Bridging Two Worlds

A conversation about online media and what it means to your organization

Archive for the ‘What Were They Thinking?’ Category

Beaches in Alberta?

Posted by B2W on April 23, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

In the “what were they thinking” category…apparently a promotional ad for Alberta’s new $25-million branding campaign actually depicts two children on a famous English beach near Bamburgh Castle, the legendary home of Sir Lancelot.

I heard about this issue on Twitter. It will be interesting to follow this via social media and see how big it becomes.

Posted in Marketing Communications, Social Media, Things That Make You Go hmmm..., What Were They Thinking? | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Domino’s Delivers Charges

Posted by B2W on April 16, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Domino’s has created a YouTube response to the issue that they recently faced regarding what we have now heard was supposed to be a “hoax” video on YouTube.  There were several videos made by the two young people who worked (past tense) at a Domino’s franchise in North Carolina. (See our previous post on this.)

Domino’s takes a very interesting approach to this issue – and in my opinion, it’s a little over the top.  Depending on what kind of policy Domino’s has, maybe these young employees didn’t realize how wrong this was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a stupid, stupid thing to do, but not only have they been fired, according to Domino’s USA President Patrick Doyle, there are warrants out for their arrest.

Here are some of the phrases from the video:

  • We are taking this incredibly seriously.
  • This was an isolated incident.
  • The two teen members have been dismissed and there are felony warrants out for their arrest.
  • The store has been shut down and sanitized from top to bottom.
  • We’re re-examining all of our hiring practices to make sure that people like this don’t make it into our stores.
  • We have auditors across the country in our stores every day of the week.
  • The independent owner of that store is reeling from the damage this has caused.
  • It sickens me that the impact of two individuals could impact our great system.

I want to point out that I was not a part of managing this issue and don’t know all the details. This review of what I see is armchair quarterbacking, but it is also what I perceive as a consumer.  

I like that he was taking this seriously; it is a serious issue. It was very important to say that this was an isolated incident and that the teens have been dismissed.

I don’t know what they know and was not privy to how many complaints that they received or what the loss of revenue is but these two teenagers did a stupid thing. They should be fired, but felony warrants? (Mail Online is reporting that the two have been charged with distributing prohibited foods.)

It was important to let people know that the store was shut down and sanitized from top to bottom. (Although using the term “bottom” is kind of ironic…if you saw one of the videos.) I also think it’s important to let people know that there are auditors in their stores ensuring the cleanliness of the kitchens and that this is part of their ongoing policy and not just because of this incident.

I really think they need to look at what their social media policy is—or define one—rather than create hiring practices to make sure people like these two kids don’t get hired by Domino’s. Is this even possible? I expect that employees at Domino’s are like other fast food chains – many of them are young adults. We have all heard of these types of stories at fast food restaurants – so I am sure this kind of thing happens more than we think. I would love to believe that a hiring practice could remove this type of thing from all restaurants. If Mr. Doyle comes up with it, he should share it with the world!

It’s a new world; people do silly things on videotape and upload it to the Internet. Before this sort of thing happens, let’s give employees the knowledge of what is or is not appropriate and the repercussions if something like this was to happen.

Perhaps Domino’s might have said that we are now implementing a social media policy and are going to assist our franchises in working with staff so that they understand the damage that can be done by what they might perceive as a “hoax.”

I expect millions have seen the videos by now. The charges will now have hundreds of millions of people around the world searching these videos out. This will create further damage the Domino’s brand.

To me, it seemed like Domino’s used the heavy hand of “THE MAN” here and it could have used a little finesse. The words used were very powerful and created a strong emotional reaction in me – including fear for these poor, and not so bright kids. In this video, Mr. Doyle sounds angry. Maybe he could have gone to the gym and got rid of a little bit of his anger before taping the video. I get that he is taking it seriously, but I didn’t leave with a positive feeling about Domino’s after that video.

It may have been more effective to have this video done in an interview style or have Mr. Doyle speak directly into the camera. Having him read from a teleprompter didn’t allow for a connection to happen for me. 

Compare this to how JetBlue handled a huge issue a few years ago. This isn’t the best produced video and then CEO David Neelman trips over a few words, but he comes across as sympathetic, believable and authentic. This response video works, in my mind. Domino’s…not so much.

I would be interested in hearing other perspectives.

 

Posted in Interesting, Issues and Crisis, Social Media, Things That Make You Go hmmm..., What Were They Thinking? | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Would You Like Some Cheese With That Nose Hair?

