a new website/company, SynergiSocial, focusing on social media training for people who have never used social media before.  Apparently I need to expand my scope of services to experienced technical people who can’t keep their e-traps shut.

First there is this gem about a guy trashes the city of Memphis on Twitter while visiting FedEx which is located there.  This condescending Tweet could have cost Ketchum a multi-million dollar contract.  Then I came across this post describing how, after accepting a job at Cisco, some guy Tweeted that he hated the job before even starting.

Folks, social media is not about you; it’s about everyone else who reads what you put out there, which is why it’s called social media and not me me me me media.  I previously wrote a blog post about topics people should generally avoid posting to Facebook and Twitter.  I didn’t think I had to say this but apparently I do:  in addition to the other things I listed in the earlier blog post, DON’T trash your employers, employees, clients, enemies or friends on social media.  The Internet has a long and unforgiving history, and these postings will probably end up biting you at some point down the line.   This is especially true in a terrible economy.

So please be careful when using your social media.  A good rule of thumb is to use your outside voice:  if you wouldn’t say something in polite company or at a dinner party, why would you put it on the Internet for the whole world to see?

Here We Go Again — More Hype From Apple

November 15, 2010

Today I discovered that  tomorrow will be a day I will never forget.  Like, ever.  How could I possibly know that I will never forget tomorrow when tomorrow isn’t even today yet?  Because Steve Jobs told me so!

Clearly, Apple has not learned anything about overhyping their stuff:  the iPad was mockingly compared to the Ten Commandments (no, seriously), the iPhone4 turned into an iFail before it was discovered to have problems, er, making phone calls, and so forth.

I can’t believe I have to tell this to an adult, but here it goes.

Dearest Steve Jobs: have you ever read The Boy Who Cried Wolf?  Yes?  Well, re-read it on your iPad or whatever.  You are that boy, and I don’t care about your wolves.   Your announcements do not resonate with me forever, other than in mockery or contempt.  Additionally, I don’t like being told about things I’m supposed to remember by anybody, much less some corporate brand.

I’ve had many experiences which I will never forget.  There was the time I was nearly run over by a giant pig.  (No, seriously.)  I remember the first time I set foot on African soil.  And there are far more personal memories which I will not share on this blog.  Of all my memories, both good and bad, none of them involved Apple or any kind of corporate announcement. Like, ever.

So ease off the rhetoric a little, yeah?  You’re starting to give me a rash.

Morrissey is a Stupid Racist

September 6, 2010

Sometimes I don’t get people.

Morrissey, the front-man from The Smiths, called all Chinese people a “subspecies” because of how some Chinese people treat animals.  This is colossally stupid on several levels.  Let’s break these down, shall we?

  • From a logical standpoint, his statement makes no sense:  by calling Chinese people a subspecies, he is actually being cruel to them, thus undercutting his whole, er, logic.
  • From a human perspective, he has just called attention to the fact that he’s a racist pig.
  • From a nationalistic standpoint, China is not the only country that is cruel to animals.  Do Spanish bullfights make Spaniards a subspecies too?
  • From a business point of view, it’s probably not a great idea to insult 1/6th of the world’s population — and the world’s second largest economy — in one swoop.  This cannot be good for sales.
  • From a communication standpoint, it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and one sentence to undo all that work, especially in this day and age.  Great job doing that.

Granted, I have a special affection for the Chinese people, having studied Mandarin in Shanghai.  In my experience, certainly some people in China are cruel to animals.  But there are just as many, if not more, Chinese people who deplore animal cruelty. (Ahem.)  Also, in my experience, there are plenty of racist and stupid Westerners, such as Morrissey; but that does not mean all Westerners are stupid racists.  See how that works?

So here’s some free, unsolicited advice for Morrissey:  think about what you are saying before you say it.  By smearing an entire nationality, you are making a huge mistake on multiple levels.  Then again, racists have never been known for their intellect, now have they?

More Communication Dissonance from Democrats

August 20, 2010

Oh Howard Dean, where would we be without you and your mighty scream?

