I’ll skip the ranting about what a ‘real’ crisis is (see also: Carnival, a brand I still like). Instead read Tegan Ford, whose ambitious thesis tries to make sense of how social media impacts a public relations crisis.
PR crises .. we’ve already forgotten?
Maybe not forgotten, but certainly not hot topics any more. Most of these things have a short shelf life, relegated to a few back links when the pundits dredge it up when hyping their latest brand “disaster” click bait story. That has no customers leaving, no stocks tanking, no mass exodus of employees. Ahem.
Pace. This fake Twitter fight of comic vs. automated responses barely qualifies as a blip in my book. Moving on.
Lesson: Nothing new – if you’re going to brand and market on Twitter, know what you’re doing and be prepared for anything, including having your brand jacked into a hoax.
Chick-fil-A. Atlanta is the backyard of this company and no one stopped going. No one. A blip on the 2012 radar, mentioned in context of activist groups lobbying against certain brands. I don’t recall any mass of franchisees leaving or customers permanently boycotting. It’s a product [some] people like, sold by a company [some] people respect and by all accounts, still thriving.
Lesson: Reputation. Values. Quality. Service. Start there.
Paula Deen. During the height of this I
joined eavesdropped a conversation of several women, most of them of color. The general consensus – surprising to me – was 1) she’s a different era blah blah 2) media needs to let it go and give her a break, giving the ‘victim’ claim legs and 3) they know if their sense of racial justice has been offended or not, so the press and pundits should stop telling them how they need to feel and think. The biggest concern: get to Walmart before they sell out of gooey cakes.
Plenty of advice out there, on what Paula Deen could do. Given the givens, I’d say Ms. Deen is a tell-all book, a ‘kiss and cry’ apology tour away from some type of comeback. She’s a known name, a brand; she probably won’t rebuild the full empire, but if Martha Stewart can do it I don’t see why not.
Lesson: Hire smarter; communication strategy is better when the legal, PR teams work together.
Home Depot. Bad joke, stupid tweet. Ugh. This one annoyed me for many reasons. I never heard one whiff of complaint from a ‘real’ not media/marketing person. Home Depot pulled the crappy “aim, point finger, fired!” excuse as they blamed their SM agency. Like so many other blink-and-you-miss-it mistakes, I neither saw nor read one story about a lasting negative impact.
Lesson: Crisis or marketing proof perhaps? They’re a giant brand and if they sell what people need cheaper than the competition, the cash registers will keep ringing.
Duck Dynasty. Are people still fuming or reverse fuming at Cracker Barrel? Not the first time that brand has caught media ire, but I hadn’t caught anything about them lately and the bruhaha about this show seems to barely have carried over to 2014. Or I just stopped paying it any attention.
While they get royalties from product licensing, A&E is in the business of making money by producing TV shows that sells cable TV ads. If they have enough of a target audience for marketers, and those marketers think they’ll gain more than they’ll lose, the show and advertising will go on – though with lower ratings.
Lesson: Media training. Know your audience, know your customers. No such thing as bad publicity – except when there is.
It’s not a mistake so long as you, me.. someone learns from it.
I suppose I came down too hard on PR smartie Gini Dietrich — sorry my friend, really was not my intention — when discussing the Home Depot crisis du jour. (FWIW it was so fly by night, I had to go back and look up what we were discussing.)
She’s right – the big lesson is that there ARE lessons we can learn from these events and that a well-written blog post or case study can help others avoid these kind of mistakes.
- It is helpful to study and follow these cases – with a qualified, critical eye.
- It’s important to understand the nature of the issues; look past the hype to properly gauge impact and access damage to the brand.
- Don’t make matters worse by over – or under – reacting; have strategy for a proportional response.
- Accept responsibility; don’t throw people – the ones you vetted and hired to do a job – under the bus.
- Apologize, be genuine, make amends, move on. Putting it on autopilot, copy and pasting the same apology, treating public relations and social media as ‘set and forget’ marketing – that’s asking for trouble.
- PR 101: Don’t screw up in the first place. But when you do, a foundation built of quality products and services, a carefully crafted reputation that comes from being a good company – makes it that much easier to weather any storm.
What’d I miss? Sure there were other flaps and foibles, other gaffs and mistakes. Please remind me – and what we can learn from them.
Photo credit: not hard to find many funny and many offensive memes for this post, that one from RollingOut.
Got a form letter from my cellular carrier. It’s one of the Big Ones, sent from the “Senior Vice President” no less, of “Customer Experience.” Useless does not begin to describe this thing.
