Of Kenneth Cole; Twitter; and Crossing the Line

“The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones.”
– from ‘Julius Caesar’ by William Shakespeare

By now you’ve heard about this tweet issued by fashion designer Kenneth Cole where, in an obvious case of insensitivity, he tried to connect the world-changing events in Egypt to his spring line:

Ouch! And for this he has rightfully drawn the scorn of the Web. That’s what he did wrong.  You know it, I know it and he  knows it.

What he did right next was to remove the offending tweet,  but not try to cover it up; instead he acknowledged the mistake and apologized publicly within a few hours:  

When negative reaction persisted, he did so again, more extensively. Still, “the evil lives on”, these days in the form of first page Google search results.

But, as inevitable as that sounds,  mistakes will be made – so create an action plan now for handling the blowback.

Cover-ups Never Work

People always ask me how to remove negative social mentions online. The truth is they can’t be summarily deleted. Manipulating social media to obfuscate the truth never works. I can cite examples. The social space is in many ways self-correcting, and the truth will out. Always. The best tactic: do good things. And get those good things (thought leadership examples; blog entries; positive reviews of personal appearances) published online. Get them in front of key influencers and, this is vital, do everything while maintaining three core principles:

Accuracy; Integrity; Transparency

Social media reputation management does not work any other way. Don’t let the good be interred with the bones of the brand’s or individual’s reputation when crises hit. Be both reactive and proactive.

Of course, the best way to handle a PR crisis is to avoid them in the first place. As a brand, Kevin Cole is known for being socially relevant and supportive of social causes — often in a controversial way. As such, his brand supporters and loyalists will not likely be affected by this social media faux pas compared to those for whom he was an unknown.

In a sense, he’s lucky that it was he who made the intended-to-be-pithy-but-ultimately-offensive remark. Had a social media manager in his company done this he/she’d likely be looking for a new job.

But then again, in the hands of a professional, maybe the mistake would have been avoided.

Full disclosure: In a past life I worked for El Greco Leather, a company owned by Kenneth Cole’s father and run with his two brothers. I never had any direct contact or dealings with Kenneth (though I do wear his shoes)

Social Media Week 2011: SUXORZ

When looking over the Social Media Week NYC offerings, there were many having to do with how to do social media right. So, it was only natural to register for the one that promised to lambaste those who failed — and failed spectacularly:

SUXORZ*: The Worst Social Media Advertising of 2010, Hosted by Blogads

* – SUXORZ: Leet-speak (hacker talk) for something that sucks, a lot. Opposite of ROXORZ.

Panelists at the Feb 10 event at the Gershwin Hotel were: Jessica Amason, ThisIsWhyYoureFat; Brian Clark, GMDstudios; Brian Morrissey, Ad Week; and BL Ochman, Proof IC with moderator Henry Copeland, Blogads.com. Entrants were grouped into five categories, and the winners, err, losers of each going for the Biggest Loser title. Here are the categories, with the winner in bold.

Meme Purgatory: Trying, but failing, to create viral characters
Cisco’s “Ted from Accounting – trying to emulate Old Spice’s “Smell Like a Man” icon
Dell’s “Dr. Ashley
Smirnoff’s “Bros Icing Bros
Volkswagen’s “Sluggy Patterson

Missed Connections: What you would typically label a #FAIL
CVS’s Community Manager having a protected Twitter account
Denny’s pointing to a Twitter account (Twitter.com/Dennys) which actually belongs to a Taiwanese guy
Leo Burnett Worldwide’s Introduction to Humankind video
Starbuck’s getting Facebook to blitz an existing Community page that had 3,000 members — in Hungary — when they launched their “official” Hungarian page

Mean People Suck: There’s a way to soothe the savage social media beast (sic) – and then there are these:
Dr. Pepper taking over fans’ Facebook status updates to post outrageous entries
Mercedes requiring Facebook sign-up for a Twitter contest
Nestle’s inability to deal with the social media backlash spurred by Greenpeace
Price Chopper contacting a customer’s employer and requesting disciplinary action for posting a negative tweet