The good former Vermont Governor recently weighed in on the lower-Manhattan community center nontroversy by stating his desire to see the location moved.  This, combined with Harry Reid’s announcement the other day, serves only to create further communication discord within the party. Once again, Dems are giving the (correct) impression that they are not on the same page.  This does not settle well with voters, because they want to know what each political party stands for, and if Dems speak for ten different things, why should anyone want to vote for them?

Contrast the Democrats’ messaging vs. the GOP’s.  The Republicans clearly stated the Ground Zero Mosque (it’s not true, but it sure is catchy) should not be there, period.  Dems are all over the map on the issue and are, once again, harming their own credibility by not communicating consistently.

Once again:  Please Dems, try communicating consistently.  You don’t have to agree with every issue every time, but like it or not, this has captured the world’s headlines and is therefore a major issue.  Please oh please, just once, try to stay on the same page, at least with the big items like this one?  Please?

Shocking News — Democrats Don’t Communicate Well

August 16, 2010

I’ve been pretty busy lately and had to take a brief hiatus from blogging.  But now I’m back, and evidently I picked a great day to start up again.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” being built a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site.  I’m not going to discuss my position on the building, but rather the Democrats’ painfully inconsistent and incoherent messaging surrounding this hot-button issue.

To make a long story short, President Obama recently stated that he supports the building of the Islamic Community Center (it’s not actually a Mosque, but rather a YMCA-type building) in spite of the fact that a majority don’t want it built there.  Obama took a huge political risk in bucking majority opinion, but that’s not really the issue here.

The issue is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) came out today to voice opposition to the building, demonstrating once again that Democrats are painfully inconsistent with their messaging and their decision-making.

Oh Democrats, Democrats, Democrats.  For once, would you please take a position and stick with it?  I know if you get five Democrats in a room you’ll end up with about 15 different opinions, but when two leaders from the same political party take opposing views on an unpopular issue, that does not help you.  It leaves voters scratching their heads, wondering who — or rather, what — they are voting for.

It’s really not that hard folks:  if you take a principled but unpopular stand about an issue, people will respect you.  If you are divided and don’t stand for something consistently, it tarnishes your brand and confuses people.

So please, please oh pretty please, try to communicate consistently for once.  Just once?  Please?  You’re killing me here!

Friendly Advice for the GOP — Trashing Thurgood Marshall Will Only Hurt Your Brand

July 2, 2010

I’m not a Republican, and I do not play one on TV.  However, I would like to offer some advice to my GOP friends (yes, I am a Democrat who has GOP friends) regarding Supreme Court nominations and how they reflect on your party’s brand.

Never ever trash Thurgood Marshall no matter how right you think you are.

Look, I understand your frustrations.  No really, I do.  You feel as if the country is being taken away from you, and you need to do whatever it takes to bring it back to the way things were, or at least how they oughta be.  And you’re afraid that adding Elena Kagan to the court will add yet another activist judge on the bench that will harm the country even more.

But strictly from a standpoint of good vs. bad communications, don’t smear the legacy of Thurgood Marshall to achieve your goals.  In case you didn’t know, Marshall was rejected from admission from the University of Maryland School of Law because of his race (which, incidentally, has since named their law library after him), won in the landmark Civil Rights case Brown vs. the Board of Education and later became a Supreme Court justice.

Sure trashing him (and Kagan) as an activist judge may go over well with some in your party, but that is no way to build, or rebuild, your brand.  So I’d strongly suggest you stop before you hurt your bramd even further.

BP’s Lame Propaganda Machine

July 1, 2010

The other day, Stephen Colbert ripped into BP’s spin-doctoring regarding their oil spill.  In his typically hilarious yet brilliantly insightful way, Colbert called out BP’s BS when they say things like — and I’m paraphrasing here — golly gee, our unprecedented, catastrophic error is creating jobs by filling local hotel rooms.  See, BP does care!

Like most of you, my stomach literally burns when I think about the destruction BP wrought, and I get especially furious at pictures of the poor, helpless animals flailing in the oil.

But what makes me even madder — if that’s even possible — is BP’s lame attempt to spin their way out of this with clever messaging and finding silver lining in this oil-drenched tragedy which is still ongoing.

