What a Play!

Just one inning into the game. You can feel the tension as every sports bar in America has tuned in to the highly anticipated 2017 World Series, Game 1. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros begin to battle it out. An ad flashes across your screen: T-Mobile #HR4HR, Home Runs for Hurricane Recovery.

Say what? Wasn’t Houston where all the flooding was?

Hurricane scene Home Runs for Hurricane Recovery aims to heal.

Photo Courtesy of The Independent

T-Mobile created the hashtag “#HR4HR” at the onset of postseason baseball to encourage donations for hurricane relief. With each postseason home run, the company offered to donate $10,000 to the hurricane recovery fund Team Rubicon, the disaster response organization utilizing the skills and experiences of military veterans.  T-Mobile also offered to donate an extra $1 each time the hashtag was tweeted or retweeted.

The charitable acts only increased as the playoffs continued when T-Mobile President and CEO John Legere made it a double header with $20,000 per home run and $2 every time #HR4HR is tweeted during the World Series!

While some tweeters criticized the company’s interruption of the games and the use of natural disasters for promotion, most fans found the hashtag both philanthropically supportive and entertaining. The tweets poured in, not only flooding the website but also raising awareness and funds for fellow Americans in need.

Risky Business?

T-Mobile, the official partner of Major League Baseball with lots of customer tie-ins,  took a risk by putting the financial results in the hands of twenty-first century social media users and a possible seven game series. But the decision to initiate “Home Runs for Hurricane Recovery” and promote rebuilding the nation was a strategic marketing move.

Baseball’s loyal viewership guaranteed millions of eyes on the screen when the #ad first ran. This exposed all viewers to T-Mobile as a potential cell phone carrier. Even more powerful, though, was the branding image that was now illuminated: T-Mobile was working with viewers and fans to support those in need, on cell phones!

The company loaded the bases to do a good deed and enhance their brand. Seems they knocked this one out of the park!

How to Avoid #Hashtag Hazards

The hashtag, when used correctly, can reach a broader group of people than those who follow you on Twitter or connect with you on LinkedIn. It facilitates branding and allows companies to create catchy slogans motivating audiences to remember and to respond.

However, the hashtag is more complicated than just throwing a few words together. Here are a few basic tips to consider when using the #.

At READY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA, we coach:

#KnowYourMarket

Charmin hashtag #TweetFromTheSeat

#TweetFromTheSeat, Charmin’s irreverent hashtag is often talked about in marketing circles for one very good reason. It successfully makes something as unglamorous as toilet paper fun, approachable, and appealing to young people. Not an easy feat.

Here’s how it works. The company’s official Twitter account posts funny quips with the hashtag, and encourages users to do the same. Research shows that 40% of people aged 18-24 use social media in the bathroom, giving them a reason to engage with an otherwise strictly utilitarian product.

It’s working too – how else would you explain a toilet paper brand having over 68 thousand followers on Twitter?

#RememberThatCapitalizationMatters

A hash-tagged phrase that lacks capital letters allows the reader to misinterpret your meaning,

#Nowthatcherisdead was mistakenly interpreted by many who began to eulogize Cher.

#ImagineTheResponses

Social media, particularly Twitter, is a platform for users to speak their minds. Before you choose your hashtag, think about the positive and negative responses that will be sparked. If a hashtag is too broad or controversial, your message may be mocked.

#QantasLuxury. Not widely known for its great customer service or luxuriousness, Aussie airline Qantas’ social media team made a big mistake. They asked customers to enter a competition by sharing their experiences just one day after the airline grounded their fleet and locked out staff for 48 hours over a union dispute about pay. Disgruntled staff and customers took to Twitter in full irony mode!

#KeepItRelevant

Every brand, team, or company has a mission. Whether it is to sell products, win games, or recruit followers. It’s important to align the # with your product or service. Even though something may be a good cause, it may not directly apply to your purpose or product.