You’re So Vain: Just because your PR team makes you do social media doesn’t mean you get it
Fast Company’s Influence Project, where popularity equals influence (it doesn’t!)
Kenneth Cole’s Coptic co-opting of the unrest in Egypt to tweet about his fashion line
Kim Kardashian led Digital Death campaign to forgo social media until a ransom was paid (see my related entry Quitting Twitter for Charity Doesn’t Make Cent$)
Lebron James joining Twitter just before his big announcement, then abandoning it

People’s Choice: New media failures that ticked people off
BP’s response (or lack thereof) to social media sturm-und-drang regarding the oil spill
Charmin’s ‘TP-A-Friend’ Facebook app
Facebook’s Stories that turns your posts into ads
TSA’s handling of the full-body peep show security scanner

Worst of the Worst:
Cisco’s “Ted from Accounting
Denny’s Taiwanese guy Twitter account
Price Chopper negative tweet retribution demand
Kim Kardashian Digital Death campaign
BP’s response (or lack thereof) to sturm-und-drang

The biggest loser is:  Price Chopper! For the most unsocial social media response.

A well deserved #EPICFAIL

Live Tweeting: Social Media Week IABC

Last night (Feb. 8 ), as part of New York Social Media Week* I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the New York chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators at my old stomping grounds, the McGraw-Hill building, titled:

When Publicly-Held Companies’ Free-Wheeling Social Media
Collides with Disclosure Policies

When employees in a publicly-held company disclose “material information” via Social Media, the risks and ramifications are enormous.  It could even result in the Securities and Exchange Commission investigating your firm or imposing a fine – all because they found out through the wrong channel.

The panelists were:

  • Standard & Poor’s, Alice Cherry, Senior Director of Social Media
  • Pfizer, Kate Bird, Director, Corporate Internet Communications
  • AT&T, Paul Dalessio, Vice President at Fleishman Hillard (agency)
  • Definition 6, Gil Wolchock, Group Account Director [Moderator]

The spin on this discussion was it involved companies that operate under strict regulatory guidelines in addition to normal corporate concerns over social media use. Here are my tweets broadcast from the event (in chronological order): Read more of this post

Twitter: The Not So Angry Bird

I’ve been speaking with a lot of people lately about the role of the social media exec in today’s business world and, of course, the conversation invariably includes Twitter. Even now, almost five years after its launch, many people have misconceptions or negative opinions about Twitter largely based upon a lack of knowledge.

And so when I saw this post on Mediabistro‘s All Twitter blog titled, 3 Things Most People Don’t Understand About Twitter, I thought I’d add a few comments on them as well.

Myth #1: Twitter is a social network: It is not. It is a part of social media, but it is not a social network — it is an information network, backed up by public comments from co-founder Biz Stone. Earlier this month, Twitter finally released its mission statement that stresses that assessment and here’s proof: We all know that Google is the king of the search world, but did you know that the #2 position is held by Twitter? That’s right, more searches are performed on Twitter each month than on Yahoo! and bing, combined.

Myth: It’s just good for one thing: On the contrary, it’s good for many things. Your Twitter is not the same as my Twitter. In fact, my Twitter changes from moment to moment. Sometimes I use it as a communications tool; sometimes a news source; and at others a marketing tool. That’s my Twitter. As we say online, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

Myth: Twitter kills productivity: Is Twitter a time suck? Well, what isn’t? Anything you do takes your time and, as mentioned above, Twitter time can be just as valuable (or not) as any other research or communications activity. The important factor is that it is a customizable experience to be used as little or as much as makes sense. As for banning it, or other social media, from the workplace I’d counsel to tread lightly. Unless you also ban all smartphones from the premises your employees will still spend time on those sites. It is better to make a reasonable social media policy where personal use of social media is akin to personal use of company phones and have supervisors continue to judge their direct reports as they always have: do they get the job done well, on time and with positive influence on their peers.

Connect with me on Twitter @roncasalotti.