It’s textbook, How NOT to Design a Direct Mail piece:
- It’s all copy, no images. Just a little bold, bullets, line breaks.
- It’s personalized (ok, one point), but then about him and why he’s writing to me.
- Next up it’s lots of babbling b.s. about them. Techs and specs, with SIX footnotes (?!) as if anyone would read that far.
- It mentions two new “value” offerings, but no breakdown as to how they would Help. ME.
- Mr. SVP goes on being “proud,” bragging about a popular vanity (read: meaningless) service award.
- It ends. With him being glad I chose them. And an epic facepalm: No CTA. Seriously. Nothing.
The ONLY reason I even got past opening and scanning the damn thing was professional curiosity. A real person, shredder city.
How many thousands of dollars in paper, printing, postage were spent mailing millions of these? What marketing communications manager thought this a good investment – a generic, no-offer form letter?!
Wherefore art thou, oh elusive ROI?
I’ve long since held that logos and websites and good writing, smart PR and integrated social media are all parts of an essential Communications program. Strategic, comprehensive Communications being key to any business success. And I still do.
I also know that in a Time vs. Money, DIY at your own risk world, the ROI sometimes just isn’t there for small biz. If no one’s pipes break or people don’t have the money to redo their bathroom, that local plumbers phone won’t ring no matter how lovely the logo, how shiny his Facebook page, nor beautifully written the website copy.
As I recently commented in a smart discussion on piffle, publicity and traditional PR – even the big guys get this wrong. Next week, the global brands will roll out their Big Game Ads that by all accounts, do not impact sales nor improve brand reputation. But spend gazillions they will.
Do we just go through the motions? Spin wheels for the sake of looking like we’re doing something?
Dear Mr. SVP: Stop TELLING me you’ve done better, SHOW me with a better signal inside, by dropping fewer calls. Don’t waste my monthly fees marketing right back at me – give me a loyalty discount. Invest in your customers, in your brand – not banal business blather.
Tell me: How do we guard against the waste, make sure we get the true business returns we seek? My advice to all businesses, large and small: Waste Less, Do More.
I’ve made some really positive changes in my life this year, mostly health and fitness – yet mere baby steps towards improving my finances, my career, mental health and general outlook.
I’ve worked my ass off – as I have my entire life, since age 12 it feels – only to make the same old mistakes all new ways. I cannot begin to describe how craptacular my luck has been these past years, kicking me whilst I’m still down since The Aughts.
I need to make big giant leaps forward, without getting knocked back. I have to make my own luck. I get that. I will blow my own horn as ain’t no one else will do it for me.
People: I’m wicked smart. I am very talented. Multi even! No matter what the job is, no matter how meaningless or trivial it may seem – I work hella hard to get it right, to be professional; always. I have a creative mind that would be an incredible weapon to any brand with the balls to wield it and the appreciation of said talents to pay what they’re worth.
I’m available. On the market. A real catch.
The Kelly Taylor Moment
Not that I ever watched 90210 but as a child of pop culture, I’m very familiar with her “I choose Me.”
And that is my resolution. That is THE resolution to make – for 2014 and beyond. Choose yourself.
Put your own health, wealth, happiness first. Make your career, your life your biggest priority. Help those that help you. Help yourself.
I know ‘give to get’ is the way of the world. But if it feels you’re always the giver, never the getter [profanity laced rant redacted] – stop. Don’t let anyone deter you with “oh that’s so selfish” bullshit [link to pithy 'selfish is good' quotes]. Don’t ever put up with people and practices that drag you down. Kick that shit to the curb, walk away – choose YOU.
I don’t know what it will look like yet, but big changes are coming this year. If it makes me happy, that’s what I’m gonna do. If it’ll push my career in the right direction, that’s where I’m spending my time and resources. I will say “No” more and not look back. I’m putting myself first, second .. twenty-third. I choose me.
You know my priorities. What are yours? What are you resolved to do in 2014? (BTW .. Happy New Year.)
Photo credit: I plan to stick to my resolutions, still that’s a good one from Bluntcards.
First, second, 45th most – to each, his or her own. We all have our way of using, doing, being social. Online and off. This be mine.
Like a robo-call from telemarketing hell, the LinkedIn Request from a total stranger
While they aren’t always a deal breaker for me, I really truly don’t care for the generic LinkedIn invite. [I know the mobile apps don't let you customize. Made that mistake, am now careful to go to the web for connecting as I'm in the camp that I customize my invites. Always.]
Generic, random LinkedIn requests are cold, impersonal, unprofessional, lazy, annoying.
