Meme Me and other bad Social Media ideas

I interrupt my blog procrastination to state the obvious: if you’re going to DO social, then you should actually BE social. Or at least you – or your paid PR team – should have have a passing understanding of how SM and the Interwebs work.

The Social Media Train Wreck of the Week award goes to Bill Cosby.

ICYMI: Bill Cosby asked the denizens of the Twitters, Reddits and Internets to ‘meme’ him. As anyone whose spent more than 10 minutes online knew, that was terribly bad dumb idea because it immediately went predictably wrong.

This wasn’t trolling. This was open season on stupidity of the “you’re getting everything you asked for, now let’s see if you really want what you’re getting” variety. Needless to type, TPTB have put this fail out of our misery.

Social Media 101 for those who try to MAKE it happen.
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STOP. Stop asking for trouble. If you think you can use Facebook or Twitter to your own ends without any backlash or counter punches, think again.

  • Get your house in order, check yourself before you wreck yourself.
  • You can’t force ‘viral.’ And FWIW a million hits on something that has global brand recognition isn’t what I consider viral.
  • Memes are forces unto themselves. A cool picture makes its way online and the PEOPLE – not the brands – make it happen; plenty of lessons learned from Alex from Target.
  • Social networks have their own way, the culture of G+ is different from Facebook which is different from LinkedIn. “The problem is that most brands are trying to simply sell into the culture, without being a part of it,” Mitch Joel on part of what’s wrong with marketing today.
  • People WILL call you on your bullshit, whether you’re a celeb reposting other people’s jokes without credit or a lame marketing agency trying to take credit for something you didn’t do.

For any business or brand looking at what social media can do for them, it’s a lot. Yet even those who do ‘get it’ realize it’s a crapton of hard work, the risks not always worth the reward.

Public relations, social media, branding, content, design .. those are the ‘what’ of what I do as a business communicator. My job isn’t to rev up your email funnel, it’s not to ‘fix’ your company’s bad online reviews or to build a better Facebook page. My job, the ‘why’ of what I do is to help you build a better company.

You tell me: Besides Oreo during the SuperBowl, last time you saw a good social share or hashtag campaign? When is the reward worth the risk?

Photo credit: One of my favorites of the Business Baby meme, via Reddit.
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Apple, U2 and the Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Good Idea

How’s that for a click bait headline?!

Apple Makes News

The reason business movers and shakers follow Apple – and especially small business – is because they make news. More than a story teller, Apple is a story maker. It’s the best litmus test for any press release or store opening or sales pitch.. if you’re not Apple, then try again until you’ve got real news.

The news these days: new iToys, new iOS, more moves towards global consumer domination and one really bad PR move.

The Little Things are HUGE

As a free gift with purchase, Apple decided to give every iTunes account bearing human – approximately 1 out of every 8 people who call Earth home – the newest U2 album. For free.

Sounds great right, free music so what could go wrong? It’s such a little thing, I mean .. not like it was Nickelback or Bieber (and yes I know I’m not the only one to crack that joke).

Oh so very wrong. From the moment Apple pushed U2 onto people’s accounts, sans their consent, many decried the brand overstepped. It was such an unpopular move, they had to release a U2-B-Gone tool.

Bonus: a few of my favorite #FirstWorldProblem Apple U2 Tweets.. the tamer ones at least. That last guy had a ton. heh.

Respect Your Customer. It’s Their Choice.

We hate spam. We had interruptions and noise and anything we didn’t ask for. If we want it, we’ll subscribe, we’ll opt-in.

Had Apple had pitched this idea to me, my advice would have been: give people a choice. Give them the album as a code or credit to their iTunes account, and if they buy U2 so be it. If not, let them buy whatever the hell they want. Done.

How different would the story have been? How much PR goodwill would have been earned? Hell, how much money would have been made from people who might have bought the U2 album and more?

People like free. We like bonuses and extras. Except when we don’t. That’s our choice.

You? Did you download or delete? What were your favorite tweets? 

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Caught in the Act: Turning Negative Into Positive

This is a “please read” love letter to every business out there, large and small, to owners and marketing managers, to communications directors and CEOs. This is customer service, this is HR and well trained employees, this is public relations and social media. This is good business.