The (Self-Proclaimed) Most Amazing Press Release Ever

The (self-proclaimed) most amazing press release ever written comes from Mitch Delaplane of PitchPoint PR. And while it’s an amusing piece, it calls to mind how much the venerable press release has changed from the days when it was distributed to a closed ecosystem of journalists to entice them to learn more, and in turn write about, the product, service or individual.

Today, the press release is pure and simple content — meant as much (if not more) for the end user to consume as part of his/her daily web-based news gathering process as it is for writers to repurpose.

The rise of the social media press release acknowledges the role search engines play in being the new conveyor of information to the end user. Releases that have the proper number of characters in its headline; include certain keywords in the proper places; use direct quotes and hyperlinks wisely; and incorporate images and video carefully, all get higher placement from search engines and therefore more notice from users.

If your press releases are not optimized for social media, hire a professional with that specific skill-set as part of your permanent communications team. That’s not a “nice to have” it’s a “must have.”

See the release: http://ow.ly/3DQ8z

The Ten Commandments of Social Media Crisis Management

Writing for BuzzBin, Priya Ramesh does a good job listing the Ten Commandments of Social Media Crisis Management, but I think it needs one more.  Here’s Priya’s 10 (condensed by me) and my essential 11th:

1. Thou shalt move at lightning speed: This demands a sense of urgency to react in a matter of hours and not days.
2. Thou shalt build a micro-site to provide 24/7 updates: This serves as THE go-to site for all up-to-date information on the situation.
3. Thou shalt deploy a round the clock Twitter monitoring schedule: Simply by monitoring and responding to tweets, you are letting the audience know their outpour is being heard on social channels.
4. Thou shalt NOT delete negative comments on the crisis: By deleting negative chatter during a crisis, you are only aggravating the situation.
5. Thou shalt train your crisis team on social media: Crisis communication in 140 characters is very different from issuing a press release or calling a press conference.
6. Thou shalt be willing to say “Sorry” openly on the WWW: Get used to openly apologizing on social networks and take full responsibility for the crisis.
7. Thou shalt create hyper-transparency on the crisis situation: The more you are open to sharing information on social networks to build transparency, the better.
8. Thou shalt proactively alert bloggers on PR crises if you can: This is a very powerful tactic to neutralize the negative sentiment online.
9. Thou shalt NOT feed the troll: There will always be a set of constant complainers who thrive on crises and leverage the situation to further badmouth your company –  disengage them.
10. Thou shalt not merely blog and tweet for crisis’ sake but LISTEN and ENGAGE: Companies that demonstrate that they have listened and taken the right action are the ones that maintain a favorable image online.

And here’s an essential additional step from me:

11. Thou shalt own your social media identity: Take steps now to ensure that social media accounts related to your company, its brands and executives are created and already under your control. After the jump,  why this is so important: Read more of this post

Mark Zuckerberg,TIME Magazine Person of the Year — But Not Mine

Mark Zuckerberg TIME Person of the Year 2010In a year full of the famous and infamous, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg is TIME magazine‘s Person of the Year.

While you cannot debate that Zuckerberg and Facebook made news on a global basis in 2010, I don’t agree that his selection was the most worthy.

Let’s talk about impact. True, Facebook is the most impactful social network worldwide, but even with 500 million members, that’s still only about 7% of the world’s 6.9 billion population.  A large number to be sure, but why recognize him now? A hit movie? A killer ‘60 Minutes‘ appearance? The fact that the “enfant terrible” of social media appears to have finally grown up?

Newsworthy, yes, but surely others were more deserving. Love him or hate him, my choice is Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks site who have made a far more serious impact worldwide not only on government and the military, but also on the state of journalism itself. For that matter, strong arguments exist for former BP chairman Tony Hayward or, for group recognition, The Unemployed American. It wouldn’t be the first time a group was the “person”.

Take it from me, a former co-winner of TIME’s Person of the Year (2006).

Updated Feb 4, 2012: My apology to Mark Zuckerberg (among other things) 

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