Posted by B2W on April 15, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There seems to be a new issue online every day. Over the weekend, there was the Amazon issue where it seemed the online bookseller had removed thousands of gay and lesbian themed books from their listings and search results. Social media guru B.L. Ochman has a very good post about this issue.

And then there is the Domino’s video that showed up on YouTube yesterday. The company quickly took it down. But you know that sneaky Internet…there is always another copy somewhere that gets put back up.

According to this piece in Advertising Age, Domino’s corporate headquarters was reacting cautiously to the kerfuffle about this disgusting video. It turns out the two Domino’s employees have several videos – check out what The Consumerist has managed to track down, if you can stomach it.

It’s always easy to be an armchair quarterback and say what should be or could be done about the situation. Without knowing what went on at Domino’s, it’s hard to say whether for their situation their strategy is sound. I just have one question – given these videos and the “cautious” response from Domino’s, how quick will you be to order from them? (Even knowing that your local Domino’s store isn’t the one in the video.)

 

Posted in Issues and Crisis, Social Media, The Worldwide Connection, Things That Make You Go hmmm..., What Were They Thinking? | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Are You Listening?

Posted by B2W on March 18, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

There is a very interesting article in The Vancouver Sun today that cites a survey done by 6S Marketing. According to the survey, 61% of companies using social media are tracking what is being said about them while 39% don’t pay attention.

Social media is hitting critical mass – and as I mentioned in previous posts, one of the underlying themes at the Ragan Social Media Conference in Vegas last week was that social media is now a part of everyday life for the majority of people. My question is to that 39% not paying attention – why aren’t you? There may be conversations happening online at this very moment about your brand – don’t you want to know what is being said?

Every negative comment provides a chance to learn what your clients/customers/stakeholders/communities are thinking and saying about your organization and it allows you to understand their expectations and needs in an authentic way. There is so much to learn from what is being discussed openly and honestly online. It surprises me when I hear that some organizations and people aren’t listening. Active listening has always been one of the key tools in a communicator’s belt – so why not use this super powered tool that we have been given?  

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Twitter, Ketchum, FedEx & Lessons Learned

Posted by B2W on January 30, 2009

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

The Ketchum/FedEx issue on Twitter  is being discussed online quite extensively. In my opinion, blogger David Henderson is covering this story very well. (David is a newly discovered online voice for me – and he has quickly become one of my favourites. His blog is definitely worth reading.)

This story has legs. And it has created some valuable discussion online about freedom of speech, the right to your own personal opinion, what’s reasonable to say out loud, how to handle a crisis online and much, much more.

For those that might not know, the basic overview of this issue is that a week or two ago, a Ketchum PR VP (James Andrews) flew from Atlanta to Memphis to visit FedEx, one of the agency’s biggest clients. He was going to talk with them about social media. 

On his arrival in Memphis, he posted a message on Twitter that said: “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here.’” He posted under his Twitter name @keyinfluencer.

Someone at FedEx was following Andrews on Twitter and forwarded his comment to a few other people at FedEx. Well, the good folks at FedEx weren’t too happy about the comment and they responded publicly with a personal message to Andrews. You can read it here at David’s blog – along with his take on this topic. David has/is covering this topic very well, his journalism experience shines through in the thoroughness of his research and ability to put the story into context.

There are many sides to this discussion, many of which revolve around the question: what was he thinking? There are several things that were done or not done that may have changed how big this story got. But, the thing is, this story is big. Some discussion has now turned to what should be done now to deal with what this has become, an issue that is being played out online.

This story and the continuing fallout has raised some interesting questions and points about living in an online 24/7 world where lines between personal and professional are increasingly blurred. Without turning this post into a novel, I have a few points I would like to open a conversation on.

Who are you?

I was at a workshop about Twitter recently and the presenter really pushed the fact that there are no longer those barriers – you can’t be someone at work, someone else at home, someone else at Church, your kid’s school…it’s all blending. Like it or not, it’s an important fact to note. I often have clients friend me on Facebook, I have clients following me on Twitter – and I have to admit, at first, that felt kind of odd. We are a small agency though and the truth is, we’re friendly with our clients. One of the reasons that we started AHA was because we wanted the ability and opportunity to work with people we like, people we respect, people that we would make time to meet for a coffee or a glass of wine. So I had to look at why I was a little uncomfortable about it. I am still not sure why, maybe it has nothing to do with the fact that they are clients or colleagues. Perhaps it’s that by being out there I am making myself more public and I am more of a private person. I got over it and I have to say, I love hearing about what others are up to. I am not as good at putting what I am doing out there yet, mostly because I wonder who would find it of interest, but I am getting there.