#RaceTogether. Starbucks launched this hashtag in an effort to raise awareness for the country’s racial divide. They printed the new hashtag on every cup of joe. Unfortunately, this # message did not apply to coffee. And while the brand’s intentions were clearly for justice, they missed the mark in getting involved.

Always remember to #Wisely.

Love All

No love was lost between John McEnroe and Serena Williams in their recent point, set, match over who is the greatest tennis player in the world today.

Advantage Williams.

Mr. McEnroe committed the most obvious of line faults. Not being Ready with an answer to an admittedly, backhanded question was an unforced error. An interview is not a conversation, but a chance to make points!

Photo Courtesy of: Saeed Khan/AFP and Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

For him to attempt a drop shot with less than a Ready answer was surprising. When there is no one officiating a match of wits, celebrity players must coach themselves with likely questions and practice Ready answers ahead of the interview.

Millions of fans are entertained watching both men’s and women’s tours which are nonetheless distinct and not meant to be pitted against each other. Parity in pay, but different leagues, a different game, different bodies.

Not squelching the controversy either, Ms. Williams could only defend herself via Twitter because she was posing naked and very pregnant for another of photographer Annie Liebovitz’s cover shots on Vanity Fair, which underscored gender differences in the most profound way.

Even for a player who’s been given great latitude over the years for his ready-fire-aim approach, tennis pro–turned broadcaster, John McEnroe should by now know the power of words; and the problems that arise when they are used in error and without strategy.

In the follow-up question, Mr. McEnroe was asked what he wanted next. His response: “I need to find that inner peace, but that’s difficult for me.”

“No bullshit,” to quote the phrase strung across the back cover of his memoir sequel, But Seriously which he is currently promoting.

Ms. Williams is a winner of 23 grand slam singles tournaments, plus 14 doubles titles with her sister Venus and has won an estimated $84 million on the court.

Two months pregnant, Ms Williams won the Australian Open and did not lose a set.

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s often said that the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. But until recently, the camera has always been in the hands of responsible and professional photographers, videographers and journalists. Not in the hands of passengers documenting airline brutality or murderers recording their own deeds as selfies.

cell phone picture

Photo courtesy of: Time.com

Now everyone with a cell phone, and that’s pretty much everyone, is a documentarian, taking cameras and matters into his or her own hands. And thanks to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, et al, there is no shortage of airtime.

Traditional print media like the New York TIMES, which narrowcasts to only those who choose to pay for it, advertises its policy of “all the news that’s fit to print.” But these social media publishers have yet to restrict the freedom of their presses.

According to Wikipedia, Clint Eastwood’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was one of the greatest and most influential Westerns of all time. But today’s citizens offer cowboy justice at its best and worst because there are no filters on these cameras.

In our Los Angeles media training and social media training world, this is the phenomena of loose cannons. Executives  must be Ready for them. It cannot be the “shoot from the hip” approach taken by United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz recently. There must be a sensible crisis plan, designed, prepared and practiced in advance.

Crisis training would have explored whether it is the best policy to boot paying customers to make way for employees.  Then, not defend employees’ actions in the face of excessive force without being aware of the details: a passenger being beaten seriously enough to cause a concussion, two broken teeth and a broken nose.

Then, after a deluge of negative traditional and social media not abjectly apologize saying Dr. David Dao “did nothing wrong.” A more appropriate response would have been, Dr. Dao was badly mistreated. But for the safety of all the passengers on my airline, everyone needs to follow the orders given by my people, even if you think those orders are stupid or unfair. And for that, I will not defend his actions either.

The cost to United Airlines in dollars and reputation is impossible to estimate. Each passenger on that flight is now being reimbursed for the price of his or her ticket, which may set a precedent that other companies will be forced to follow every time someone pictures and posts a misdeed. Finally, the passenger who was documented being dragged bloodied and broken down the aisle by countless cell phones is very likely to sue and is from Asia, an important market for the company.

The lesson, of course, is to get in front of a crisis, but to do it correctly. As the victimized doctor’s code would suggest, “First, do no harm.” And not respond impulsively without planning or design.

