We’ve all been there, either as an audience member, a participant, or as the content creator – that moment when you realize all the carefully laid plans, targeted messaging, and well-constructed content is not going exactly to plan. Some common hiccups include:
- Presentations sidelined by technical difficulties
- Guest speakers or panel participants who aren’t reflecting well on your brand
- News releases that don’t get the play we want, or worse, garner a negative article
- Social media that’s ill-timed or inflammatory
- Blogs or articles that incite negative responses
In all these cases, we marketers feel compelled to do something to mitigate the damage and regain our previous carefully established positive public image. However, the right response on the wrong occasion can be disastrous. Humor in the face of a social media post that goes live during a tragic event will not help you to dig out of your proverbial hole. But humor does have its place in other circumstances.
During a recent episode of Found Friday, Erin O’Brien, COO GinzaMetrics and I talked about some of our experiences both as the content creators and as audience members when things don’t go as planned. We attempt to answer the question, “What do I do now?”
Waiting For the Other Content Shoe to Drop
When you’re in the audience and you realize a presentation or discussion isn’t going exactly as planned, what are you hoping for? More importantly, what are you dreading? If you’re like some, you kinda like when there’s an interruption to the natural flow because that’s when things get interesting. But interesting can quickly transform into personal discomfort as you watch things spiral downward right in front of you.
As a presenter, or someone who has attended a number of presentations, you probably realize that things rarely go exactly as planned. Presenters who can handle the unexpected with humor and good grace will quickly ease the tension in the room and let the audience know they are comfortable enough to take the small glitches in stride.
“There’s a big difference between minor technical issues and major technical issues. There’s also a pretty big difference between someone going slightly off the rails and someone saying really inflammatory remarks. Pretty much all these things happen at every conference I’ve ever been to, to some degree or another. My trip to CM world was really no exception to that,” states Erin.
Of course, anger is always a bad reaction and reflects poorly on the presenter and rarely succeeds as a rallying cry against the offending interruption. Being in the moment and using humor to minimize the immediate damage is one level of reaction, but what about after the fact? There are a couple schools of thought on the measured, considered reaction. Some people recommend ignoring the incident and waiting for it to pass. Other people feel it’s necessary to create a positive spin on the negative moment by addressing it either directly or indirectly in future communications.
In general, ignoring glitches and minor content mistakes is probably the best way to move past it and get on with the next, better thing. When you emphasize what didn’t go to plan, or what you did wrong, you may be drawing people’s attention to something they didn’t notice or experience for themselves. Instead, focus on making the rest of the event, the rest of the content, the rest of whatever is happening the positive experience that people will remember.
If you do feel the need to put a positive spin on a negative experience or a negative piece of content, do so to put the incident in context. Own the story yourself and craft the message to reflect positively on you and your brand. Instead of emphasizing the problem, focus on something positive, create a more memorable moment, and craft your own positive messaging on the same subject.
When Technology Sabotages Your Content
Nothing like some frustrating and time consuming technical glitches to rattle a presenter and derail the planned content. Aside from using humor, there are a few things presenters can do, according to Erin, to prepare for and recover from the technical errors that plague all presenters at one time or another.
- Know your presentation inside and out – This will help you have a conversation that’s not really reliant on notes or slides. You’ll at least have the content in your head so you can speak to it in an intelligent way.
- Have a few ice breakers in mind – Prepare anecdotal notes or comments to share with your audience – Just standing nervously and awkwardly isn’t a good, lasting memory and it doesn’t help you promote yourself as a seasoned professional. This is where having a sense of humor comes in handy.
- Have back-ups of everything in multiple formats – Back-up your presentation in PDF, Powerpoint, and/or Keynote formats. Save your presentation to the cloud, on a portable drive, and on your own computer.
- Finally, print out a hard copy and bring it with you. – When all technology fails, a piece of paper can at least help you walk through your talking points.
There will always going to be times when content doesn’t go your way. You should assume before you present that something won’t go as planned and be ready to roll with it.
When Social Media Becomes Anti-Social
We’ve all heard those horror stories of the auto-scheduled tweets that just happen to go live in the middle of some tragedy. It makes the brand look selfish and uncaring. There are a million things you can do to try to avoid the problem but nothing is ever completely effective. No matter how many safe guards you have in place, it’s best to have a plan to react and recover from social media snafus and negativity.
