Archive for December, 2008

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Crisis Communication in Social Media – A Live Case Study, or hints for Matt Bacak

December 18, 2008

There is no such thing as a “24 hour” news cycle anymore.  It became crystal clear when 6 hours after President-Elect Obama brought down the house at the closing ceremony for the Democratic Convention in Denver; his historical triumph was punted from the headlines and airwaves. This happened when Republican candidate Senator John McCain announced his Vice-Presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin.

In today’s age, we’re lucky if we get our fifteen minutes of fame as Andy Warhol touted.  News is a 24/7/365 stream of thought and information, travelling the bit streams of the interwebs at lightspeed. Breaking news is tweeted, blogged, Dugg, posted, and processed across social media platforms quicker than you can say Motrin.  News is being disseminated via social media platforms quicker than any corporate mouthpiece can, unless you are monitoring what is being said about you online and you are participating in the conversation.

With the advent of the cellphone, your disgruntled employee, customer, vendor, boss can instantly blast out their 140 character tirades across Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, the blogosphere, basically anywhere they can reach, all with the click of a button. Imagine if you were unaware of what was being said about you?

In one such instance, it is exactly what happened to a marketing consultant named Matt Bacak.  I won’t rehash it all, but you can click here, here and here to get caught up.

Matt (I don’t know him personally) is, by all accounts a decent guy.  He made a blunder in his attempts to promote his own skills and hype in a manner that is totally antithetical to the way social media tools should be utilized. He sent out a press release claiming he was conquering Twitter in his city of location.  Matt relied up on a fun little web application as being a confirmation of his skills in amassing followers, and thus decided to declare this news to the world.  Apparently then, he left off on a seminar or training session and failed to see the hornet’s nest of backlash he caused himself.

Matt’s problem went viral.  What started, innocuously enough, as a press release, which was released over an optimized distribution service online, quickly spread across Twitter, Digg, and multiple blogs, as some vilified and others were quick to point out his hubris in the content of the release.  Within hours was his poorly crafted release completely spread across the social media platforms, it was only catching steam.  It became a trending topic which brought more folks into the fray.

Meanwhile, Matt had no one to monitor his personal brand online.  The uproar, furor, fervor, and rancor about him and his brand continued.  What could have been stopped early (if monitored) quickly became the common held perception.  Unfortunately there is now, and will be forever – massive amounts of negative connotations easily found all over the web.  Imagine the damage to the perception of future potential customers of Matt’s from what they will see and read online.

Matt’s answer I guess (Matt & I haven’t connected to speak, at the time of this posting) was to try to listen and learn.  In the time since the incident, he has taken to heart some of the advice of his peers, and is (by appearances) actively joining in the conversation. He has started (on Twitter) to allow for a two-way communication by following those that wish to follow and engage him in conversation. The cloud of wrath seems to have dissipated, and only Matt will know how this affects his future business.

Could your business survive an onslaught like this?

There are several lessons and takeaways from Matt Bacak’s episode.  I’ll cover a few here:

1.      Some of this could have been avoided if Matt had utilized a professional PR person/firm (he appears by claims of his friends and his own materials to be successful and have the means to hire a firm) which should have killed the release in the first place if due diligence and facts had been checked. Part of our job in Public and Media Relations is to make sure our clients don’t come off as fools. We actually walked away from a Home Mortgage client that demanded to be put on CNN to refute claims against the industry in general.  The client melted down in mock interviews we held for training, and would have damaged their brand beyond recovery if placed in that actual situation.

2.      Actually putting out press releases that are newsworthy. Had Matt sought to actually garner third party validation of his “greatness” rather than self proclaiming it, he might have come across as actually being credible. The value of a third party, such as a reporter or editor declaring your news vs. declaring it on your own is priceless.

3.      Monitoring is essential.  Much of this could also have been mitigated if Matt or someone in his office was monitoring what was being said about his brand online.  Many companies are starting to get this – Comcast, Jet Blue, Zappos, etc.  The ability to know about a problem and have a chance to address it is imperative.

4.      Engaging, participating, and seeking relationship with your audience rather than broadcasting, interrupting, or holding it captive.  These are the new tools of marketing v. the old.  The old methods of marketing are abrasive and ineffective in this medium.  If your company thinks it can, you will be in for a ruder awakening than Matt received.

5.      Complete transparency online.  If you are hiding something, trying to spin something, or misleading your audience online, they will find out about it, usually in seconds, and they will let you know about it. If you remember Target wanting to plant “raving fans” online, you know how terribly wrong that went for them.

All of this leads into my next post on The Cost of Not Entering into Social Media – How it Hurts Your Company (Part Three). Stay tuned!  Be careful of what you are doing – Don’t get Bacaked!

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What Happens When Social Media Goes Terribly Wrong? The Bacak Truth!

December 2, 2008

I finally have a horror story to show clients and CEO’s I consult with, as to what can truly go wrong with Social Media and your reputation.  Why it is so very important that you have a sound strategy before you enter social media and what are the ramifications of not being transparent, engaged in the communication, and being respectful of your audience.

Today, a self proclaimed “Powerful Promoter” made a drastic error in judgment.  He put out a press release about his own “success” in achieving Social Media Superstardom on Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure he was just looking to build up a bit of his own expertise, but he failed miserably in the process.  His claims met with derision, disbelief, and disgust.  In his own press release about himself, his language came across as a bit too egotistical to the mass readership and internet audience, and they decided to bring him back to earth a bit.

In Mark Bacek’s press release he claims; “Anyone can call their promotional abilities ‘powerful’ but I actually prove that mine are,” The problem is that this type of ego really contradicts the overall social media mentality which is basically “It’s not about you, it’s about the overall community” (as pointed out in Scott Baird’s (@mediapirate) blogpost here).

Mr. Bacek got his wish to go viral and become famous (infamous rather) in the social media communities. The uproar and backlash in Twitter alone can be seen here. It then went viral as Mr. Bacak was dubbed with the dubious title of “The biggest Douche in Social Media” (obviously not good for your company or brand) that went out on Digg and was sent up the flagpole with over 270 Diggs.

I feel very sorry for Mr. Bacak, he appears to otherwise be a nice guy, that committed a blunder that will cost him any and all online credibility.  The biggest learnings we can take away from this are:

1.       Marketing is no longer merely a declaration of your expertise, value, skills, product, it is a conversation.

2.       The community has just as much, if not more control than you of your brand

3.       It’s not about YOU it’s about EVERYONE

4.       PR & Marketing when done well online, will work

What have you learned from this?  Please leave a comment?

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