Sh*@ Happens.
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Did I tell y’all the broken luggage story yet? (Nope.. blog idea captured but languishing in digital purgatory.) Anyhow..

Reader’s Digest Condensed Version: instead of proactively handling the situation, Carnival made us do all the work (which came out ok in the end), they missed the boat – PUN! – on turning a problem into customer service gold.

A couple weeks ago, I went to TomatoJam at South City Kitchen Vinings and our appetizers took too long. Which we barely noticed. Yes it was a long time but not crazy, we were sipping our wine and chatting, generally enjoying the evening.

The server apologized. The manager did. We never complained. Then gave us soups to tide us over until the apps were done. Then comped said apps. The manager kept up with us the rest of the night. As did the chef, to once again apologize for our wait.

All initiated by THEM with nary a prompt or complaint from us. Negative turned positive, done.

This is how a loyal brand advocate is born.

This is what gets them followed and liked.
This is why I always buy their promo deals.
Because of their generosity, we upped our order, spent more money.
Because of their commitment to service, I’ll not only return — I’ll recommend them to others.

Just a quick (yay! for once!) post to show I wasn’t so dumb after all as I’ve blogged before about the PR, social media, customer service connection.

It’s not the mistakes. Often it’s what you do NEXT, it’s what comes after the mistake that matters most.

Fixing the problem. Offering a solution; brownie points if you do so before being asked. Learning from the mistake, then applying that knowledge. Something we all gotta do when we find ourselves thinking more of the same will result in change, or trying new ways to make the same old failures. Got the bruises, the headaches, the ‘need wine now!” to show for that one myself. (In this case, the chef at SCKV talked about better scheduling around large party orders.)

Putting customer service first – from the front line all the way to the top of the executive food chain – is how a company can “cement a customer for life.” How a business handles mistakes is what can turn a deal breaker into difference maker.

Ever had a business or brand screw up the right way? Do Tell. 

Photo credit: So many memes, so much time wasted on the Internet picking one. :-)

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Unpopular Changes vs Customer Expectations: Lose-Lose?

So I follow Carnival, no big secret. It’s something I enjoy, cruising; and fun to watch a brand I like do some things right (and wrong) in the webosphere of PR, social media-ness.

Us. Them. The Silent Minority?

This week’s news is the forthcoming change to Carnival’s smoking policy. To sum up: Balcony cabins are going non-smoking. If guests smoke, they’ll pay a cleaning fee and risk being asked to leave, per violation of the microscopic legal gobbledygook in the contract.

Well the people are speaking to Carnival. A review of the posts to their Facebook page, this change is getting mixed reactions to say the least. customercaredemotivator

  • Yay! Plenty of people would prefer ocean breeze to second hand Marlboro when they enjoy their balcony cabins, so they’re happy.
  • Boo! Hiss! Plenty of people seem upset, ranging from “I’ll still cruise but shame on you” to “NEVER. AGAIN. $*^@*&(# Carnival!
  • Smart Feedback. And questionable advice.
    • Speak with your wallet. Cancel bookings. Switch to other cruise lines.
      • These excellent suggestions have been appreciated by almost all, with various “Amen!” or “Good Riddance!” comments.
    • Define “majority.” More than a few ‘loud minority’ suggestions that it’s only a few who so strongly dislike the smoke that they avoid the cabins, casinos or cruise line all together.
    • Other smart commenters know it’s all about the money: If the ‘majority’ really wants that, do it. Then see how it impacts alcohol sales and gaming revenues, not to mention duty-free cigarettes profits.
    • Run the risk. Can’t say this ‘live dangerously’ attitude is wise, risking the cleaning fee or being kicked off the ship.
    • Make one side balconies smoking. They charge by location anyway, only catch is how to price and arrange the non-smokers around the smokers. It makes some sense but then, that’s gonna require selecting a smoking or non cabin at booking, more work for the hotel operations.
    • Manage Your Expectations. They really can’t please everyone, so stop asking.
      • Why not a booze free ship, for people who don’t like loud drunks? If that was me, my bad.
      • Why not a kid free ship, for people who’d prefer an adult getaway? I did that in April, sailing when almost every kid on the planet was in school. An adult-only pool .. that’s spot-on.
      • Why not a rain free vacation, for people allergic to common sense on how weather works? Even the Disney bubble breaks sometimes.

