Archive for the ‘community relations’ Category
Seeing lots of chatter online today about the pending shutdown of World Nutella Day. World what-what? Yeah, World Nutella Day.
Now, I’m not a user of the world’s favorite hazelnut spread. But plenty of people are. But many people are. Enough that back in 2007, an American woman named Sara Rosso who lives in Nutella’s homeland of Italy created (of her own volition) World Nutella Day.
Since then, their site has become a go-to destination for people who like the product (created by the same people who make Ferrero Rocher, Kinder candies, and Tic Tacs) for recipes and stories. Rosso and her Nutella-loving pal Michelle Fabio also have written the e-book The Unofficial Guide to Nutella (affiliate link).
But apparently, no more. Rosso’s website says (I’ll paste the text here in case the site disappears):
“On May 25, 2013, I’ll be darkening the World Nutella Day site, nutelladay.com, and all social media presence (Facebook, Twitter), in compliance with a cease-and-desist I received from lawyers representing Ferrero, SpA (makers of Nutella).
Seven years after the first World Nutella Day in 2007, I never thought the idea of dedicating a day to come together for the love of a certain hazelnut spread would be embraced by so many people! I’ve seen the event grow from a few hundred food bloggers posting recipes to thousands of people Tweeting about it, pinning recipes on Pinterest, and posting their own contributions on Facebook! There have been songs sung about it, short films created for it, poems written for it, recipes tested for it, and photos taken for it.
The cease-and-desist letter was a bit of a surprise and a disappointment, as over the years I’ve had contact and positive experiences with several employees of Ferrero, SpA., and with their public relations and brand strategy consultants, and I’ve always tried to collaborate and work together in the spirit and goodwill of a fan-run celebration of a spread I (to this day) still eat.
I have hope that this is not a goodbye to World Nutella Day forever, for the fans’ sake, and hopefully it will live on in one form or another in the future.”
So. From all appearances, this is a big corporation knuckling down on a humble blogger. Certainly, that’s the theme on the Nutella Facebook page, where several hundred comments are roundly criticizing the brand for its actions. Some are even posting video responses:
Doesn’t get much more emphatic than that.
But… what if there’s more to this? As a teacher, one of the case studies I have used for a long time in social media classes has been what’s become known as “The Ranger Station Fire.” This 2008 incident began when Ford sent out a cease and desist letter to someone operating a web site dedicated to the Ford Ranger.
Here’s Ron Ploof’s summary, an eminently useful document.
So at this point, all we have is the World Nutella Day website. We don’t know the contents of the C&D letter (which is more than likely in Italian). We haven’t seen any response from Ferrero. On page 8 of “The Ranger Station Fire”, Ploof describes the fact that the Ford fan site was selling unauthorized products with Ford’s logo on them. They then (VERY quickly) separated out the demands for the URL and compensation from the IP issue.
What needs to happen now? Two things:
- Sara Rosso needs to make very clear exactly why Ferrero has asked her to cease & desist.
- Ferrero needs to do the same thing.
Right now, it’s impossible to know if Ferrero has done something really stupid, or has done something right & executed badly, or whether this is the best of their alternatives and they’re just communicating poorly.
If Ferrero has no compelling reason to have taken this action, they are likely going to be a case study for teachers like me to use in the future — in how to alienate the people who love you.
I have asked Ferrero for comment, and I’ve also sent questions to Sara Rosso. I’ll update this post whenever I have new information to share.
UPDATE: around 4:00 pm EDT, I saw a statement from Ferrero on their Italian site. Get the update in this post.
I, along with most of the city of Ottawa, have been watching a story unfold over the last 24 hours with combined amusement and outrage.
Ottawa announced the name of a new National Basketball League (no, NOT the NBA) team yesterday. The name? “The Ottawa TomaHawks.”
In a news conference to announce the team name yesterday, team owner Gus Takkale (a motivational speaker and consultant) was quickly confronted with questions by journalists about the potential to offend First Nations groups:
“The most powerful slam dunk in the game of basketball, the most entertaining way to score … the tomahawk dunk,” said Takkale.
“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to TomaHawk nation.”
“Tomahawk,” of course, is a term associated with Native American history.
Takkale said he and his staff had spoken to First Nations groups and they didn’t expect it to be an issue.
That said, many social media users expressed their displeasure with what they believe to be a “racist” name.
“Other teams, could be the Braves and the Redskins, they’re actually focusing on the Native Americans,” Takkale said. “But there’s no intended native reference here. It’s a tomahawk dunk. It’s grabbing the ball behind your head and dunking it. And that excitement is what we want to link our brand to.”
