Self-Serving PR is Never Okay: Just Ask Dane Cook

danecookOn May 30, Boston hosted a fundraiser concert for The One Fund to support victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. By all accounts, it was a great success with numerous celebrities, most with Boston ties, contributing their time to help raise $1.5M for the fund.

Unfortunately, the event and the meaning behind it was marred by the decision to halt live web streaming of the event at the request of comedian Dane Cook. As he explained on Twitter, he didn’t want his new material to hit the airwaves yet and sought to minimize that risk by shutting out millions of online viewers.

It’s certainly no surprise that folks in the Boston area have some rather strong opinions about the topic. Some believe he used this charitable event as a promotional opportunity; others believe he was justifiably concerned about protecting his material. Personally, I question the event producers’ decision to go along with this, as catering to celebrity demands seems to go against the overall spirit of the event.

Which got me thinking: Why, in this social media-empowered world, would anyone pull a stunt like this and not expect widespread negative backlash?

Perhaps Cook and his management subscribe to the old school mindset that ‘any press is good press.’ Or perhaps they just didn’t think it through. History is overrun with stories of brands and celebrities using tragic events for personal gain. As PR professionals, we’ve all been in the position where we’ve had to carefully weigh the potential backlash of a disaster-related story and have advised caution versus the risk of appearing insensitive.

This is precisely why I wanted to weigh in on what Cook could have done differently to avoid – or minimize, at the very least – the damage.

  1. Don’t. Just don’t. Charity events are neither the time nor the place to be opportunistic. If leaking information is too large of a concern, use other content – or don’t participate.
  2. Seek feedback outside your immediate circle/company. Cook’s agent or manager has as much stake in his success as he does. Can they truly be impartial? And where, oh where, was his publicist?
  3. Know your audience. Whether you’re delivering a presentation at an industry conference, visiting a partner in a foreign country, celebrating a company milestone with employees, or entertaining the Boston Strong community, it is vitally important to understand what your audience is all about. Know what they care about, learn what to avoid, and customize your actions to best fit their needs.
  4. Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Yes, social media can be a boon for many, but it also has the potential to be a monster…a living, growing, roiling beast with sharp claws. Don’t ignore it, and never underestimate its potential to both help and harm.
  5. Apologize. A heartfelt apology can go a long way. Sam Fiorella at Sensei Marketing shares some excellent examples of well-executed brand apologies and their PR value.

In the end, Cook’s actions may have been self-serving, but he did fly across the country to take part in an important fundraiser and I suppose he should get some credit for that.

So what if he locked out a couple million viewers (and satellite radio listeners)? Did he really cause any irreparable harm to The One Fund or to those people in attendance at the event? Probably not. Does that make it okay, though? Hell no!

And as this PR firestorm rages on, I’m willing to bet Cook recognizes his colossal misstep for what it is: a big fat PR don’t.

Persuasive Picks For Week Of 5/27/13

Screen shot 2013-05-31 at 11.10.35 AMA recent survey indicates that more than 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies use some form of social media marketing, but most companies still don’t fully understand the benefits of social media. So Marketing Consultant, and Business2Community contributor Phil Lauterjung takes a closer look at how Social Media Marketing Is Changing The Way We Do Business.

One of the most common issues plaguing social networks is that anyone can create an account and use whatever name they wish. In fact it’s common to recommend that a business owner stake their claim on their profile on every possible social network just to ensure that someone else doesn’t take your “name” first. That’s why networks like Twitter and Pinterest and Google+ have put verification measures in place to help users know that they’re engaging the person or company that they think they are. This week Facebook threw its hat in the ring and Mike Allton at SocialMediaToday ponders whether verification really matters on social media in his piece; Facebook Verification: Why Do We Need It?

social-media-chalkboardWant more retweets on Twitter? Sure, who doesn’t, right? So… have you tried asking for them? The truth is, calls to action may not be sexy, and they may not be good social etiquette, but they work, and they work on Twitter. And Facebook. And blogs. Find out Which Social Calls To Action Really Work on Facebook, Twitter And Blogs in this informative infographic posted by Shea Bennett on AllTwitter.

The rapid growth of social media platforms sometimes outpaces the ability of businesses to get their arms around how best to use it. Before you can use a new channel, you must create a strategy around it. But many marketers struggle with how to create strategies. MarketingProfs‘ Rachel DiCaro Metscher reminds readers to Ensure That Strategy, not Tactics, Drives Your Social Media and gives some helpful tips to help you begin to chart a successful social media route.

“Influencers Who Inspire” Our Latest Interview with Rebecca Lieb of the Altimeter Group

Rebecca’s experiences as an editor, marketer and analyst with the Altimeter Group, make her a perfect expert resource for our Influencers Who Inspire series.  She is also the author of The Truth About Search Engine Optimization and most recently, Content Marketing.

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What is your favorite outdoor activity in the summer and where do you recommend going to do it?

Hot weather and I are not the best of friends. Aquatic is my way to deal. Swimming laps, bodysurfing in the ocean, or scuba diving (a longtime passion) – if it’s summer, look for me near the water!