Get Your Messages Straight.

Quick sidebar. While the language suggests this change is to placate guests per customer feedback, other comments refer to the important fire safety issue. Hard to sell customers on an unpopular idea with mixed messages.

See also, oblique references to upgrades the public spaces reserved for smokers. Taking away without giving, not usually a smart move.


Their ‘unofficial’ social guy John Heald doth attest that TPTB really do take heed of feedback. Doing his best, he’s engaged about as much as he can on this issue. Alas the official engagement from Carnival has been limited, and what I’ve read has that icky ‘copy and paste’ vibe to it.

Data mining social media.

One of the biggest mistakes any company – global brand or small business – can make: ignoring what others are saying about them online.

Comments and feedback can offer great insight, let a brand know what’s working and what’s not, provide suggestions for improvement. Even more so as I’ve shown here, they can answer the most important questions, those qualitative X factors you can’t automate: WHY. WIIFM.

WIIFM to stick with one brand over the other? WHY do people upgrade to balcony cabins? Reviewing the comments (possibly reflecting a noisy minority), one big reason: to smoke. If that’s the case, it’s a major revenue stream and hate to say it, the half/half ship idea isn’t a bad one.

My takesocial, ‘crisis’ or marketing-proof. I hate that I keep coming back to that but – there it is. When people start comparing other cruise lines, other inclusive vacation alternatives my bet it is that many will be back and in the end, Carnival will gain more than it loses.

Your take: How do you announce a big change? What’s the best way to sell an idea that’s sure to be unpopular with some of your most loyal customers? At what point do you bow out gracefully, let the discussion die?

Photo credit: the smart folks at Despair totally get it. 

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Atlanta, the Braves, the Fans: A Tale of Three Cities

This is one of those ‘big picture’ situations that is all about business and really, broad stroke public relations. For those outside the metro Atlanta area or the world of MLB, let me let some headlines do the talking.

Introducing Your Marietta Braves

Braves plan to build new stadium in Cobb. Come 2017 the Atlanta Braves will leave the 20-year young Turner Field for a new, smaller stadium outside the city in a blah blah marketing retail entertainment venue blah. For better or worse: it was a case of money, concessions, debates with the City of Atlanta, traffic and transportation, noise about downtown Atlanta, catering to the fans and a thousand other factors.

Without delving too deeply into the politics, I don’t care for the move. Neither does former owner Ted Turner.

By the by, I live not too far from the proposed area; the traffic is already nigh unto the 3rd circle of hell. A couple of new off-ramps to already overcrowded interstates won’t cut it. I still have not read anything that details the giganormous undertaking it will be to improve roads, parking, much less provide adequate mass transportation to the new facility. (If I’m wrong and plans do exist, please correct me.)

luckovich-cartoon-for-111213

By the by, I have not talked with any fans happy with the move. Not one. Even though it’s closer to home – for some – they’re not interested in what they expect to be a traffic and logistic nightmare, an area of overpriced retail and so-so entertainment.

  • The city of the Braves: it’s gotta be about the money. See also, Cobb County showing them the money so they can see some money for their hotels and restaurants.
  • The city of Atlanta: not welcome, not wanted. Lots of stories, proposals and blather; ending in the Ted will be leveled in 2017.
  • The city of Fans: The fans that are supposed to benefit from this move are sprawled across 30+ counties in the metro area; even if most are from the northern ‘burbs, they still have a long haul to get to new Big Corporate Money Park. Then there are those attendees from out of state – the same ones doing the downtown Georgia Aquarium and other city attractions (see below).

I don’t really know what to say.* I hope I’m wrong, but I got five bucks that says after the initial thrall has faded, it’s back to a half-empty stadium. And the new retail area might well become Cobb’s own Underground Atlanta.

It’s not too late?

This last weekend, an historic downtown Atlanta church held its last service. To make way for a new Falcons stadium, partially funded by the City of Atlanta. To sum up: the area north of the middle aged Georgia Dome didn’t quite address the parking and transit issues well enough for their well-attended downtown Atlanta games, so the Falcons are moving south of their current location. Then will level the Dome in 2017.