And yet, by Wednesday morning, headlines read:
- “Ottawa TomaHawks considering name change after outcry”
- “Ian Campeau rips Ottawa basketball team for Tomahawks name“
And of course…
As I write this post, they’re announcing on the local CBC morning program that they’re changing the name. The team Twitter account and Youtube channel are down.
So what happened here? Was this a misstep? It’s such a stunningly foolish action that I have to wonder whether this was either a group of people utterly out of touch with reality, or whether they were both stupid and cynical, thinking they could get media attention, then back down.
One thing that I will give them credit for: they knew when they were beat and didn’t try to tough it out.
But whether this was stupidity or cynicism, the organization now needs to realize the amateurish and incompetent image they’ve created in their home community, and figure out how to counteract it.
So what to they need to do?
- CONSULT SMART PEOPLE before they announce a name.
- Make some gestures of reconciliation to local aboriginal groups to try to make good on their stupidity
- Don’t be stupid again.
I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Jennifer Stauss Windrum over the last couple of years. While we are separated geographically, the joys of social media have given us a chance to meet each other virtually.
Jennifer is a communicator, first and foremost. And she’s someone who I’ve grown to admire for her passion and her ability to take a personal tragedy and turn it into a positive movement.
Jennifer’s mother Leslie, like far too many people in this world, has cancer. And right now, her journey is coming towards its end. Leslie was diagnosed with lung cancer. Now when you hear lung cancer, you might say to yourself, “did she smoke?” Which is what many people think of when lung cancer enters the picture.
She didn’t. My dad had lung cancer, and when he was diagnosed, he hadn’t smoked for more than 20 years.
Jennifer’s mom’s diagnosis was bad news. No denying that. But the difference between Jennifer and other people is that she wasn’t willing to shake her head and tut-tut about the injustice of someone getting lung cancer and being stigmatized, or the fact that while lung cancer is the US’s #1 cause of cancer deaths, it receives the smallest amount of research funding.
She started WTF Lung Cancer. You get that, right? And in a cheeky, tireless, sometimes angry, sometimes despairing multi-year project, she’s been advocating for better funding for this disease (remember, 4 out of 5 lung cancer diagnoses are being made in NONSMOKERS now).
My dad was lucky. He was operated on for the lung cancer and lived on for nearly two decades. His impairment was minimal. Jennifer’s mom is not that lucky. To be blunt: she’s dying.
And in one of life’s odd juxtapositions, her mom’s health began to decline VERY quickly just as Jennifer has launched a giant new campaign. And as she’s managed being a caring daughter WHILE managing a major initiative, I’ve been touched, humbled, and inspired by her honesty, her love, and her dedication.
I’ve donated to a fund and social business that Jennifer started called SMAC! or Sock Monkeys Against Cancer. She wants to provide funky sock monkeys to cancer patients young and old as a symbol of comfort, care and concern. And she wants to bring attention to the plight of people like her mom. And she’d like to see this shitty disease cancer CURED.
If you’re here for a PR lesson, take this as your lesson: if you have a cause, if you have passion, you need to look at how Jennifer has channeled raw emotion into a strategic campaign to achieve a goal. She’s consulted others, she’s asked for help, she’s offered help when she can, and she’s put in the thinking and the work to make one of her dreams become a reality.
And if you learn something from this post or her websites, and you have a few bucks, why not make a donation, the way I did? She’s so close to achieving a major goal. Help her out. You won’t regret it.
I’ve written several times about group buying services and the problems they can pose for businesses and for consumers. Here in Ottawa, a Byward Market butcher shop nearly ran itself into the ground after trying to use group deals to dig itself out of business trouble.
Well, I have to revisit the topic based on two news stories that I saw today.
First was news that king of the group-buy services Groupon had missed already cautious revenue and earnings targets. This led to its stock price dropping as low as $3.21, from a giddy IPO price of $20.
And back in Ottawa again, consumers are VERY upset with ambitious group-buy company Your City Deals. Why? They offered a $100 gas card for $49. After nearly 10,000 were sold, they announced they couldn’t fulfil the deal — the SAME DAY they announced a $50-million deal to expand their service.They’re getting lots of negative feedback on Facebook and on Twitter, as you might guess.
So there are a few things to point out here. Number 1: Don’t go on TV when you’re trying to drum up business and support for your fledgling group-buy company and say you’re in the business of supporting small to medium business marketing efforts when you’re offering up gift cards to a national gasoline retailer. What business is that helping?
Number two: What chump threw $50 million into a market segment that seems to be falling apart?
