Shame, Shame, Consumers Know Your Name

Ron Paul would not want me as one of his Iowa campaign helpers this week.  For one, he’s asking them to shave, clean cut. I have a beard.  He wants tattoos covered.  It would be difficult to conceal some of mine.  Also, he doesn’t want his supporters to “tweet.”  Well, that’s most definitely where I draw the line; I tweet and encourage small businesses use social media too.

On the other hand, I don’t completely disagree with Ron Paul; the conservative personality likely put the kibosh on tweeting in order to circumvent any “potential issues” related to him, his supporters and overall campaign.  There’s a reason why reputation management is an offered online marketing service; brands need it.

I read an article today in the New York Times about the company brand’s email blunder.  It seems an in-house source, erroneously sent a mass email to scores of consumers, urging them to re-subscribe to the paper at a discount.  Ouch.  However, things happen; people and entities are not perfect, though most want to portray such perfection to consumers.

It was refreshing to see the Times announce the mistake in its daily (physical) paper, admitting the brand’s mistake.  In an era where word travels fast, real-time fast, maybe the apology is more a testament to necessity than remorse, but let’s take the apology as genuine.

Paul may be savvy enough to curtail the potential for disaster, limiting the way he wishes his campaigners to act.  The Times may realize consumers appreciate public apologies, therefore leveraging its own paper to secure an open apology.  Paul may be avoiding PR blunders while the Times addressed its own head on.  I would say Paul’s being proactive while the Times made quick reparations.

What will happen if your brand makes a mistake?  Public relations and reputation management consultants can offer advice, but ultimately, your executive’s decisions are going to influence the public’s perception; savvy marketers know the opposite is also true.

Here are a few PR-crises attitudes and actions I have thoughts upon:

Excuses, excuses – At first, the Times “tweeted” that those receiving the mass email were falling victim to an email “not from us.”  The brand later recanted, taking ownership of the mistake – good idea.  Consumers don’t want excuses; they want ownership and resolutions.  Don’t become afraid, scrambling for excuses; such outside-brand finger pointing could blow up in your brand’s face.

One dimensional – The Toyota brand underwent a PR crisis in 2009, issuing a press release as one of the brand’s first means of reputation management.  In the Times’ case, perhaps a written explanation and apology will do regarding a mistaken mass mail, but the apology should fit the blunder.  A recall, influencing a consumer’s time, money, and possible safety, warrants multi-dimensional resolutions, rather than mere, one-dimensional apologies.

You don’t know; it’s okay, don’t hide – I spent a portion of my time as an English teacher.  People treat English teachers differently; some assume I know every line from Shakespeare; execute impeccable grammar and speech in all situations; and know any question related to American, British, or any literature stemming from all places and time periods…ever.  I’m modest and sincere; I can’t (and don’t) do/know (all) those things.

However, when a student asked a question, and I didn’t know the answer, I would admit it; but I didn’t stop there.  I would cater to my “consumer,” telling my student where to find the information, explaining I would help them further, after class, regarding the desired information.

see a lot of social media participation by consumers but not always a lot of engagement by brands.  Are consumers making inquisitions which go unanswered?  If you’re ignoring your customers, why is your brand on a “social” site?  Do you think consumers may take notice of your brand’s one-sided social platform?  Neglecting consumers, especially amidst a PR crisis, is bad.

Thanks for reading.

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