*Lightbulb*

So. There’s apparently two large areas available: 1) the current area north of the dome – the one the Falcons passed on; and in 2017, 2) the site of the Dome itself, what with its built-in public transit access (the lack of which allegedly a major shortfall of the soon-to-be-rubble Ted). Why can’t the Braves build a new baseball stadium there?!

Tie in the two adjacent sports facilities to the already popular Aquarium, World of Carbonated Yumminess, with the soon to open Civil Rights Museum and College Football Hall of Fame along the Olympic Park corridor. The Braves and Falcons don’t overlap games that often; surely schedules could be coordinated to make the most of the parking facilities, maximize the public transportation system.

More importantly, the Braves would still tap into the Downtown Atlanta visitor market. Years ago, I attended an opening day game that was a sell out – thanks to thousands of fans in town for the Final Four at the Dome.

IDK. I’m biased. I think a city’s identity is tied to its center, its workers, its public spaces. It’s a shame the powers that be didn’t work this out — for the fans its sports teams, fans of this city.

Ok Atlanta, let me hear it. Love the idea of the move? Hate it? Is football really the difference maker, or is there another reason the Falcons are sticking with downtown while the Braves are fleeing to the suburbs?

Photo credit: The incomparable Mike Luckovich, AJC
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PR, Marketing, More: Observations from the Lido Deck

Here’s the problem with vacation: my brain goes with me.

Oh to be on a cruise

Once again my vacation of choice this year was a Carnival cruise. Snorkeling, cocktails, sun, sleep, food, fun, reading, napping.. the usual suspects all present and accounted for. Also in attendance, my communications consultant brain always seeing and thinking “oh they could do this, that business should try that.”

Difference makers. First time on a ‘Conquest’ class ship and while bigger may be better, it’s the Fun 2.0 features that really upgrade this cruise experience. I’ve done more cruises without those extra touches than with and all things the same, that’s the cruise that’s worth it. The Value is there; in the extra eateries and entertainment options, and across the board those ships, those crews, the food, the fun.. everything seems stepped up to the next level.

Know Your Customer. This was both hit and miss.

  • The miss: many of my favorite experiences were scheduled during my getting ready for/eating dinner time. I know the cruise director was working around having only two sea days and yet, I can’t help but think – and wasn’t the only one to notice – that many of the popular activities were geared towards for the early seating. Balance for everyone, please.
  • The hit: the redesigned, ‘upgraded’ dinner menus. Upgrade in quotes because in a brilliant stroke of branding and design smarts, Carnival fooled a lot of repeat guests into thinking it’s a ‘new’ menu. While some selections were new and truly improved, it’s also a lot of the same – simply repackaged. What was once the kitschy ‘didja’ as in ‘did ya ever want to try…’ is now labeled a ‘rare find,’ the ‘always available’ is the new ‘from the grill’ section, what was the ‘Caribbean’ inspired fare du jour has been dubbed ‘port of call’ to honor the journey. Same food, different labeling, pretty typesetting .. and voila everyone’s impressed.
    • Near miss or almost hit. The pasta with the mushroom cream sauce doesn’t hold a candle to Maggiano’s Rigatoni D. Ergo changing a logo won’t fix the brand, a pretty menu with flowery marketing descriptions doesn’t improve the food. I’ve always thought Carnival made a mistake by cooking down to its guests; the ‘new’ menus aren’t a perfect fix but certainly another step – in line with the very good Blue Iguana Cantina and Guy Fieri’s burgers – in the right direction.

IMG_1204Keep it Simple. Much like when you go to Disney World, you’re not going for themes and rides – you’re there for the experience. People pay very good money for those family trips, those shared moments and memories.

Same with cruising; it’s a no worries, little bit of everything for everyone kind of vacation. To that end, I loved the cruise-ship owned ‘private’ island; it’s a nice lazy beach day, where they do all the work and planning for you and it’s included without an excursion expense.

Service + Value = The Trick. The Liberty crew did a great job but always room for improvement. Been in food service enough to know it’s hard to serve that many people and yet, with all their practice, you’d think I’d get better than lukewarm pancakes.