Number three: if you’re a business with $50M in financing, shouldn’t you do something about an office beyond renting a post-office box at a photocopy shop? That’s what CBC found out.
I have no idea whether this fiasco is just one more in a series of roup-buy fiascos, whether the people behind this company are simply in over their heads or whether there’s something more nefarious at play.
But if you didn’t already think that group buys were a really bad idea for businesses and consumers, I don’t know what more evidence you’d need. Or am I wrong? Tell me if I’m off base in the comments.
There’s a big story today in Ontario, with the banner headline:
Here’s the story in a nutshell, from a timeline of events published by CBC online.
On June 23, 2012, a shopping mall parking deck collapses in the northern Ontario town of Elliott Lake. By early the next morning, a search and rescue team is on site and beginning to stabilize the rubble to search for survivors.
On June 25, the Ontario Ministry of Labour orders a stop to rescue work, saying it’s too dangerous and unstable to continue. In an intense series of events, the rescue efforts are restarted and crowds of angry bystanders are critical of
On June 27, 2012, two bodies are removed from the rubble.
The news today is that the government of Ontario had prepared a statement supporting the suspension of rescue efforts.
Sorry to say, I think this story is not a story at all. Why?
- This was a disaster, and a communications crisis. It is beyond naive to think that governments would not have statements prepared in the event of suspending the rescue operations.
- The government was relying on its search and rescue experts to inform the discussion and to prepare for action. Is that wrong?
- This sort of activity is a standard part of contingency planning. For example, when Apollo 11 went to the moon, there was a chance that the astronauts would be lost. The US government prepared a presidential speech in the event that Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins were killed during the mission. Is this terrible? It may seem hardhearted. But for communicators in crisis mode, it’s necessary.
- I particularly enjoy the story’s subhed: “Emails sent by premier’s staff reveal shifting views.” My gosh, as a situation evolved at a rapid pace, the staff were assimilating input from experts, gauging public opinion, and working on a communications strategy that would serve the most people in the best way? Wow. Would ironclad unvarying views have been a better position for the Premier’s staff to choose?
When bad things happen, difficult choices have to be made, and worst-case scenarios must be addressed. I don’t see anything telling me that this news story is anything more than the portrayal of a fast-moving crisis and disaster management scenario playing out. Shame that it’s being played as it is by the CBC.
There was more than a bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth here in Ottawa last week.
There were stories all last week in local media about how only about two-thirds of the “We all win” tickets (which cost $100) have been sold, and that this might reduce the money funding research at the CHEO Research Institute and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.
Then, on Sunday, we heard that disaster had been averted. The Ottawa Citizen reported that the lottery sold a total of 46,000 tickets. This was enough to allow the hospitals to break even and provide up to $500,000 in research funding, a drop from last year’s $900,000.
Hospital lotteries seem to have proliferated in Canada in recent years. According to the Dream Lottery site, a catalog of Canada’s charity lotteries, there are 15 in Ontario, and by my count of their listings, there are 45 across the country.
I’ve had a few health-care challenges, and I’m now of an age where I see friends experiencing all sorts of health issues. So I like hospitals and I like research. But is this the best way to fund research activities at hospitals?
Let’s take a quick and dirty look at the numbers. (By the way, I asked the hospitals and the foundations to contribute to this post on Friday, but have heard nothing from them.)
The lottery sold 46,000 tickets. Let’s assume that everybody bought single tickets, although some might have bought three at a time for a $50 discount.
|46,000 tickets sold at $100 =||$4,600,000|
|The grand prize =||$1,500,000|
|Second prize =||$ 340,000|
|Car prizes =||$ 200,562|
|Vacation prizes =||$ 199,100|
|Gift cards =||$ 160,000|
|Revenue – prizes =||$1,501,238|
|Research funding =||$ 500,000|
|??? (My suspicion is that there
would be marketing, administration,
legal, insurance, accounting and
other expenses involved in this,
and possibly other expenses.) =
Some notes on the assumptions I make here. I have maxmized the revenue generated. I have also used the face value of prizes. I suspect that the prizes are provided at lower than face value.
At first glance, it seems like there’s a lot of money being spent to administer a $4M program, and that something with a budget of $4 million is raising only $500,000 for the stated purpose.
Should hospital foundations be spending money to heavily market high-end lotteries which could be susceptible to local economic conditions (in Ottawa’s case, there are thousands of public servants who face uncertain futures after budget cuts)? And is it worth it for a chunk of their research funding pie that in the case of CHEO is less than 13% and only 5% for the OHRI?
