Vetting Your Brand’s Voice – a Lesson from KitchenAid

This morning I caught wind of a Twitter “oops” made during last night’s Presidential Debate by the well known brand KitchenAid. Someone responsible for the Twitter handle Tweeted, “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president” – in regards to President Barack Obama’s deceased Grandmother.

While a lot of outlets are reporting on how KitchenAid handled the bump – Cynthia Soledad, the senior director of KitchenAid’s brand and marketing division jumped on Twitter immediately apologizing and offering explanations and interviews – I’m more interested in how such an accident happens in the first place. My Twitter pal Chuck Gose said,

This “simple case” begs the bigger question for me on how companies are vetting and qualifying employees responsible for corporate social communications. It goes beyond the technology tools and “need for social apps that let you better separate accounts.”

I’m thinking beyond that. I understand social media managers could have a dozen or more Twitter accounts that they are responsible for. I understand how easy it is to be furiously Tweeting in order to keep up with the conversations taking place, and to accidentally tweet from the wrong account. I get all that and yes, from that perspective, it’s a simple mistake.

The bigger question is – are brands thinking about who they are hiring for such important decisions and investing in the right level of experience for such? I’m not talking about HR violations like asking what someone’s political preference is, but rather, taking a look at their communications experience and ability to think strategically in the way they present information and engage constituents in conversations. I’d also recommend taking a look at their personal Twitter accounts, blogs and Facebook status updates to get a good sense of cultural fit with your organization and corporate values. I don’t condone asking for Facebook passwords but I do believe that checking a candidate’s public social behavior is a must – especially if they will be a public voice for your brand. In this case, perhaps that “tasteless” individual would have shown such characteristics and not been hired. Would you hire someone that made such a crass comment in an interview? I don’t think so. And if you’re hiring a social media manager, I think checking their social behavior when they’re not “on the clock” is perfectly acceptable.

I’ve watched the evolution of companies finally coming around  to social as an important part of their marketing mix. But I still think it’s a bit of a stepchild – companies want to be social but they still don’t take it seriously enough to put a strategic communications expert behind the curtain. This isn’t the role to throw an inexperienced, entry level executive into managing. Let me ask you this,

Who would you put in front of the microphone to represent your brand at a news conference?

Who do you have in charge behind the scenes to write speeches and content for that person to present?

Those are the same people who should be in charge of your social communications.

It’s been argued that the younger generation should be in charge of social because they “grew up on it” – with one young lady going so far as to say no one under 25 should be a social media manager. I don’t understand this mentality at all. Just because someone knows how to use a tool doesn’t mean they’re good at it. Everyone has a telephone, right? It doesn’t mean they are effective, strategic communicators. I have said this time and time again – putting someone in charge – or even as a team member – of your social should be carefully considered. You are vetting your brand’s voice and putting it in their hands!

Perhaps the KitchenAid executive was just one of a handful of folks who have responsibility for – and access to – updating the brand’s Twitter account. Perhaps they aren’t in charge of producing strategic content, but rather just posting prewritten updates. In any event, brands need to be very careful about who has control of and access to using social networks on their behalf – this is a good lesson that anything they say or write – even a “simple mistake” – can come across as your brand’s voice, and reflect on much more, such as political views, religious beliefs and other stances best left out of the corporate environment. (Not to mention, if they’re this tasteless, do you really want them in charge of your creative communications ideas?)

How do you manage your social accounts? Do you vet who has access and participation rights? How deep do you go in the HR process to check their online behavior before hiring them?



Being Thankful in Business is a Good Thing – Brands that GET IT

We’d like to wish our US-readers a Happy Thanksgiving and send a HUGE thanks to all of our colleagues, clients, community and partners. We’re thankful for your support, your business and your respect.

Over the course of the last two decades I’ve been told more than once that appearing too grateful in business can be a negative thing – putting me in a position of perceived lesser power. I disagree. I think being thankful in business – and for business – is a good thing and I am happy to see social media bringing it more to light. Businesses who appreciate their customers are more likely to reap the rewards of loyalty, repeat business, positive word of mouth and long-term success.

Since I went on a rampage about my negative experience at McGee Toyota recently, I wanted to also take the time to highlight some businesses doing well by their customers. I think it’s important that as our customer voices become louder and more viral, we use them to celebrate what brands are doing right as well. So while I recently gave personal props to Jet Blue and Ideeli, I also took to Twitter and Facebook to ask my community what companies have done right by them recently, and why. Specifically, I asked, “When is the last time a company or brand went above and beyond to make you a happy customer? What did they do?” Here are some of the answers – below. Thanks to everyone who took the time to share and respond, and kudos to the brands who agree – being thankful in business is a good thing.