“When we’re talking about recovery from a message or content that has been published, this is a place where you do need to acknowledge the mess up. Humility is your best friend and sincerity is your other best friend. Trying to make light of it is a really bad idea. This is one of the situations where additional humor may not be your fallback,” notes Erin.
Once you’ve appropriately apologized, it’s time to move on and give people time to get over the incident. Dwelling on the matter or continuing to make amends only cements the problem in people’s minds. Mistakes happen. React quickly and appropriately and then start creating new messages and content that better reflect the image you want to portray.
Yelp is a good example of a public forum that can go bad for B2C brands, but B2B companies aren’t immune to negative social comments, either. We’ve all heard the stories of the business owner who has become defensive and posted negative comments about reviewers, even to the point of refusing service to patrons that post unfavorable comments.
“Going on and disagreeing with the person and attacking them by saying they’re lying or they have terrible taste is a horrible plan. Even if it’s true, the people reading the post don’t know that it’s true. It may, in fact, incite people who have been there and didn’t write a review to write a negative review to defend that person and slam you, too. You have to be really careful,” advises Erin.
If you’re going to respond to negative comments publicly, respond back with the nicest of intentions. Apologize for the negative experience and offer to fix it. Offer a discount or complimentary service or product. The one caveat to this advice is in the case of libelous and slanderous statements. In those cases, get your legal team involved.
Whether you’re in the B2C or B2B space, take the conversation off-line whenever possible. Offer to talk to the person or provide an email address or some other way for them to contact you that isn’t quite so public. If you’re unable to mitigate the problem, or if the person continues to post without responding to your offers to resolve the issue, the block button is there as a last resort.
Not All Press is Good Press
Contrary to the belief that all press is good press, negative press can leave a lasting impression. Even press that is not bad, but simply less than flattering, can have unexpected results. These things happen to everyone, including me.
Recently, I had a conversation with a journalist about a new feature announcement and he wanted more details. What I didn’t know was that he was gathering counter opinions and research for an article that discussed the necessity of certain types of products and options for our audience. Since we developed the product in response to potential customer requests, we had market intelligence that reflected a need for the product. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that this journalist was gathering opinions about the need for the product. Therefore, none of my responses reflected our market research or purpose for developing the product. The resulting article was less then flattering and although our product was not disparaged in any way, we were used as an example.
Our response was to generate content that talked more in depth about the need for products like the one we had introduced and some more in-depth discussion about possible reasons and situations where our product could benefit marketers. We won’t mention the name of the journalist or the article publicly, but we made sure we got our story out and positioned our product in a positive light.
“Our expectation was that we would be given a chance to respond if the journalist had any questions beyond the scope of our initial release of information. The lesson here is that everything is content and once it leaves our hands, anything can happen to it,” notes Erin.
Create and Distribute Content Responsibly
One of the important things to remember is while something may be all that anyone is talking about right now, this very instance, it’s only what they’re talking about right now and like all topics, won’t be the thing they’re always talking about. Since you can’t do anything about what’s happening right now, move on from the moment by creating a more memorable, positive moment and create a lasting memory.
As long as things are published in a public forum, things are going to happen that we don’t anticipate and there will be some negative reaction to you or your brand at sometime. To lessen the negative impact, there are a few things we can do as marketers to get the best possible outcome from the content we create and distribute.
- Create content conscientiously and try to think through all the ways that someone might use it.
- Distribute content and keep an eye on it after you distribute it. Take ownership for what’s live even if it has been live for a year or two. Monitor your new content as well as you evergreen content.
- When content doesn’t go according to plan, take ownership. Don’t overreact. Attempt to take individual negative reactions offline.
- Be positive in your own communications. Put out your messages in a positive way, and don’t get stuck in the downward spiral of either placing blame or apologizing too profusely.
If you’ve experienced a time when your own content went sideways or you witnessed someone else in a situation that was less than positive, we’d love to hear about the challenges you and others faced and how the problem was solved. I’m happy to continue this conversation at: firstname.lastname@example.org.