The world wide web offers the broadest of broadcasting possibilities to everyone who holds a cell phone. And that’s pretty much everyone.

 

Be Ready

“Be ready,” is the lesson marketing executives must now take, according to a recent New York Times article, “Planning for Unexpected Criticism by Trump.” Crisis consultant Andrew D. Gilman, who has counseled such brands as Johnson & Johnson, General Motors and Pepsi during crises advises “prepare for Mr. Trump as you would for a natural disaster — an event that is highly unpredictable but poses a big risk if it happens.”

Photo Courtesy of: bceforensics.com

Photo Courtesy of: BCEforensics.com

Mr. Trump’s trigger-finger tweeting is prompting some brands to preemptively draft informal contingency plans, and others, like H&R Block, to spend money shoring up their reputations. One contingency is to line up a third-party spokesman who can help if the brand’s image is dinged. That is essentially what H&R Block did in signing Jon Hamm, the “Mad Men” star and an H&R Block customer for years.

“The fit between H&R Block and myself,”  Mr. Hamm commented, “seemed copacetic and natural. And the tone of the creative was clever and outside the box for something as humdrum as taxes.” Even before the election, Mr. Trump offered to “put H&R Block out of business” with his plan for a simplified tax code.

And what if your company is trampled?

Scott Farrell, a specialist in corporate branding and the president of Golin Global Corporate Communications, said “The only thing that applies, no matter what the issue, is speed. Slow kills companies fast in a Twitter conversation.”

Vanity Fair’s swift response after Mr. Trump reacted to a negative review of a restaurant in one of his buildings by saying the magazine was “dead” could be an example for others to follow. Mr. Farrell explained, “its message — including banner ads on its website calling itself “The Magazine Donald Trump Doesn’t Want You to Read” and asking for subscriptions — captured the magazine’s voice and identity. More than 40,000 people signed up for new subscriptions.”

“If you’re a CMO, Mr. Gilman, concluded, “you need to put another filter on your plans. Normally, you’d never have to worry about a president singling out your company. Now you do.” Amen.

 

 

Sloppy spokespeople

There’s a trend among the most recent spokespeople to simply copy, paste and post their sponsors’ social media directions.  In the past two months, Scott Disick of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, model Naomi Campbell, and Real Housewife Ramona Singer were all caught carelessly posting messages from their sponsors instead of their own endorsements. And all three have been victims of online ridicule from their own Instagram inattention.

Mr. Disick (see photo) who is no stranger to mockery as a consequence of the show that made him famous, was met with Tweets like “You know you failed at life when you can’t even copy x paste. @ScottDisick” from @AMstudiio and “Stop making stupid people famous! Scott Disick cut/pasted an email from a marketing team onto his Instagram caption from @loudspike.

scott disick

Photo Courtesy www.usmagazine.com

These sponsored posts typically earn the celebrity thousands of dollars, yet it seems that this is not enough to buy their effort and conscientiousness. At the end of the day, it is the celebrities themselves who lose credibility and are embarrassed by the public reaction, forcing them to correct the post–but not before it is screenshot and pasted all over Twitter.

Though it probably is no great loss to reputable companies like Adidas, they might think twice before continuing endorsement contracts with Ms. Campbell after she captioned her Instagram post,

“Naomi,

So nice to see you in good spirits!!! Could you put something like:

Thanks to my friend @gary.aspden and all at adidas – loving these adidas 350 SPZL from the adidas Spezial range. @adidasoriginals.”

Ms. Singer’s post for Rodan + Fields addressed her in the third person as she was advised:

“Here is the draft with some language for the post – if we could have Ramona add something personal in about why she feels confident going makeup free that would be great. Happy to make any changes you’d like. The link to R+F is linked to her personal page on their site and the Instagram is linked to her acct as well.’

