PR (public relations) is all about presenting a client (internal or external) in a positive light to your publics (not just the media but investors, employees, customers are all publics). Companies who offer these PR services strive to maintain a tight grip on the presentation and image of their clients as well as their brands, services, and products. Giving up control is not something Public Relations firms can do very easily. It’s a reason why any company should really take a hard look at traditional PR firms that claim they can “handle” their social media efforts because in social media there’s not a lot of control.
I don’t say this lightly either. I come from a public relations background and understand the ‘old school’ thinking of the industry. Watching PR practitioners jump into the world of Social Media as been tough; from using bloggers as another place to push press releases, to building & running fake persona’s, it makes online marketers and PR practitioners who truly understand the medium, annoyed at the negative light they cast upon a legitimate marketing channel.
PR Fiasco’s Serve as Learning Lessons
Bas van den Beld, of State of Search, turned me onto a recent fiasco by a Public Relations firm acting on behalf of their clients in the social media sphere, we discussed the implications on Webmaster Radio.FM on yesterday’s State of Search Show. In this case, The Redner Group was handling the PR around reviews of the game ‘Duke Nukem Forever‘ created by game publisher called “2k“. In one tweet the CEO of The Redner Group destroyed months of work and likely hundreds of strong relationships with a threat.
Because the reviews coming in on the game were poor and apparently The Redner Group wanted to control the image of the game, which is what traditional PR companies try to do. This is where traditional public relations professionals don’t really have a grasp on social media. In social media you have to listen to, and accept, the negative as much as the positive. The backlash that ensued from that one tweet caused 2k to fire The Redner Group – and rightfully so.
Apologies From a PR Company Don’t Mean Squat to Customers
2k now has the clean up work to do, relationships to repair and trust to rebuild – not The Redner Group. No matter how many times the CEO of the PR company tweets, Facebook posts or writes blog posts to say “I’m Sorry” or “I had a brain fart”, it’s not going to make a difference because their relationship is with the gamer and the game publisher. No amount of apologies from someone who is not from the gaming company are going to matter and that’s another piece traditional PR companies don’t understand. Social media is about the users and the relationships they value with not just brands, but the people who ‘are the brands’. This is why leaving your tweeting, posting and conversations to just a PR agency is a risky proposition.
Relationships in Social Media are becoming vital to every companies’ success. Understanding that people in communities want to connect with real humans who have intimate knowledge of a company, its brands and its product and/or services is a huge factor in building these strong relationships. You can’t do that through PR companies that want to control every single word that is being used for fear of a negative comment. You have to be real and suck it up when a customer is voicing something negative rather than trying to change their mind through flowery words, or even worse, threats. Companies need to remember users and customers are voicing the negativity because you are building the relationship and they trust that you are listening to them.
So with all that in mind, over the past 4 years, there’s been a lot of major PR fiasco’s. Many have become the epitome of what not to do and offer lessons to be learned from. Here are a few that I like to use as examples – do you have any?
Learning From Major PR Disasters:
- Don’t Try and Trick Your Audience:
- Don’t Let An Intern Handle Your Twitter Account:
- Train Your Employees About Social Media (Even the CEO or State Representative):
- Domino’s Employees Videos
- Kenneth Cole & His #cario Disaster, GoDaddy CEO & the GoDaddy Girls
- Dan Leon & the Philadelphia Eagles
- The Red Cross’s Rouge Tweet (and the right way to respond!)
- Anthony Weiner’s Twittergate (so many articles, so little time!)
- Don’t Insult or Ignore Your Customers