I’m not so in-demand that I just block and ignore these. I reply. Some variation of a professional and courteous, “Thanks for asking. I prefer to connect with people I’ve worked with or know from online. Could you please tell me where and when we’ve crossed paths? Why you want to network? All the best.”
5 types of LinkedIn Responses I get back:
- Crickets. Seriously, think almost half my invite replies are ignored. Someone just racking up numbers, no desire to truly connect.
- The Offended Troll. More than a few times, I’ve had a poorly capitalized, terribly spelled rambling rant of a reply from someone hella pissed off at the notion that while I am on LinkedIn to network, I don’t treat it as a free for all.
- The Overly-Aggressive Power Networker. They’re scary serious. They want that connection, because they’d be great for you and ‘hey it’s all good.’ And while you’re already taking, follow them on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, subscribe to their e-crap and buy everything they’ve shared on Pinterest like NOW.
- The Overly-Eager Flirt. Doesn’t happen that often, but I’ve gotten requests from those less interested in business than they are “meeting people” that are attractive and “couldn’t we just text or SnapChat?” My latest really didn’t know when to take NO for an answer.
- A Real Answer. Rare. Sometimes we have bumped into each other on a chat or a blog and I just don’t make the connection. Sometimes they just got a suggestion from someone else or shockingly, even read a post or tweet of mine. If there’s a legit reason to connect, I do. If I’m unsure, I invite them to follow me elsewhere and offer to do the same.
Who do I think I am to have a policy? Why am I networking?!
It’s not a competition, not about the vanity metrics. In the 3.5 years since I first blogged about not connecting with strangers on LinkedIn – and hot damn I. Am. Old. – I’ve seen people throw open the flood gates and I’ve watched people walk away all together.
I’ve also lived and learned. The few times I ignored my better angels and accepted, it’s inevitably opened my email and network to hard sales pitches, requests to buy or subscribe, and/or please ask everyone I’ve ever met to do something. Broadcast blasts. Job begging*. Hey, come out for a drink and why we’re meeting, BUY.
That’s not business. That’s not relationship building or networking. It’s spam. It’s bullshit.
If you’re reading this, odds are you have a similar LinkedIn policy. If not, why not?
*It’s coming. I’m gonna be reaching out to my network soon but when I do, believe me I’ll have something of value to offer you, not just another ‘hey, I need a job’ e-blast.
Photo credit: LOVE the Tumblr for Honest Slogans.
Along the lines of inspiration coming from anywhere, a post can come from a beer tasting and a movie. Kinda freeform ideas, FWIW:
1. Innovation. Went to the Red Brick Brewing for a beer tasting was a special night – the Employee brew off.
- This was open to all employees, not just the ‘beer’ guys, because this company is all about the love of beer, not just profit. Loves me some smart HR.
- The marketing manager explained that THIS was their focus, this is how they learn from their customers what to offer and sell, by giving folks an open invitation to come and try.
2. Competition. The night being young and all, I went to see the movie RUSH, based on a rivalry of two Formula One drivers.
- While I’m not a huge racing fan it goes to show what sports can do – tell a compelling story. (And not for nothing, the players in this had some smart, entertaining media savvy.)
- More importantly, it shows the power and NEED for healthy competition. Just like the rivalries we follow in sports, so too are they important in business. Easiest example of that now – the Tech Wars. Apple and Google, Apple and Samsung, Apple and Microsoft – yes, I overdose on the Apple, but it’s hard to miss my point: all these VS. of the tech giants against each other, they all DRIVE each other to do better, offer more, try harder. And we as the consumer tend to win.
3. Differentiation. Back to the brewery for this one.
- It’s not meaningless attempt to revolutionize a product or market sector. Cars have four wheels and probably will for some time hence; the beer was still a malt beverage, served in a glass. Evolutionary improvements can drive markets.
- There’s always a catch; last night’s: a lot of good beers didn’t win the competition. What really wowed the tasters? The ones that tried different things. The nights winner, Fiery Gizzard, – you gotta look at all the names, some great creativity there – was a love-or-hate it concoction where spicy met citrus.
You create and discover, learn and study and explore. It’s keeping your eyes on the prize, the leaders of the pack and the up-and-comers, helping you put together that dream team that can in fact build a better mouse trap or craft and market a crazy-but-it-works beer. Talking, listening and really hearing what others employees, investors, customers need and want and are willing to buy – that’s the brass ring territory right there.
These traits hardwired are into the strongest corporate cultures. Look past the win today or the sale tomorrow, look to the future you want and the plan it will take to get you there.