When Ms. Antoinette was getting mouthy and losing her head, she forgot to empathize and relate to her audience. Maybe she had bad PR advice?
Rant Alert: somewhere in the neighborhood of a Code Yellow on the Dammit! Jack Bauer scale.
So Carnival is in a PR and social pickle (again). This time it’s the Triumph (I’ve known people who’ve sailed and enjoyed that ship) losing power and having to be towed back to Mobile. This isn’t the first time a ship has lost power due to fire, and it’s not a problem exclusive to Carnival.
Now I’m sure the apologies will come fast and furious. Reports already indicate guests will get a full refund and a credit for future cruises, if they want to take their chances again. Emergencies will happen, especially in a business that operates practically 24/7, 365. Put that operation on water, you better believe the contingency plans get complicated.
USA Today ran a short piece with industry experts doing a Q&A on the Triumph fire. At the end there’s some good advice from a VP at a ‘strategic communications firm’ in which he talks about damage control, crisis communications and being proactive with updates with passengers.
Now I’d go much further, also include their families, the media, target social networks. Make every effort to keep people in touch, waive cellular fees, help with travel arrangements and expenses, even for those sans insurance. Mixed in with all the apologies, assurances to figure this out, take better steps to prevent this from happening again. But that’s neither here nor there.
Here’s the line that’s got my knickers in a twist:
“they understand what happened, provided they’re being communicated with and given food and water. Maybe (management) should break out the band.”
Seriously?! That’s the recommended message? “We’re still feeding you and hey, MUSIC?!!” Next thing you know, someone’s gonna want their life back.
“Break out the band” is dreadful advice, an even worse attitude for damage control.
Of course the crew shouldn’t overreact and cause additional panic; and yes they need to do make steps to comfort guests, help passengers pass the time.
But going on as if nothing’s happening? Making it a party? I don’t think I’d be in the mood for a limbo if I hadn’t showered for two days. There are times levity can ease tension, calm the storm — but adrift at sea with limited resources and terrible conditions isn’t one of them.
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill, or is this not exactly the best crisis PR advice?
“Do not wait for others to open the right doors for you.”
Not much of a fortune – don’t ya hate that?! – but certainty good advice, even if from a cookie.
Yes there are nice, courteous people everywhere but one thing I’ve always loved about The South, the manners. More than a few times a nice gentleman has waited – a long bit – for me to get to a door so he can hold it open for me. If only everything was like that.
If you want to open some doors, here’s what you do:
- Stop waiting.
- Develop a plan for success.
- Work hard, find your right doors.
- Open the doors your damn self.
That’s what good public relations and content marketing and social media are about. It’s why the myths about blogging are b.s.
YOU have to do it.
No one else will do it for you. You open the doors by doing the work. You hire the right team, talk to the right experts. You research and plan, you study data and numbers, you find your doors. And find ways to open them.
You open the right doors by doing your homework. Research, targeting, relationships with strategic stakeholders. You know your story better than anyone, what you can do for others; so tell it.
You open those doors by creating content. It takes a team, so you get leaders and management involved to write blogs and post videos, produce content of value that people – your audiences – can actually use.
You open those doors being genuinely social and find the right doors getting out of your own house. And sometimes, out of your own way.
Here’s to not waiting, finding inspiration anywhere, shorter posts (personal victory!). Here’s to doing the WORK and opening doors for ourselves.
Photo courtesy: Humorsharing.com.
Customer. Service. It’s not that hard. Put the two together, snicker at your ‘service the customer’ joke and then get it done.
Mistakes are not the problem. You are.
- You are the problem – if you’re the hotel manager that ignores valid, negative criticism. (And yes, you totally should reply to bad reviews.)
- You are the problem – if you don’t make it right.
- You are the problem – if you run a restaurant and your SM strategy is bashing the competition, fake Yelp reviews and buying Likes.
- You are the problem – if you don’t stop, listen and learn from it.
When picking up one (very pricey) job, I dropped off another quick, easy one. I returned more than a week later to get it and.. she totally forgot. Strike one. She hemmed and hawed, rushed apology.. later today, no maybe tomorrow. Strike Two. When I picked it up the next day, she coupled a mild ‘sorry’ with a grand gesture of $2 off. Strike Three, way outta there.
“I can have another you by tomorrow. So don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable.”
You tell ‘em Beyonce.
I didn’t make a big stink but my body language was clear that I was displeased. I don’t think I’ll be back.
The next time I need something hemmed or tweaked, my fingers will do the walking. Right over my keyboard or flip through some apps on my iToys, find a new place. (BTW Fingers already made a stop at Kudzu, to post a this cautionary tale.)
Not only was a stronger apology in order, I don’t think they should have charged. At all. Even better, why not – to show me they can and will keep doing it right - a 20% off coupon for the next time?
My dry cleaner did that; they fixed their mistake with customer service and that made all the difference. Why? Because they know that they may not get three strikes. They know that paying will cost, but not paying will cost more. They know that I can all too easily bring my business elsewhere.
A hotel, a restaurant, or dry cleaner, so many businesses – they are all very replaceable. What’s irreplaceable? Service that’s good for the Customer.
What should they have done for my time and trouble? What does your business do to do right by your customers?
Time IS Money. Period.
You either have one or the other – and if you’re hella lucky, both. The problem is most people – especially small business owners, start-ups trying to launch – have neither.
