A Scorpion, a Frog and an Aflac Duck

By now you’ve heard that Aflac insurance fired comedian Gilbert Gottfried as the commercial voice of its Aflac duck for tweeting insensitive and offensive remarks (since removed) about the disaster in Japan on Twitter.

True, tweets like these  (here are two of 12 issued in total) are insensitive and could be considered offensive:

Charles Sykes/SYKEC, via Associated Press“I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said, ‘Is there a school is this area?’ She said, ‘Not now, but just wait.’”

“Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.”

The company stated the tweets were “lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac.”

Fair enough, and the fact that Aflac does 75% of its business in Japan is certainly a valid business reason to end their relationship. The company was entirely within its rights — and indeed had no choice — but to do so, even though Gottfried’s voice is not used in the Japanese versions of the ads and most of Aflac’s customers likely never knew that Gottfried supplied the duck’s voice.

Insensitive, offensive and ill-timed. But that describes Gottfried who has a long-held and well deserved reputation of being, as Howard Stern recently put it, “the most foul-mouthed comedian” out there.

Example: Shortly after  9-11, Gottfried was part of a Comedy Central/Friars’ Club roast of Hugh Hefner where no one was in the mood to laugh. There, a joke about his plane having a connection at the Empire State Building was met by catcalls and cries of, “Too soon!” Concluding that it was time for a comedy “Hail Mary”, Gottfried broke into an obscene, graphic, vile, extended version of the recognized “dirtiest joke of all time” – ‘The Aristocrats.’ It is also accepted as the best performance of that joke ever.

And that brings us to the fable of the scorpion and the frog. A scorpion approached a river and Read more of this post

Turning Five On March 21, Twitter Has Room to Grow

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

A sneak peek at the results of a new study on social media usage behaviors and trends by Edison Research to be released in the coming weeks titled The Social Habit (see 2009 results), reveals just how ubiquitous the Twitter brand has become.

In a short time, Twitter (turning five years old March 21) has insinuated itself into the American psyche with a whopping 92% domestic awareness. Usage, however, tells another story, with just 8% of Americans Twitter users.

92% awareness; 8% usage. Let’s call this a corollary to the 90:10 rule reflecting passive to active social network users.

The 1stTweet

The 1st Tweet March 21, 2006

Contrary to concluding that Twitter has been dismissed by the public as being inconsequential or fleeting in nature, it possesses tremendous growth potential over the next several years as awareness leads to acceptance which, for many, will lead to usage as the evolution from Early Adopters to Lead Users to Mainstream Acceptors and Laggards plays its course. You only need to look to the advertising history:

The social network links becoming more and more common in the ads of today, mirror how web site URLs became prevalent just 5 years ago.

On Employee Appreciation Day, How Will Yours ‘March 4th’?

March 4th! The only day of the year that is also a command. In today’s socially networked environment, where companies are forced to realize that they don’t control their brands — their customers do — their best “Brand Ambassadors” are often overlooked, under appreciated and underutilized: their employees.

Employees appreciate the annual Bloomberg L.P. picnic

And that’s dangerous. When 50% of employees who say they have considered leaving their job (source: MarketTools, Inc.) mix with the explosion in social media a potentially brand killing lethal combination ensues.  For example, let’s say you frequent a social media site where new autos are discussed and saw a valued member of the community who worked for an automaker but had nothing good to say about the company, you’d think twice before considering buying one of their models.

Social media builds engagement with employees, too. Traditional internal communications efforts, typically administered by your HR team and utilized to inform employees of company news and events via e-mail, newsletter or a Web 1.0 designed internal site are no longer enough. These cascading, ‘sermons on high’ one-way communications are often discounted or (worse) ignored by employees — especially in large companies with multiple offices spread over widely divergent geographic areas.

“Just as ‘All politics is local‘; ‘All communications is social'”

As mentioned in a prior post, let Communications/Public Affairs handle PR; let Marketing handle marketing; and now, let HR handle human resources – but rely upon a social media professional (yes, that skill set, again) to optimize all three.

The application of current social media two-way conversation strategies will engage a company’s employees the same way social media is used to connect the company with its customers. The more the employees feel connected to the company, its brands and products the more supportive they will be. Acknowledge that their opinion matters and is heard.

As for quick things you can do today, Read more of this post

Don’t Blame Twitter — Case Study: STRABAG SE

Austrian based STRABAG SE, one of the largest construction companies in Europe with 73,600 employees and annual revenue of € 12.B (both as of fiscal 2010), posted this update on Twitter after 18 months of use —>

In an email to IR Web Report (whose article inspired this blog entry), spokesperson Paula Rhys of STRABAG’s investor relations team said: “We do not see any benefit in using this social media tool for the time being. Stakeholders did not discuss actively with us on Twitter despite our efforts to ask questions.

Now, regular readers of this blog or my Twitter stream know that a recurring theme of mine is that companies need to place the responsibility for its social media initiative in the hands of a social media professional. A quick review of this move by STRABAG underscores this requirement.

The Facts
STRABAG created their Twitter account on August 5, 2009 and issued its first tweet two days later (“Largest construction company in CEE

  • It has issued 146 tweets over the 575 days from inception to the date of this entry (~4/week)
  • It follows 524 people, is followed by 527 and appears on 32 Twitter lists
  • Its bio info is exactly the same as its first tweet (see above)
  • Its profile provides a link to its home page: http://www.strabag.com

The Analysis (aka Why They Were Doomed to Twitter #Fail)
First, let me say that the mistakes STRABAG made are not uncommon when companies apply traditional marketing and communications strategies towards leveraging social media. I do not mean to assign blame to its communications and marketing teams — it’s not their fault — they were simply operating the way they were trained. But, Twitter, and indeed all social media, is a different animal. Here’s what they did wrong: Read more of this post

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