There’s a social implication here, too. I hate to use the word “should” again, but should people have to be bribed with the chance of winning something to donate to these causes? Look at the headlines of what CHEO researchers did just last year:
- A potential treatment for Spinal Muscular Atrophy
- A way of using sugar water to reduce pain in infants
- A treatment for osteogenesis imperfecta
At the OHRI:
- New diagnostic tools for thrombosis, or blood clots.
- New, earlier ways of diagnosing Parkinson’s disease.
The world was abuzz this week with the story of Karen Klein, a woman from upstate New York who was taunted mercilessly while working as a school bus monitor. As is so often the case, the taunters were not only mean and vile, but stupid enough to record their actions. If you haven’t seen this, you may or may not want to expose yourself to the 10 minutes of evil vapidity.
The video, as is the cliché, went viral. Millions of views. Then a guy in Toronto named Max Sidorov was touched by the video. He set up a campaign on Indiegogo to give her a vacation. He set a goal of $5,000, saying “There’s even a point in the video where one of the kids touches Karen’s arm in an attempt to make fun of her. I’m not sure why these kids would want to bully a senior citizen to tears, but I feel we should do something, or at least try. She doesn’t earn nearly enough ($15,506) to deal with some of the trash she is surrounded by. Lets give her something she will never forget, a vacation of a lifetime!”
Then Sidorov’s campaign went viral too — in spades. In a matter of days, the campaign raised more than $545,000.
All of this is heartwarming. This is a 68-year-old woman who was treated more than shabbily, and it’s lovely to think that she’s going to be helped by this.
But let’s be honest here. Does Karen Klein need a half-million nest egg? Does the pain or embarrassment she suffered warrant a half-million payday?
Let’s take another example — Caine’s Arcade. The release of a short film about Caine’s Arcade led to a college fund of more than $200,000 and a matching fund to help other kids as creative and deserving as Caine.
There’s no doubt that these stories are inspiring. But I have this feeling that even the desire to good using the tools of social media can go too far. In themselves, the 25,000 donors to the Klein campaign each did an undeniably good thing. But is the best use of the $545,000 and counting that has been raised to simply go to Ms. Klein?
The other side of this is the response by viewers to reach out to the school or the school district.
The school district website has a message which reads in part:
“The behaviors displayed on this video are not representative of all Greece Central students and this is certainly not what we would like our students to be known for. We have worked very hard to educate students on the damaging impact of bullying and will continue to do so.
We have received thousands of phone calls and emails from people across the country wanting to convey their thoughts. People are outraged by what has happened and they feel the students should be punished. While we agree that discipline is warranted, we cannot condone the kind of vigilante justice some people are calling for. This is just another form of bullying and cannot be tolerated.
We all need to take a step back and look at how we treat each other. It is our job as educators and parents to teach children and lead by example. We encourage parents to use this as a springboard to begin a dialogue with their children about bullying, respect and consequences. As a school community, we will continue to take the lead in bullying education and we encourage all students and employees subjected to bullying and harassment to report it as soon as it occurs and to take a stand if they are witness to bullying in their lives.”
I can only imagine the sheer volume of contacts. How could a small upstate New York school or district reasonably handle this level of outrage and demand for response? And what would my angry e-mail add to the situtation?
I don’t really have any answers here; I’m just trying to think through how a bad thing can, through social media, lead to a good thing and then, again through social media, perhaps the good thing becomes too much of a good thing.
What do you think?
I spent the weekend at a conference. No big deal there. We all do.
But this was the final PAB conference, and like most things related to this event, it turned out to be a big deal.
The back story:
Seven years ago, Mark Blevis and Bob Goyetche were fledgling podcasters, and with inspiration provided by Tod Maffin, among others, they created “Podcasters Across Borders“, a conference that took place in Kingston, ON. It was a great success. It eventually went from its original title to PAB, and moved from Kingston to Ottawa, where Mark (and I, for that matter) live.
I first attended in 2008, and I have been to four PABs. And this last weekend, they closed out their run with PAB 2012 at the wonderful National Arts Centre.
Why should you care about this? After all, you weren’t there. And the conference is gone. Who cares, right?
You should care because PAB was a wonderful case study of the power of community to form, grow, and thrive thanks to social media.
PABsters are a diverse lot. Paramedics, hardware guys, musicians, academics, entrepreneurs, public servants, car dealers, photographers, lawyers, editors, students, teachers… On the surface, there’s no commonality. So what’s to tie them together? How could the bonds formed there become so deep that copious tears are shed at each departure?