What’s Your Opinion?

Andrews had an opinion and he voiced it. I personally love Memphis, but there are places in the world that I am not so fond of. However, given that we are seeing a huge blurring of the lines—and the big fat megaphone that the Internet gives us—it doesn’t seem to be such a smart move to make such a negative statement so casually. I have been at professional events where blunders like this happen. Little conversations where someone mentions a topic and someone says that they would never fly on airline X, eat at restaurant Y, or buy product Z and someone else at the table says that they’re the VP of communications there. Everyone at the table gets a little uncomfortable, someone makes a funny and we all go back and repeat the story ad nauseam until the next time someone puts their foot in it. Andrews, however, was sitting at a big virtual table when he made his comment.

Are We Really Listening?

I don’t know if Andrews had been to Memphis before, but it seems like he might have made a snap judgment. Social media is supposed to be about interacting. Perhaps, his tweet might have said, “I don’t know much about Memphis, can anyone tell me the great things to see or do here?” He could have listened before he spoke and started a conversation rather than a firestorm.

What Happens Next?

On his blog, David outlines how all of this unfolded, including the response from FedEx and Ketchum (he called both organizations). Since then, it seems neither one has commented any further. 

There is still a lot of controversy online and off about this issue. It shows what can happen if you don’t take the power of social media seriously. I don’t know what is going on behind closed doors at Ketchum or FedEx or what they are talking about, but I have to wonder why no one from either organization is joining the conversation online. The tweet from Andrews may have started it all, but then FedEx also took their response public – and it was quite an aggressively worded one.

There is an opportunity here to come out and engage and contribute to the discussion. It seems that both Ketchum and FedEx made a statement and let Andrews take the hit – that seems pretty old school to me. Maybe Andrews shouldn’t have tweeted what he did, but then maybe FedEx shouldn’t have made its response public until they spoke with Andrews. 

What else could have been done? Maybe Ketchum could have stepped up and said they blew it here and insulted Memphis and FedEx, but they’re going to make it right – together. With FedEx they could have reached out to the Memphis business development association, the tourism board, or some smaller organizations that couldn’t afford Ketchum’s rates and help change some of the potential misperceptions and promote Memphis as a great place.

It’s Different Now!

The world has changed and organizations—and the people involved in them—need to better understand the importance, value, power and challenges that the online environment brings with it. Any good communications strategy needs to include online components. Sometimes it will be the priority, sometimes not. As communicators, it is up to us to help inform, educate and engage our clients in this area and to provide them with effective, professional advice. We can learn a lot from the Ketchum/FedEx issue. 

Posted in Demystifying Online Communications, Interesting, Issues and Crisis, What Were They Thinking? | Leave a Comment »

An Interesting Discussion

Posted by B2W on December 10, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Well, the blog post below “The Big Three Don’t Get Social Media” certainly got some attention. Creating respectful, authentic discussion is what social media is all about and, with a couple of exceptions, it seems that this is what is happening here.

Not everyone posted what they do for a living, but it is interesting to note that most of the comments here come from those involved in online/social media and/or the auto industry. Scott Monty of Ford posted and he also mentioned this post on Twitter, which sent several more people over. I did find it interesting that, at times, the thread on Twitter got a little personal. Rather than agree or disagree with my comments, the conversation focused on my using WordPress, how long it took for responses to be uploaded (yes, this is a moderated blog), and how many followers I have on Twitter. I am not sure how relevant to the conversation those points are. To me, that seems a little like saying I don’t like your shoes, so I am not going to have a conversation with you.

I want to clarify that this post was not a personal attack on Scott or any other communicator that works in the industry – in-house or as a consultant or contractor. That wasn’t my intent and I sincerely apologize if that’s how it came across. Communicators don’t have easy jobs and I think it’s great that Scott is on Twitter and on blogs.  And Jim is right, they deserve credit for “playing in the sandbox.”

Having said that, in my opinion, I don’t think that they really get it. Several posts here told me where I can find GM and Ford – on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs. With the risk of raising the wrath of these good folks again…just because you have a frying pan doesn’t make you a chef. I think we all have a lot to learn – including from each other.