In our Los Angeles media coaching, READY FOR MEDIA advises spokespeople to carefully review and prepare their messages for the most credible representation of themselves and their sponsors. The realm of social media is increasingly being utilized for endorsements to connect celebrities with a sponsors, products and their audiences. Because of the permanent nature of internet content (whether the original is deleted or not), these posts need to be prepared with as much diligence as live soundbites.

Only time will tell if these celebrities and their marketing teams will be asked to continue these sponsored endorsements, but hopefully it only takes once to learn this lesson. One would think that when the caption is already written word-for-word that the job of the poster is simple enough.

Dotting the i’s

Fortune 500 companies sometimes can’t resist the social media mistake of subtle commercialization, which usually backfires. Here, General Mills eulogized their hometown legend, Prince, by being too cute with a Cheerio dotting the i.

Photo Courtesy www.adage.com

Photo Courtesy www.adage.com

In another General Mills advertisement from the brand, Hamburger Helper, their “helping hand” mascot, “Lefty,” a four-fingered, left-hand white glove was pictured and referenced.

Photo Courtesy www.adweek.com

Photo Courtesy www.adweek.com

“Respect for the home team. A glove can only take so much sadness.”

The social media backlash was immediate and intense, criticizing the product-pushing cuteness and insensitivity of these brands as the world mourned an incredible talent’s untimely death. The “tributes” were cancelled.

 “Pay tribute to the man,” Ad Week admonished, “don’t make it about your brand.”

Social media does not call for advertising as usual. It is a game that many established corporations don’t yet know how to play. Big brands must not play cute to push product in tragedy. From September 11 memorials to domestic abuse awareness hashtags, companies have tweeted in bad taste, attempting to jump on the pop culture bandwagon.

In media coaching, we usually recommend branding. But not in response to tragic events. If companies are going to insert themselves into the conversation, it must be straightforward and commercial-free.

When the Media Makes the Mistakes

Recently, the magazine publications of Adweek and Glamour used the power of the press without permission. Adweek featured actress Kerry Washington on its April 2016 cover with her skin lightened and her face photo-shopped. Glamour implied that comedian Amy Schumer is plus size by including her name with actress Melissa McCarthy, singer Adele, and plus-size model Ashley Graham on its “Chic at Any Size” special issue.

The two women objected on social media, taking to their Instagram accounts to address the situations. As a matter of principle, each took a risk by confronting the medias’ mistakes. But both were courteous and polite in their responses, stressing appreciation and positivity above all.

Photo Courtesy www.popsugar.com

Photo Courtesy www.dailymail.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ms. Washington wrote:

“I love ADWEEK. It’s a publication I appreciate. And learn from[. . .] I have had the opportunity to address the impact of my altered image in the past and I think it’s a valuable conversation. Yesterday, however, I just felt weary. It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror. It’s an unfortunate feeling. That being said. You all have been very kind and supportive. Also, as I’ve said, I’m very proud of the article[. . .] Grab this week’s ADWEEK. Read it. I hope you enjoy it. And thank you for being patient with me while I figured out how to post this in a way that felt both celebratory and honest.”

Adweek editorial director James Cooper replied, calling Ms. Washington “a class act” and clarifying, “We meant no disrespect, quite the opposite. We are glad she is enthusiastic about the piece and appreciate her honest comments.”

Ms. Schumer also posted to Instagram, remarking that her permission was never sought and that plus size in America is considered to be size 16, while she goes between sizes 6 and 8. Glamour’s editor-in-chief, Cindi Leive quickly responded in a series of Tweets:

“…her longtime message of body positivity—& talking back to body haters—IS inspiring. (To me, too!) To be clear, size 6-8 is not plus. (Even size 12—frequent size of “plus” models—is smaller than average American woman!)… But women of all sizes can be inspired by one another’s words. So sorry if implication was otherwise, Amy.”

The two women navigated the media mistakes in such a positive, yet honest manner that everyone seemed satisfied; their messages were heard, and they received the apologies they deserved.