You have spent parts of your career as an analyst, an editor and an author; which of these positions is/was the most rewarding? If you can’t pick one, what are/were the highlights of all three?

I really view all these positions as a continuum. I’ve spent my career exclusively in media, first film, then television, then digital – with a bunch of print experience sprinkled throughout (periodical and book publishing). My job has always been to scrutinize the media landscape, chart its growth, and how to connect with consumers. I also have substantial experience as a marketer (I don’t just tell them what to do – I’ve done it, too!). Admittedly, my marketing experience is confined to media as well: film and television. So basically, it’s been all media, all the time.

The most rewarding part is easy. It’s been being there as one of the most important developments in the history of media and communications has taken place and taken shape. Undoubtedly, the most exhilarating part of my career has been experiencing and watching the rise of digital channels: the opportunities, the pitfalls, the disruption and the possibilities are endlessly fascinating. Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time, right?

As an editor and analyst you regularly hear from PR representatives pitching you for meetings. What makes a pitch or briefing request stand out to you and /or prompts you to respond quickly?

Easy – the ones that indicate the person pitching has done their job. They know who I am, what I cover, and they tailor the pitch accordingly. You would not believe how many pitches I get about a new hotel opening in Tulsa, or executive hires in the meatpacking industry. My contact information is ‘out there’ in lists sold to the types of spray-and-pray PR firms that give the industry a bad name. The concept of “know your audience” isn’t a new one, but it’s what matters most. It’s also critical to differentiate “pitch” from “press release.” Digital changed the press release. Once the news in on the wire, it’s out there. Don’t ask me [journalist hat on now] to cover it. You broke your own story.

Digital marketers want to know — with the masses of new social marketing tools, platforms, buzzwords and best practices — how do you manage to stay current?

All research, all the time. Really. I subscribe to over 200 RSS feeds and scour them all day long. I stay in the traffic. Every week I have dozens of meetings and briefings with people and companies in the industry. It’s a full time job, and then some, and it requires a lot of focus. In other words, you have to concentrate on what matters to your area of coverage. I don’t look at ALL of social media, for example. My arena is the marketing and media aspect of those channels. I leave deep dives on other aspects to my very capable colleagues.

How do you filter the news? What news sites or influencers do you visit/follow as your go to resources for news content to share each morning? (Do you have a news outlet as your homepage or do you search Twitter for keywords that are meaningful to you?)

As I mentioned above, my RSS feeds are my homepage. When Google folds Reader, it will feel as if the internet is broken for a while. I’m currently experimenting with replacements such as Reeder and Feedly. There are also people I follow very closely on Twitter and Facebook to stay abreast.

In your upcoming keynote at the Banff Media Festival you will talk about Content Marketing in the form of the Paid+Owned+Earned Media Ecosystem. With content lines blurring more and more, who do you see as the ultimate keeper of the content within an organization?

Funny you should ask, because after I completed a research report (co-authored with my colleague Jeremiah Owyang) on the convergence of paid, owned and earned media, I worked on a just-published piece of research entitled “Organizing for Content.” This research deals exactly with the question, “where should content live in the org chart?” Precious few companies have a an actual content division, yet marketing, PR, communications, community, social media and a myriad of other company components are invested in finding, creating and disseminating content. I invite your readers to download the report, which outlines six frameworks for enterprise content orchestration.

In your opinion, what has been the most important change in SEO tactics over the last few years? How do those changes impact the way we should think about content marketing today?

When it comes to SEO, the fundamental things apply. Good content, well-written, keyword-conscious, and don’t spam or be blackhat.  I was fascinated last year when I conducted research into WHY major brands engage in content marketing. In 57 interviews with really major companies (e.g. Coke, IBM, ToysRUs, Adobe, etc.) only one single brand (Nestlé) mentioned SEO as a reason behind content marketing. My instinct is this isn’t because SEO is unimportant – au contraire – but because it’s no longer channel du jour. Like email (which, by the way, not one single brand mentioned – and what’s in an email if not content?), SEO is becoming a background channel. Like wallpaper – there, but no one’s really talking about it anymore. They’re looking at mobile, social, video. That’s fine – but beware Bright Shiny Object Syndrome, which can cause you to ignore basics and fundamentals.

What one piece of advice (perhaps from your most recent book on the topic) would you offer to a marketer starting a content marketing campaign today?

Strategy before tactics! We’ve seen this occur again and again. A new technology or channel is launched and someone says, “Hey! We need a [Facebook page, YouTube channel, Twitter presence, etc.]. A smart marketer counters with “Why?” What’s the goal? What are the required resources? The budget? How will we achieve it? Produce it? Measure it? Who’s the audience?

On a lighter note, we noticed that you tweeted the tongue and cheek Onion post, the other day, about how much people “love” being sold by sponsored content like videos on publications’ websites. Just for fun, can you share with us your favorite example of sponsored content gone wrong?

Wow – you just reminded me of something that goes way back in my career, back in the 90s when I ran global marketing for a major cable TV network. I came into the office on a Monday morning following the weekend when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash. A rival network was sponsoring a touring exhibit of her gowns. Across the back cover of a major magazine was splashed their ad, with the banner headline: A Dress to Di For!