My initial post focused on trying to find information on the bailout.  I wanted to see what was being said out there and what the car companies were doing. I took off my communicator’s hat and I did a basic search, not an in-depth search.  I work in communications and understand how to do a thorough search, but what I did for this was a search that someone who isn’t immersed online might undertake. And I couldn’t find any information.

What I find interesting is that a great many of the people that took the time to respond, came to inform me, correct me or take a little shot at me, but no one asked me anything. There was an opportunity here to perhaps identify and deal with a weakness in how people are finding the information that the automakers would like to share. I think that some of the people who responded were so busy defending their position that actively listening took a backseat.

There are a lot of people that want to know more about what is going on with the Big Three than what we read, see or hear in mainstream media. We want to hear from the people that lead the automakers and that work there. If the only website I found is thefordstory.com, my perception would be that I was being “talked at” not “with.” Perhaps there was an opportunity to put some links on the website to Scott on Twitter or other blogs or online venues where I could voice my opinion.

I don’t know the business objectives or the strategy behind that particular site, so I am making some assumptions. The average person doesn’t know, and probably doesn’t care, about the strategy. They want information and for their concerns to be heard. No matter what organization you work with, as communicators, these are the people that it’s important to speak to.

I certainly learned a great deal from this conversation. I would be interested to hear what others think.

Posted in Interesting, Issues and Crisis, Marketing Communications, Public Relations, Social Media, What Were They Thinking? | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Big Three Don’t Get Social Media

Posted by B2W on December 9, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

I have been reading a great deal about the “Big Three” automakers and the controversy surrounding their proposed bailout. I have seen a lot of mainstream media coverage on this issue and wanted to know what was being discussed online. More specifically, I wanted to know what Ford, GM and Chrysler were doing online to open the conversation with consumers and the average person.

 

There has been a lot written online about how these companies were using social media to reach out “to promote the bailout.” Notice the choice of words: “to promote the bailout,” not to open a conversation with consumers, not to create a dialogue with the public, not to hear what their loyal customers or critics have to say… The words they used are: “to promote the bailout.” Sounds like a one-way conversation to me, but I put aside my natural skepticism and went for a look.

 

Silicon Valley Insider has an article on the Big Three being online. While it cites YouTube and even Twitter, I didn’t find much in this article that inspired me to think that maybe there had been a paradigm shift at these huge companies. Oh, and by the way – they bought Google Adwords and ads on sites such as the Wall Street Journal and CNN. Without looking at what ads they bought, I went to Google and searched “bailout,” “Ford,” “Big Three bailout,” and “automakers.” Apparently some of the words Ford used were “Ford Bailout,” “9 billion loan,” and “cash flow.” Perhaps my Google search brain isn’t working today, but those aren’t common phrases in my mind.

 

I also searched Twitter and couldn’t find anything specific. I only spent three minutes searching each company, but in this fast paced world – that’s a lot of time.

 

Ford does have a website. Thefordstory.com is Ford’s attempt at speaking with the average person. The front page has a video with Ford CEO Alan Mulally. It is a typical “old school” video where he talks about how he is more excited about being at Ford now than ever before. There is a short piece beside the video that reads:

 

At Ford, we are headed in a new direction. After turning a profit this year in the first quarter and making significant progress on cost reductions, we were hit by a spike in gas prices, followed by the current credit crisis. But instead of focusing on our challenges, we’d like you to know how very far Ford has come and how we’re doing business differently.

 

You can subscribe by RSS feed, email your friends or share this site. Nowhere on the site is there room for the average person to be involved in any kind of discussion or ask questions.

 

Much like their initial trip on private jets to Washington to ask for the money, Ford, GM and Chrysler seem to have missed the point in using online media. It is such a powerful medium and provides such an opportunity – especially during this crisis – to have an authentic conversation with their stakeholders. Instead, they reverted to Web 1.0 – we’ll tell you what to think.

 

They had a chance here to show some of the great things that their organizations have done, to explain that they know they need to evolve and show how they are doing it, to ask for opinions and feedback. Some of it, well, probably most of it, might be negative but there are a lot of smart people out there…and we’re willing to understand mistakes, to support change, to work with you…but you have to let us have our say and to acknowledge that you messed up.

 

Online media can’t create miracles, but it can mobilize supporters. It can provide information and a connection to those who want to know what is going on. It gives your critics a voice, a voice you need to hear. The meltdown of this industry is a symbol of how the world is changing. Online media is a part of that change…and for organizations that want to grow, evolve and improve, it’s a huge opportunity.