In a word, geekery. Everybody who attended a PAB was some kind of a geek. I’m a communications geek (and a guitar geek). Alexa is a food geek. Dude is a beatnik geek. I could go on through the list of people who have attended or presented, and point out the precise geekiness exhibited by everyone there. And for all of them, all of us, the geeking becamse the way of bonding — that I could talk to one person about vintage film cameras and another about the subtleties of Japanese culture and another about which hot restaurants were must-visits before they left Ottawa and another about the future of education as affected by social media turned me on. It indulged my terminal curiosity.
And PAB offers each and every one of its members a safe space to let their geek flag fly. The Saturday night open-mic allowed one branding consultant to let his Axl Rose-esque vocal style out to play. Anthony Marco brought the room to a standstill with his version of Tom Waits’s “Jersey Girl.” And while the musicianship and vocals were far from world-class, the enthusiasm and love in the room were evident.
The shared understanding that brought the PAB community together also led to some tremendous presentations over the years, either full-length or the five-minute “Jolts” that Mark and Bob introduced a few years in. I presented this year, and found myself bedevilled by nerves that I rarely feel. Why? Because I knew just how high the standard was, and how much I wanted to meet it. Later, people like Sue Murphy shared that they felt the same way.
These social media tools we all use to either create or consume content are empty tools if they don’t facilitate some sort of human contact — either human contact online, or human contact face to face.
While Mark and Bob have chosen to fold up the PAB tent, I suspect that the strong, loving community they’ve created and that I’m so proud to be part of will refuse to let the event be forgotten. Remember, if you hear about a PAB 2013, I predicted it.
And to Mark and Bob: thanks, and congratulations. You have done a great thing.
PAB2012 on Flickr
Audio of the infamous 2012 open mic, courtesy Shane Birley.
Yesterday was an uncharacteristically big day for me in terms of keeping an eye on sports.
Here in Ottawa, some friends were running in the Ottawa Marathon, so I wanted to know how they did (PS: WOO Karen!) In Indianapolis, one of my favorite drivers, Dario Franchitti, won a thrilling Indianapolis 500 victory. In Monte Carlo, the classic Monaco Grand Prix was won by Mark Webber.
But most important of all for me: young Ryder Hesjedal of Victoria, BC, won the Giro d’Italia. Ryder is the first Canadian cyclist to win a “Grand Tour”, as races like the Giro are called. Ever. To this cyclist, the accomplishment is superhuman. In three weeks, riders travel the equivalent of Vancouver to Sault Ste. Marie (or, if you’re an American, from the TransAmerica Tower in San Francisco to Harpo Studios in Chicago.) Along the way, they ride some incredibly difficult climbs, with gradients that can average over 10% and peak over 20% (think bicycling up flights of stairs). At the end of each day, the sprinters push their bikes up to over 40 mph and jostle their way to the ribbon.
And cyclists do this day after day (in the Giro and the Tour de France, there are two rest days in the three weeks of riding), sometimes after falling. Remember this from last year’s Tour de France?
The second rider falling was named Johnny Hoogeland. He went upside-down into barbed wire. He got 33 stitches. After he finished the day’s race! And then he finished the tour – 12 more days of riding. With 33 stitches.
My point is: cycling is a tough sport, an incredible feat of athleticism. In Europe, it’s also a massive sporting event. The budget for the Tour de France in 2009 was $140M US. 15 million spectators see the Tour pass by them, and it’s estimated that spectators spend more than $50M US. It’s broadcast worldwide, and there are 3.5 BILLION television watchers.
But in North America, it’s an extremely niche sport, even after Lance Armstrong. Most of my friends are casual observers of cycling at best. When I went to my local pasta shop yesterday, I suggested they do a Ryder special to celebrate the victory. I might as well have suggested a “Red Planet” special to celebrate the existence of Mars.
What’s all this cycling crap mean, anyway? What’s my point? Well, I have two.
When you’re doing social media work for your business, you need to have an intimate knowledge of your context, and your culture. If you’re selling baby clothes online, then don’t talk about Maxim magazine. If your chosen community is marathoners, don’t talk about swimming.
How do you figure out what to talk about? What matters?
Step one: LISTEN. To understand your audience, your community, your market, LISTEN to them before your start talking.
Step two: CONVERSE. Don’t pitch. Don’t sell. CONVERSE. Talk to people about what they do, talk to people about what’s happening in the interest that you share.
Just because you care deeply about something doesn’t mean your friends, your customers, or your community automatically does. Test the waters. Understand the culture of your community. Understand the context of your business. You don’t make the rules. The community does.
Except in this case, where I got to talk about Ryder Hesjedal.