Something’s Gotta Give
What usually gives for most struggling SMBs: The Plan. It’s why so many never get off the ground.
If you don’t have money, then you have to put in time. I doubt you learned about content marketing, R&D, HR in kindergarten; back to school for you. Get ready to Google, get ready to learn Accounting, sit down and bring a lunch as you learn WordPress and HTML and everything the web can teach you about SEO. You’ll be at the computer for the next year, no bathroom breaks.
Maybe you’ve blown your wad on the lawyer or the accountant or finance guys? That’s important, but not everything. What’s the key part of any business plan? Ask Groupon, Facebook, Twitter – rhymes with ‘the how you’ll make money’ part.
Do It Yourself – NOT Alone
I thought, “wait, people are that dumb?” and then remembered that while I can’t find them, suckers are born every minute. They buy into bullshit all the time.
Luckily this person was able to cancel in time, but what of all those other small business owners out there who get roped into websites and phone book ads and overpaying for business cards (peeve!!) and all the other crap they THINK they need?!
- You need a plan. You need an advisor.
- You need to market yourself, your business, your service.
- You need to see the big picture, know who your customers are (and aren’t) – and what’s in it for them, and how to say reach them.
In order to do that, you need someone who knows how to communicate.
I’m not saying you have to pay someone else to do it all; of course you’ll be doing a ton of work yourself. Look at risk vs. reward, what’s worth your time and what’s worth knowing. Learning SEO and web strategy and CRM can only make you a better business manager, keep you from being sold a case of snake oil. Learning copywriting or how to use Adobe Illustrator, not so much. Find someone who’ll skip the bullshit, stick to the marketing, the business essentials.
Find someone who can help you ask – and answer – the right questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. You’ve got a story to tell. And if you don’t even know what it is or how to say it, then your first move – find someone who can.
Find someone who can explain the difference between a ‘cheap’ website vs. one that’s professional and affordable. Talk with a professional who can help figure out what you should DIY; what you can’t, and what you shouldn’t attempt on your own. (If I had a dollar for every shitacular ad or brochure design made with PowerPoint and stolen web images that I was supposed to use/cleanup, I could by my iPhone 5.)
Take that budget you were going to waste on the world’s worst direct mail list that was a great deal because it was so cheap, or paying some agency to ‘blow up’ your social media web presence with automated crap, and hire a professional. The Pros Knows hows to get you more bang for your buck, spend less to get more, saving both time and money.
What’s in it for you? Doing it yourself, not alone.
Photo caption: how ’bout those LSU Tigers, a DIY R2 D2 beer keg?!
This is NOT going to go political. “Good luck with that,” I know you’re thinking.*
An exercise in keywording
Yes it’s important to think about keywords. Of course, we all need readers for our blogs – the right ones. Beyond that, is all traffic good – or is it traffic for traffic’s sake?
Like Dan Perez, I get eyeroll strain at the tenuous-at-best connects some writers take to connect the buzz-of-the-moment to some perfunctory post on social media or public relations. Ahem, now for my turn to make this more than shameless linkbait crap.
The Scenario: If you’re reading this, odds are you’ve returned from your vacation on Bora Bora or Jupiter long enough to hear that Chick-fil-A has PR issues. Not going to rehash them – it goes into things religious and political and all manner of subjects this shy, Southern girl does not discuss in polite company.
FWIW one of the best posts I’ve read has been Rachel Evans talking to Christians on both sides of the Chick-fil-A issue.
A different perspective
The other night night on Facebook, a fan post on Chick-fil-A’s wall caught my eye. (Apologies, I CANNOT find the link. My total bad.)
A woman was thanking the company for making her husband’s ‘welcome back’ lunch special. He had recently returned from Iraq and the manager made it patriotic – and picked up the tab. IIRC, there was nothing about the current debate. At the time, it already had more than 23,000 comments.
Skipping past the politics, think of all the things a brand must do right: Community. Value. Engagement. Loyalty. Such an outpouring of support.
As I scanned a few comments, one simply read: “It’s not a great company [or brand] did this; that was a great manager.” Or probably the franchise owner. Lightbulb.
Culture means Business
Brands are made of the actions of their employees; are employees (or franchisees) responsible, accountable for everything the brand does? After the BP oil spill, I remember more than a few stories of local BP-owners asking their community not to boycott, reminding them that they are their friends and neighbors – and shouldn’t be punished for what BP did.
Great managers make for better brands. Strong brands make good managers even better. And companies that have strong sense of leadership, of service and value, develop cultures that mean better businesses.
To wit a New Hampshire Chick-fil-A is sponsoring a gay pride festival – thanks to its franchise owner. (h/t Judy Gombita) I don’t know if other franchisees can do the same – or if corporate will push back. But it’s a sign of strong culture that lets leaders lead – their own way.
Time will tell
Not so long ago I wrote that “Chick-fil-A is the Disney of fast food.”
I don’t know when or how this furor will die down for Chick-fil-A. I do know that while they’ve made mistakes, they’ve also done things very right – good product and excellent service have build great fan loyalty. And because they have strong leaders throughout the organization, because they want their franchise owners to be the best, the CFA brand will probably stay strong.
*Comment time. Any definitions of marriage or political rants on hate speech, leave ‘em elsewhere or they’ll be deleted. If you have observations on how Chick-fil-A has been managing this from a PR or social media perspective, do share.