Twitter: The 140-Character Soundbite

Social media has become every publicist’s nightmare. Rather than carefully formulating and crafting media responses through interviews, phone calls and media training, it is now possible for a moment of lapsed judgment to spiral into a media faux pas. Actor Alec Baldwin is the most recent example of this growing trend with a tweet from his car in New York City traffic.

Last week, a protest for a $15 minimum wage converged in Manhattan, slowing traffic to a crawl. The protest included thousands of single mothers, fast-food employees, home health care aides and others hoping to raise New York’s minimum wage to battle the city’s increasing cost of living.

While driving through New York City, Mr. Baldwin encountered a patch of traffic directly caused by the protester’s disruptions. In response, he tweeted, “Life in NY is hard enough as is. The goal is to not make it more so. How does clogging rush hour traffic from 59th St to 42 do any good?”

Photo courtesy of www.nysun.com

Photo courtesy of www.nysun.com

Instantly, many turned on the actor for insensitivity regarding an important issue. “Life in NY is hard,” wrote Rachael L. Swarns in the New York TIMES, “not because of driving in traffic,” but “because of struggling to pay the rent for even a single room,” or, “relying on Medicaid and food stamps to help support 3 children!” She went on to condemn the actor in her article with, “when protesters crossed the Selma bridge, no one asked how the traffic was disrupted.”

“Remind yourself that if traffic is your biggest problem … you’re probably fine.”

This is yet another instance in which Mr. Baldwin has gotten in trouble with social media. He originally deleted his Twitter account last summer after a tirade on Twitter lashing out at a journalist.
With the speed and ease in which Twitter and Facebook publish information, it is important to take a breath and think about what soundbite you are authoring.

Sensitivity Training

When a British retailer featured a greeting card with, “don’t get mad, take lithium” (an obvious reference to the medication for bipolar disorder,) customers didn’t just get mad — they got even, with posts such as “I will no longer be shopping with you” on the company’s Facebook page.

The stage was set when another offended customer (@poeticfeminist) tweeted, “do you realise that this card is very offensive to people with bipolar disorder?” Rather than immediately neutralizing the situation with a sincere, social media apology, JOY (@joythestore) tweeted the response: “Then if you know anyone with bipolar disorder, don’t buy it (the card) for them. PROBLEM SOLVED.”

 

Twitter / mirror.co.uk

Twitter / mirror.co.uk

 

From her/his response, it was obvious that JOY’s Twitter representative lacked proper media training. It would have given this individual the skill set to empathize with the customer’s frustration from the start, as opposed to fueling the conflict with a defensive statement. After JOY’s initial response, @poeticfeminist then inquired about individuals with bipolar disorder who may come across this card in the store. JOY @joythestore again showed insensitivity and a blatant disregard for loyal customer concerns, mocking those who suffer mental illness with another sarcastic tweet: “They’ll like it one minute and hate it the next!”

Even in the smallest of social media crises, the principles remain the same. The steps below are crucial in practicing effective communication skills:

1. Acknowledge compassion (JOY appreciates the the World Health Organization’s findings that, “Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world.”)

2. Give bottom-line soundbite (“We at JOY like to start conversations and create dialogue, we try to be irreverent, but sometimes we get it wrong. Please accept  our apologies.”) – which @thejoystore finally did, some 20 hours later!

3. Offer appropriate history (perhaps the card was written by a bipolar disorder sufferer who finds humor the best way to deal with his/her illness)

4. Repeat soundbite (“Although we at JOY like to start conversations with irreverent dialogue, we sometimes get it wrong. Please accept  our apologies.”)

5. Suggest the next steps (i.e. “The card will be removed from JOY stores, and a contribution will be made to the National Charity for Bipolar Disorder in the UK.”)

Though the company describes itself as “quietly eccentric,” JOY’s tweets came off as inappropriate and insulting. As a result, JOY has now lost some of its most faithful customers. What began as a simple concern soon escalated into an offensive assail and loss of profit—a situation that could have been altogether avoided with proper communication skills. In today’s online world, the potential to offend a consumer is just a post, click or keystroke away.

Before you tweet, remember that sensitivity is key!