Lastly, when you venture out of NYC for business travel what is the one thing you take with you, the one thing you can’t wait to leave behind and the one thing you can’t wait to come home to?

1. Laptop

2. Hmmm…maybe my MTA Metrocard?

3. It’s a tie: the cats and the boyfriend

Interested in learning more? Please leave any questions or comments for Rebecca below.  You can also catch up with her at the Altimeter Group website or follow her on Twitter.

Persuasive Picks for week of 5/20/13

twitter-bird-white-on-blue3Shea Bennett, Co-editor at AllTwitter, has been writing about Twitter on a near-daily basis for more than four years. Over that time-period, Twitter has changed considerably and continues to evolve. Accordingly, so has the way that Bennett thinks and writes about Twitter. There are some valuable tips to be found in her lessons learned – What I Have Learned From Writing 2,000 Articles About Twitter

If you’ve done any marketing on Facebook, then you’ve probably seen both successful fan pages and not-so-successful fan pages. So there must be some sort of “secret” to successful Facebook pages, right? Business2Community contributor Scott Ayres sure thinks so, and that’s what he set out to discover when he asked a few Facebook experts for the inside scoop in The #1 Secret of Successful Facebook Pages – 5 Experts Weigh-in

business_bookAs more businesses continue to enter the blogosphere, they run the risk of publishing clichéd, outdated articles in the hopes of attracting a wider audience. Business blogger and MyCorporation CEO Deborah Sweeney explains that she has seen plenty of business blogs that continue to publish material that is either uninteresting or unprofessional and, to stem the flow of poorly written postings. She recommends Five Topics to Avoid When Writing Your Business’s Blog on SocialMediaToday.

4 Social Media Tips Businesses Can Learn from Celebrities – Although most lists of “things we can learn from celebrities” include more don’t's than do’s, there is definitely one thing they can teach us: the art of social media. Celebrities, much like big businesses, have huge name recognition and fan loyalty. Also, like the corporate world, they have new projects, products and ventures they’re promoting via the social web. Social Media Consultant Lisa Parkin provides a few lessons businesses can learn from social media-savvy celebs in her piece at The Huffington Post.

A lesson in social media missteps: Advice for Amy’s Baking Company

o-AMYS-BAKING-COMPANY-facebookBy now most of us have heard of the recent social media meltdown by Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro owners, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo.

The Scottsdale-based couple was recently featured on an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares,” where, ultimately, the Bouzaglos were allegedly so difficult to work with that Ramsay fired them.

But what started as reality TV fodder unraveled into a crisis communications professional’s dream this past week, when they took to the company’s Facebook Page to respond to criticism and comments.

Instead of quelling the storm, however, the Bouzaglos only added more fuel to the fire. In their misguided attempts at defending their brand, they provoked exponentially more derision via comments on Reddit and negative reviews on Yelp.

The downward spiral continued (although many of the negative comments have been removed, highlights were documented in this Buzzfeed post) until Amy and Sam seemed ready to wave the white flag by declaring that their Facebook, Yelp, Twitter account, and website had been hacked.

But the next chapter of the saga started when, in an attempt to disassociate itself from the surrounding firestorm, the restaurant opened a new Facebook page and posted an update about the alleged hacking.

Strangely enough, though, the tone and content of the posts on the new page were very similar to the “hacked” comments on the original page. This has only incited further interest from Internet trolls who are still flocking to the page in droves (follower counts went from 2,800 to more than 100,000 at this writing) to follow the drama as it unfolds.

As the tirade continues to make news, many people are calling for the restaurant to close its doors. The incident has certainly sparked conversation amid the PR community about brands and how they handle social media, so we wanted to share a few takeaways on best practices for managing similar situations before they become a national debacle.

  1. Pick your battles. The Bouzaglos attempted to take on the entire Internet, it seems, by responding to every Facebook post and creating fake Reddit accounts to take on commenters there as well. Instead, had they prioritized and responded only to a select number, they could have avoided they angry mob that ensued.
  2. Don’t engage trolls. It’s a fact of our digital world that some people get their entertainment by being a thorn in others’ sides. Instead of feeding into this aggressive group, the Bouzaglos should have had the sense to step away and ignore these commenters, as nothing good comes from interacting with them.
  3. Keep a cool head. Online, as in real life, it’s a good rule of thumb to restrain yourself from knee-jerk reactions. Although the Bouzaglos were no doubt feeling attacked, defensive and angry, they would have done well to wait and let their emotions settle before resorting to name-calling, insults and other derogatory language. Remember, everything is permanent once it’s posted online.
  4. Finally, be honest…or be prepared to face the consequences. This is the golden rule of social media, PR and marketing. In the case of the alleged hacking, the last thing the Bouzaglos should have said was what they did: “Obviously our Facebook, YELP, Twitter and Website have been hacked. We are working with the local authorities as well as the FBI computer crimes unit to ensure this does not happen again. We did not post those horrible things. Thank You – Amy & Samy.” Consumers are very savvy and can sniff out the truth, so other brands would do well to heed this warning, as well.

Got any other words of wisdom for the Bouzaglos? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!