How stupid do they think we are?  That’s not a rhetorical question folks — really folks, how friggin’ stupid do they think we are?

Their propaganda offensive is hurting themselves as well as my field.  They are essentially labeling communications professionals to a bunch of well-paid liars who spin stories, deflect blame and try to make chicken shit into chicken salad.

Luckily, we have geniuses like Stephen Colbert (and his writers, of course) to channel this raw fury into humorous yet dead-on observations about BP’s outrageous propaganda campaign.

And if you aren’t as brilliant as Colbert and his entire writing staff, maybe you can direct your energy in, erm, more creative ways, like this guy did.  I’m not even sure what to say about him.

Mmmmmm, secret food…

June 29, 2010

Okay, I’ll admit it:  I am a junk food junkie.  Very few things give me a greater rush than Taco Tuesdays at Del Taco, except maybe a Wendy’s Frosty.  And I just love the idea of secret menus, especially from a communications perspective (more on that below.)

The author of this blog post has a partial list of establishments which offer secret menu items.  While In n Out Burger lists theirs on their website – hence they are not so secret – other places do not, including Burger King, McDonald’s and Fatburger.  If you want a good sampling of unknown menu items, sit near a Starbucks barista for 10 minutes and try to decode what some people order:  “I’ll have a half-calf 24 degrees bloopity skim light bibitty foam three-quarter bloppity whip ditty boop.”

Somehow, these baristas take their orders without spitting in customer’s faces laughing.

From a communications perspective, I am also a fan of secret menus.  They make customers feel they are part of an undercover society, where a select handful of people have the inside scoop on what’s going on behind the scenes, and only they know the mystical key words that will open a treasure vault filled with extra whipped cream or something.  Secret menus also seem to evoke a sense of childhood wonder and mystery, taking us back to our hidden forts in the back yard where only a password will grant you access.

So yes, I am a sucker for fast food, and I totally dig secret menus.   When you think about it, secret menus are a very clever and challenging marketing tactic:  after all (In n Out burger notwithstanding) how do you market something without marketing it?

Spirit Airlines — Doubling Down on The Stupid

June 23, 2010

Evidently Spirit Airlines has doubled-down on a really stupid idea.

For the uninitiated, Spirit Airlines is attempting to capitalize BP’s oil spill by running ads depicting the beaches they service as full of oil-soaked women, not crude oil gushing from deep beneath the earth’s surface.  Hardy har har.  One disgruntled person wrote to Spirit and got the following response:

Thanks for writing to Spirit Airlines, and for your feedback about our new marketing campaign.It is unfortunate that some have misunderstood our intention with this sale. We are merely addressing the false perception we have oil on the many beaches we service, and we are encouraging customers to support Florida and our other beach destinations by continuing to travel to these vacation hot spots.

Please accept my apology if you find this campaign offensive. It is certainly not our intent to offend our valued customers. We’ve actually received positive feedback from many who appreciate our efforts to stimulate travel to the state.

I’ve forwarded your incident to our Marketing Department for further review.

Again, thank you for your feedback. We look forward to welcoming you aboard!

Shorter Spirit Airlines:  You’re not as funny or clever as we are, and that’s your fault!

If I may get on my soap box for a moment, I’d like you to highlight one point in this response:  “I’ve forwarded your incident to our Marketing Department for further review.”  Oy vey.

Too often, as in this case, communications is not considered to be an integral part of a company’s business strategy, leading to disastrous results like this.  Leaving comms out of the decision-making process is a huge mistake, and yet it is so common.  A company that communicates well has everyone on board, and on the same page, from the very beginning so there would be no need to forward “your incident to our Marketing Department for further review.”  Once more, Corporate America:  Communications decisions are ultimately business decisions and should be treated accordingly.

This ad campaign should have never been green-lighted.  Let’s hope cooler, saner heads prevail and this ad campaign gets squashed.  Sadly for Spirit Air, that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

As a side note, the most commonly used word in their response is “Feedback”.  In fact, they use the word three times in five short paragraphs.  Don’t you think they should emphasize things such as “Concerns” and “Service” instead of something as dry and emotionless as “Feedback”?  Yeesh.