Rallying Help in a Crisis: How One Marketing Manager Got It Wrong

Rallying Help in a Crisis: How This Marketing Manager Got It Wrong - Brass Tack ThinkingMarketers – or anyone in communications, for that matter – don’t do this.

Hi Amber,

Would you be so kind as to cover our CEO [redacted]‘s counterpoint to [big media outlet]‘s story published today title “[some story about some social media thing with a link]“?

He was interviewed by [big media outlet] for the article, but unfortunately they took his comments and twisted them out of context.

His counterpoint was published in [another big publication] a little bit ago here: (link)

Any reference you could make would help us a lot!!!!

Thanks,
[redacted]
Marketing Manager

It’s hard to know where to start.

1. I don’t know you. I’m not your prospect, I’m not your fan, I’m not your customer. You just found me on some social media blogger list and did zero research as to the content I typically discuss on my blog. That’s obvious. You’re just hoping that I’ll use whatever reach and attention I have for your benefit. But let’s let that one go for now, and focus on the deeper problems here;

2. I know nothing about your CEO or his original interview. Why would I take your word for the fact that he was misquoted, or your version of which story contains his correctly cited comments or point of view?

3. I know even less about your company. Why would I stake *my* reputation and the valuable attention of my readers on coming to your or your CEO’s defense based on a single email you send me in a moment of crisis? Moreover, why on earth would I want to get involved in some kerfuffle between you and a major media outlet? Is this about you trying to call out some gross breach of ethics on their part that I should rally behind, or is this about saving your brand’s butt? Judging by your closing sentence, I’m going to go with the latter.

Which brings me to the crux of this whole thing.

As a marketer, your job is to build, enhance, and preserve the brand of your company in order to help it grow. Doing that requires more than promotion and spending the entirety of your efforts on how you can get attention. Doing that requires establishing a reputation over time with everyone that can make a difference to that brand in the long run. That includes your customers, your prospective customers, the media, the public, investors, and even competitors for starters.

That means giving attention. Investing time and effort in activities and relationships that are not about immediate gratification for your company, but that are about establishing a sound network that has derived some kind of mutual value from being part of your world long before you ever need to ask that network for a thing. 

We have done corporate communication work a gross disservice overall by turning it into a continuous navel-gazing exercise populated by quick hits and desperate shortcuts, and social media hasn’t helped us there. We don’t have to work much at all to have an instant audience, or to find one for rent. So we exploit the hell out of it whenever we can. Communication as a continuous process of input, consideration, and relevant output is a dying art when it comes to organizational work.

The upshot?

If you haven’t done the work to build that foundation, you haven’t earned the right to call on legions of bloggers or customers or anyone else to rush to your defense when you step in it. When you ask for that before you’ve invested a thing, you look desperate, presumptuous, and sloppy.

At that point, when a problem hits, you’re on your own.

You’ll need to figure out how to rally your own resources and the people that do know and trust you today to work extra hard to be your advocates in your moment of need. They’re the ones you should be asking, anyway, if they know you best and can vouch for your reputation, or your people, or the work that your company does.

Your perception of the momentary “influence” of some random blogger who doesn’t know you from Adam is horribly flawed. As is your belief that one of us would cash in some of the hard work that we have put into building the trust of our readership and ask for their attention on your behalf simply because you dashed off an email when your neck was on the line.

Maybe after you’ve weathered the storm, you’ll understand the value of relationship investment before it can actually and immediately benefit you. And maybe – just maybe – you’ll spend some really smart time evaluating why you didn’t have a network of advocates that you could rely on to have your back in the first place.

I promise you, the best time and money you’ll spend in the next six months, Marketing Manager, is in understanding the subtle currency of trust and reputation. They’re what drive almost everything in business, and it’s been that way since the dawn of time. Knowing how to use and not use them is incredibly important stuff in this open and hyper-connected web-driven world. Especially when you’re about to hit the panic button.

We, your communication colleagues who value those things deeply, thank you.

 

  • Geanina Torres

    Very deep and truthful, Amber. Its sad that most people look to the digital networking only as a matter of selfish gain. Incredible that this person would just ask you directly without at least getting to know your values a bit more. Still, you gave him help in the format of valuable advice that can help him rearrange his entire marketing paradigm ;)

  • Anonymous

    Amber, very well said. I’ve seen this before where someone is losing control of a situation and pretty much at the mercy of anyone who they think they could help them out. Problem is that no one wants to jeopardize their own neck or job for something you shouldn’t be handling or doing. In the long run, if they don’t lose their job or client, they should chalk it up to experience, learn from it and move on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/davevandewalle Dave Van de Walle

    Unfortunately, they don’t teach common sense in college.

    I know quite a few people for whom this seems like logical behavior – (1) you are a blogger (2) you are on a list of influential bloggers and (3) I should contact you to leverage that interest.

    Even sadder is the fact that this sort of discussion takes place around a whole host of other tools; thus the explanation of why I get random tweets all too often that are just, well, dumb.

    Keep the faith.

  • http://womeninbusinessradio.com Michele Price

    Amber kudos and it does continue to amaze us how even when we write “what works-what doesn’t”  it seems to fall on deaf ears.

    When did people feel bloggers are easy prey?  Did they not notice how passionate we are around clear communication.

    One big tip would be we spend time writing on the topic, chuckle. 

    Guess we can see blessing in fact they need to hire us all, as the pool of clients is large with these kind of mistakes.

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  • http://twitter.com/cnahil chris nahil

    Amber — Your post highlights an ongoing problem with companies that treat marketing strictly as an appendage of sales, and then also lump corp. comm. under the same crowded and ill-suited umbrella. Short-sighted marketers are not particularly interested in making the type of relationship building investment of time and energy your describe (and that is entirely necessary)  because it doesn’t immediately drive revenue. Building a pool of goodwill among audiences and influencers over time is critical and one of the best defenses when things go pear shaped…which they certainly will at some point.

    Thoughtful and timely post. 

    Thanks,
    Chris Nahil

  • Connie

    Hi Amber! I’m catching up on posts here and thought this was a particularly interesting one. 

    The problem I see with your post is the fact that you are one blogger out of say, ten, and of that group of ten, five are going to delete his post immediately, two are going to go from the peon to the supervisor before getting shut down, and that leaves you and two other bloggers. Of those other two bloggers, one of them is going to weigh the situation and decide they don’t like X CEO and not bother with it. 

    But the last blogger, that’s going to be the one that says “Hey! I could get some extra press and move up the top ten list by covering this guy!” and be the one that rewards this mass-sending communications guy for his work. 

    These guys don’t bother with this stuff because they really want to build a relationship with the blogger, they do it because they know there’s always that  one blogger who will say Sure! and get this CEOs point out, which in their mind, is success. They don’t think about the fact that they’ve burned X number of bridges by sending this mass communique. 

    You need to rally the bloggers behind your point. The corp. comm. folks will change when they can’t get that one blogger to do their work.

  • Unmana

    Ugh, I just got one of these yesterday. Worse, it was sent to a bunch of people, and it was not BCC’d to the list.