Then there are the various daily specials the spa runs. So while marketing gets the win, PR takes the loss as the nice woman I met who paid more than $100 bucks for her facial kinda felt she got hosed when they broadcast the $39 deal over the intercom. And a cheapskate like myself learns to never pay full price, wait for the promo sale and get that ‘value.’

Lagniappe. AKA random thoughts.

  • Many ports and places kinda marketing proof; Grand Turk is such a small island, there’s little competition on beach clubs or diving operators — you pretty much have to take what you can get.
  • That said, I repeated the exact excursion – a sail and turtle snorkel – I’d done a few years ago in St. Thomas, I thought so much of the service, experience and value.
  • Comedians make brilliant sociologists, anthropologists. They relate to people – the why of what makes us tick – so they can tell jokes we’ll get. Dan Gabriel – “Going on Facebook is the life equivalent of looking in the fridge when you’re not hungry.” (Tweet This.) So spot-on I wrote it down. Makes me think PR turned comedian Shane Rhyne has a real chance.

Ok folks – books, gossip rags, a few too many drinks at the bar – how does one turn their brain off and just be away? Tell me your secret. P.S. Love it when a monster long blog post writes itself!

 Photo Credit: No silly meme this time, just lovely blue water taken by yours truly. Because I’m mean like that.
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Pardon the Interruption: A Cellphone Rant

This is one of those things I always debate posting but please, hear me out. In a world in which all people struggle to work and live in some kind of balance, there’s going to be some give and take.

For the record.

I know life is about that, life. I work to live, not the other way around. No matter how important it may seem or how much I value my job, it’s just that – a job, how the bills get paid.

In my world: every employer would offer full benefits, child care, pet care, fern care, all the leave you could want or need. Sick days would never be counted as vacation time, TPTB would save your job if you had to take off a month to do .. whatever.

Management would celebrate leaving work early to go to school plays and be all about the vacation photos and no one would get in trouble because they were seen with a cocktail in their hands on some random picture on Facebook.

Flex time and telecommuting would be the norm and the work week would consist of whatever produced the best work. Grey cube farms would be taxed extra, TPS reports abolished. Any meeting lasting more than 20 minutes must provide food and drink; and a buzzer or pie toss for Death by PowerPoints.

Companies would do all that and more. Why? Because they succeed or fail via their employees, aka people with lives that don’t revolve around work.

That typed (in that dread ‘but’ voice) …

Work matters. Because I was taught to give work its due respect, I aim for A+ work.

All jobs are different, some requiring more constant focus that others; i.e. it’s called customer-facing for a reason, you’re there to be available to help the customer. Bottom line is the front line.

Having walked those shoes, I don’t look down on those serving my food or running call center customer service — it is very hard work and I appreciate it when it’s done well. What I don’t appreciate is when the person doing my pedicure stops. To answer their sodding cell phone.

Two rules of calling etiquette I learned as a child: 1) 9-to-9; don’t call first thing in the morning or late at night. Phone rings real late, usually not a good thing. 2) You don’t call people at work. When Mom was at work, she was working dammit. Any questions or concerns were to be directed to my designated adult supervisors, operating under their respective marching orders. (Picture a big flowchart with questions like ‘well, does it cost money?’ and all paths leading to “No” and if you called at work, “Hell NO.”)

We’ve all been there, work is distracted by more work; I’m talking about non-emergency personal business. And if haven’t figured out this is a code yellow! rant, now you know.

I am over the cell phone, the need to be reachable 24/7. Double so when more often than not, it’s FOMO and want not imminent-Zombie-attack need.

I’ve been in line at the post office, only to have the clerk walk off to take what’s clearly a personal (could, should wait) call.

It’s annoying – the personal interrupting and distracting from the professional, particularly when you’re left waiting or to pick up the slack.

Even before the cell phone, I’ve worked with people always glued to their phone, never having time to do what needed to get done.

And I am tired the excuses.

NO. Voicemail. Texts. Whatever it is, it can wait. Usually.

One reason Balance is so hard to find is because we have set ourselves up to fail. The smartphone is supposed to be a convenience, instead.. it’s a master, a crutch, a bad habit.

We have social media policies to help guide professional behavior online; maybe it’s time to go back to basics, consider a workplace cellphone policy too. Or is it just me?

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