 

 

Posted in Issues and Crisis, Social Media, What Were They Thinking? | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Motrin Ad

Posted by B2W on November 19, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Motrin and their ad agency Taxi have had their hands smacked pretty hard online recently over an online ad about Motrin and moms. There is some discussion online how the anti-ad campaign spread so quickly – and Twitter is getting some of the credit. Someone has also put up a video on YouTube that shows how mad the mommies are.

Ad Age has a good article on the issue and so does A-list blogger and social media guru Shel Holtz. They both have a bit of a different take on it. Ad Age talks about the power of Twitter and Shel looks more into the fact with online or social media, people that are passionate about a topic will find the time to be involved. Shel’s post is more about how we manage all of this information using the Motrin ad as an example. It’s definitely worth a read.

The Globe and Mail has also weighed in, as have many mainstream media. In the Globe article there is a link to the blog of Jennifer Wells, who works for the Globe. Her blog is worth checking out. She gets it. (Full disclosure here I worked with Jennifer at Maclean’s Magazine, but that was a long time ago and to be honest, we were work colleagues…so as much as I recommend you check out her blog, it’s got nothing to do with anything but her talent.)

I think that each of the opinions of those listed above help to bring context to this story. Jennifer nails it when she says that Taxi, the US-based ad agency that produced this ad didn’t understand the market and maybe that is because after all, it’s only an online ad. Shel Holtz gives a whole different perspective and he made me think as well. And as for AD Age, they put this issue into context by talking about Twitter. While I am sure that Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of Motrin, aren’t too happy about how quickly a story can spread online, the fact is, smart, engaged people now have the opportunity to weigh in and show us different angles. Professional journalists, bloggers and, in this case, moms have helped people all over the world to see a different side to this story.

The one thing everyone seems to have in common is that this ad insulted the target market (and I looked around, so if anyone can let me know if there are some people standing up for the ad – I would be interested to hear about it!).

As an organization, Johnson & Johnson is facing a strong consumer backlash and while it was bred online, it has gone mainstream. That’s not good for the company or the brand.  Online media now plays a strong role in the reputation of your organization, and it should be recognized and acknowledged. Online media is evolving and shifting how we live in our world, and more and more it impacts our professional lives. 

Posted in Interesting, Marketing Communications, What Were They Thinking? | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

PR People as Spammers

Posted by B2W on April 21, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

The online world really has changed things. Now PR people that send irrelevant, useless and/or irritating pitches and news releases to journalists are being called on it –in public, on blogs. The bad pitch blog is definitely worth a read. Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and editor in chief of Wired magazine also published a long list of media relations types that are now blocked from his email. And most recently Lifehacker’s Gina Trapani did the same.

I was a journalist for years and can’t tell you how frustrating it is to receive pitches from PR people who don’t get it. Now, with bloggers as an important part of the news cycle, it’s even more important to refine media pitches so that they work for the person you are pitching. Sending out pitches that have no news value or that aren’t targeted hurts your reputation and your client.

Our role as communicators includes talking to a client about what is newsworthy and what isn’t. And if it is, it’s important to take the time and effort to develop a solid pitch that is targeted to the media you are pitching. Read their blog, their articles, watch or listen to their show … pay attention to who you are pitching and what they cover. Not doing your job well might get you covered in a blog or on a black list. That kind of coverage, you don’t want.

Posted in Interesting, Issues and Crisis, Social Media, The Worldwide Connection, Things That Make You Go hmmm..., What Were They Thinking? | Leave a Comment »

Video as a Marketing Tool

Posted by B2W on April 16, 2008

Post by: Ruth Atherley of AHA Creative Strategies

Vodcasts, video and vlogs are a hot marketing tool right now. Some work, some don’t. Sometimes it seems that people don’t realize how hard being funny or satirical is …

Think about Saturday Night Live, some of the best comedy minds in the business are focused on being smart and funny for this show and it doesn’t always work. Often, it doesn’t work. How many times have you thought “that’s just not funny” when watching a sketch.

Yet, organizations keep trying to be funny and they seem to have lost perspective about what IS funny and smart and what others (the ones who aren’t in the room when the idea is pitched) will think about the video. Let us know what you think. Check out AOL’s video with Alec Baldwin. Or have a look at the recent internal video done by Microsoft …we bet the “real” Boss isn’t too happy about this ….

Not sure what stakeholder reaction was to these videos. We’d be interested to hear.

Posted in Interesting, Internal Communications, Social Media, Things That Make You Go hmmm..., What Were They Thinking? | Leave a Comment »