Chris Theisen: My fav personal experience from @brewhouse

Greg Meyer: We had an event at @sushisambachi – they made us feel at home, tweeted about the event, and provided excellent service

Shannon DiGregorio: The Apple store at the Cambridge Gallaria replaced a broken (my fault) iPhone 4 for free after AT&T was awful to me! Love them!

Kristina Bobrowski: @ArtVanFurniture went out of the way to meet my budget/timing needs, & responded to my praise on here. @netflix impressed me too.. My DVDs weren’t coming- they sent me 3 at once to tide me over while they fixed it

Chad Northrup: It was @supercuts. Got a bad haircut yesterday, so returned in the evening. They fixed it AND made my next cut free #custserv

Frank Eliason: my former company, Comcast has been working hard to improve (google my name and Comcast). My current company, Citi, is working to improve


And from Facebook, where I did not include my friends’ names because it’s permission-based (vs Twitter, which is public), here are the replies:

American Express has the nicest customer service people I have ever talked to. Except for maybe Southwest’s. They always say things like “we’ll take care of that right now for you” or “make sure you have a great day.” Sounds simple but stands out.

Nordstroms this morning made my entire day – live chat customer support applied a promo code for me after my order was submitted so I would get free shipping on an emergency pair of new heels since the Web site wouldn’t accept the code.

Jouer Cosmetics! BEST customer service. I ordered some makeup and when it arrived two of the lipsticks were smooshed at the top. I called to let them know about it, without any expectations. I just wanted them to know about it. They sen…t me two more lipsticks for free and I got to keep the ones I already had. The lipsticks were like $22 each. Also, Huggies…we got a big box of diapers and one whole sleeve of diapers was defective. The tape wasn’t long enough and every time we tried to put them on the baby, it would rip. I called Huggies and the woman was so apologetic. She sent coupons-one for an entire box for free. You know how expensive diapers are! I was a satisfied customer on both occasions!

I’m a huge fan of  Boston-based Rue La La. Ordered some resin plates. 3 sets of 4. The freight carrier “dropped” them on my front step. 3 of them were damaged. I photographed which patterns were damaged and their amazing Customer Service specialist hunted them down, replaced them AND gave me a $40 credit for all my trouble.

USAA – the very best customer service I’ve ever experienced. Every time I call, they offer to help me with my investments, or just to review where I’m at financially, just to make sure I am ok. They will give advice, give me suggestions where I should be putting money and once even said WOW – you are doing a great job. They never try to get you off the phone or rush you. They will even call and check up on recent investments. They are incredible.

Great Customer Service Department. UPS driver sees me at the mail box five blocks from my home. Stops next to my car. Shouts out “Mr. Corbett, I have a package for you.” Now that is great customer service and an employee who lives well the brand!!! Kudos to UPS!!! Living the Brand!

I also think TMobile has done some serious investment in training their reps. I used to think they were awful, now its almost a pleasure to call in. They make you feel like they are on your side – they say things like “yeah, that would make… me mad too” or “that would definitely not fly with me.” You can’t even get mad because they are so helpful now. I’ve been having major BB issues & the third time I called in the rep said, “well, this is ridiculous that you’ve had to call three times, after you get this replacement, *I* am going to call YOU”See More

The Ritz-Carlton has the absolute best customer service in the world. No matter the property, it is top notch. Bali, Jamaica, etc. – all superb. No one comes close.

Zappos. Order something at 10:00 at night and it’s on your door the next day for free with free return shipping if needed . . . Great example of a company that built it’s culture based on customer service from the day it started as a way to differentiate itself.

Pizza Hut in Big Rapids, MI………..awesome service and the C.J.’s special cannot be beat.

USAA is the best. They go above and beyond every single time.

I have to say that Spectrum Health in Reed City has an outstanding policy for good customer service. If someone asks for directions the employee won’t just point and explain. They escort them to the place with a smile on their face! And during parking lot construction they provided men driving golf carts who were at the car before it stopped to pick you up and take you to the door! Way above and beyond is their policy. They tell employees, “Surprise them (your customer). And they do in a good way.”

I third USAA

Readers – if a brand or company has done right by you lately, won’t you help spread the word and thank them here in the comments? Thanks for reading!