Posts Tagged ‘fail’

There’s a difference between a news hook and newsjacking

When I used to do media relations for a university, I was — all modesty aside — pretty good with a news hook. When there was a disease outbreak, a political crisis, or whatever, I could find an expert in our faculty and get that person in front of microphones pretty darn quickly. I remember the big power outage in 2003. I got a call from a radio program doing crisis coverage asking if I had any experts in history of society before electricity. As it happened, I knew a great social historian who was both expert in that period of history and a good interview. I told the producer “Give me a minute”, hung up, found the prof’s home phone (everything was shut down), called him, and within 10 minutes, he was on live national radio talking about the changes that widespread electrification brought to Canadian society and what this power outage could teach us.

But there’s a material difference between finding a news hook and newsjacking. Newsjacking is an attempt by an organization to exploit an event for its own purposes. This can be done well. For example, when there was a power outage at the Super Bowl, Oreo had a spectacularly successful tweet out in mere minutes:

oreo

 

But that’s a best-case scenario.

How about:

  • A fashion house sending out a release and photos showing actor Amy Adams with one of its handbags. The photo was taken at Philip Seymour Hoffman’s funeral service.
  • Another fashion retailer using the unrest in Syria to create a “boots on the ground” themed tweet. (Two of three examples from this blog.)

Or, just this morning:

  • A PR company suggesting that the death of Robin Williams was an opportunity to talk about identity theft and pitching their client as an interview.

I guess it needs to be said. This is wrong. It’s tacky and tasteless and gross. So I’m going to suggest we do a couple of things.

  1. If you receive this sort of messaging, don’t use it. Don’t make it successful. Contact the company and tell them how offensive their action is. Tell them this will cause the opposite of their desired goal (whether that’s sales, media attention, or whatever). Don’t share their content. Don’t give it a life that it doesn’t deserve.
  2. If your company is being told it should do this, be very cautious. If the idea is related to some sort of tragic event, it’s almost impossible to think of a good reason to do it. Run it past some people not connected to the idea. See if it seems tacky or opportunistic. Err on the side of caution.

Communicators — we can be better than this. Please don’t do this.

I’m not your best friend. I’m a prospect. UPDATED

Like everyone else, I get inundated with marketing outreach all the time. Ads before YouTube videos. Newspapers. TV. Radio. Website banner ads. And on and on. And the phone. Which brings me to this.

Got this yesterday, on our landline. (Yes, we have a landline, we’re dinosaurs, ha ha ha) A little context: We leased a Hyundai. In 2002. At the end of the lease, we returned it, and since that time, to my knowledge, we’ve got a flyer about once a year from the dealership. We haven’t had any interaction for eight years. And then we get this voicemail. I eagerly await this mysterious letter.

“Oooh, you’re getting this special offer, it’s not going out to just any customers of ours, you’re very special and important.” Really? Someone who hasn’t had a moment of interaction in eight years is in some way deserving of a special offer from you? What does the customer who’s been loyal to you for multiple purchases get?

I know I’m a prospect. You know I’m a prospect. That’s why I’m in your CRM system. Why pretend that I’m any more than that? Be honest about your intentions, and I’ll likely be honest about mine.

UPDATE, August 11:

I got the letter from the car dealership. Here’s the envelope:

The more astute of you may notice it’s addressed to “Campbell LeDrew.” That’s my middle name. Which I never use. The letter suggests that I exchange my 2002 Hyundai Elantra on the purchase or lease of a new car. There’s a problem, though. I gave them back that car in 2006 when the lease ended. Haven’t seen it since. You’d think they’d know that, wouldn’t you?

So perhaps I can summarize their pitch this way:

Hey, person whose name we don’t know? Would you like to trade in the car you returned to us eight years ago on another car? We wouldn’t ask, except you’re a really special person to us and we care.