Gini Dietrich

Blogging Mistakes Equal Lessons Learned

By: Gini Dietrich | August 6, 2012 | 
111

A couple of weeks ago, I made a blogging mistake.

I didn’t do all of my research before I posted something and it came back to bite me in the butt.

You see, I’ve been traveling. A ton. And I was getting ready to go on stage for the fourth time in as many days, in another country, and I was tired and missing home and trying to manage the office and do my work and manage clients and, and, and.

That week, a handful of people sent me the Chick-fil-A Mashable story about fake Facebook accounts and, because I needed a blog topic, I was in a hurry, and it seemed like an open and closed case, I blogged about it.

But I missed the part that the company denied any part in the fake Facebook accounts and my blog post, while it had an update on it, created a PR lesson for something that didn’t really exist.

But the bigger issue, I found, was not that I missed that part of the news (shame on me), but that I got caught up in the political controversy the company had created…and I wasn’t around that day to read the comments and to be sure everyone stayed within our policy (be nice, be professional, disagree, but do so in a kind and understanding way, no swearing, etc.).

There were 211 comments that day and they were not about the PR lessons or whether or not it was okay to create fake Facebook accounts. They were a debate among readers about political- and religious-charged events.

I know some of you would be grateful to have 211 comments on anything you wrote, but I think it’s important to remember it’s not about the comments, it’s about the vision of the blog. I’m pretty adamant about keeping politics and religion out of Spin Sucks, even in the comments, because I believe everyone has a right to their own opinions and it’s not the vision of this blog to try to change anyone’s mind.

The vision of Spin Sucks is to change the perception of the PR and marketing industries through education, case studies, and best practices.

Clearly I thought I was doing that when I wrote about Chick-fil-A…thinking they had created fake Facebook accounts.

But, because they hadn’t done it, it became a moot point for this blog.

Even though blogging is opinion-based, it’s just as important to make sure the facts are correct, do your research, and apply critical thinking before publishing.

I learned a hard lesson a couple of years ago about attacking an idea, not a person. Now I’ve learned the “do your research and make sure your blog post is fully baked” lesson.

What blogging mistakes have you made? And what lessons can you apply to them?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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111 responses to “Blogging Mistakes Equal Lessons Learned”

  1. KenMueller says:

    And this is why I adore you and greatly appreciate you as a friend and a professional, and greatly appreciate your input and professional opinion and knowledge when I’m writing something and have questions for you. Thank you for everything you do.

  2. sherrilynne says:

    This is one of the reasons why I shy away from anything too controversial when blogging. I’ve made mistakes too, in the past.  On one occasion, I was a little too forthcoming with my opinion about a speaker at a charity event. He gave a truly awful speech.  Lawyers got involved.  People were offended.  It cost me a client.  Oh well eh?  Live and learn. 🙂

    • ginidietrich says:

       @sherrilynne I made a similar mistake (though lawyers didn’t get involved) and I learned the “attack the idea, not the person” lesson. I just had the chance to edit a friend’s work before he published it and that was the advice I gave him – you can make the point without attacking people.

      • sherrilynne says:

         @ginidietrich
         In this case the man in question got up at a charity ball and plugged another charity.  I called him out for his bad manners.  Turns out he was just too dumb to understand what he did was wrong. 

  3. I really try very hard to research extensively whenever I’m publishing an article or post that references actual events or details. When bloggers get sloppy or lazy, it does damage – both to personal and professional reputations. If we bloggers hold ourselves to the same standard of ethics as journalists, we’re all better served. 
     
    Mistakes? Oh, I’ve made a few really doozies over the years. But you already knew that. 🙂

    • ginidietrich says:

       @jasonkonopinski I really thought I had it covered because Mashable and Gizmodo both ran stories about the fake accounts…and saying the company created them. But alas. It turns out I should have gone to the company’s Facebook page before hitting publish.

  4. DonovanGroupInc says:

    This is what a true “A-lister” online or in real life does…makes a mistake, addresses it, learns from it and shares with others so they at least know the perils. Thx BFF.

    • ginidietrich says:

       @DonovanGroupInc I don’t know about the a-lister part, but if a client made a mistake, I’d want them to fess up. Practice what you preach, you know.

      • DonovanGroupInc says:

         @ginidietrich Okay maybe a subjective term – but in my book I define it as someone who practices what they preach and shares what they’ve learned. 

  5. M_Koehler says:

    But you owned up to your error, unlike far too many, which is very commendable. And I’m glad you thought of something to write about today.

  6. geoffliving says:

    What I loved about this post is how you saw it as a distraction to your core mission.  It makes me believe in you even more, that you will change the sector.  As to being busy and effing up, been there. We all do it. I intentionally slow down and act methodically, when I start to see the metaphorical trail of tears behind me. BTW, I had no idea this was going in while we are at SocialMix!!!!

  7. geoffliving says:

    What I loved about this post is how you saw it as a distraction to your core mission.  It makes me believe in you even more, that you will change the sector.  As to being busy and effing up, been there. We all do it. I intentionally slow down and act methodically when I start to see the metaphorical trail of tears behind me. BTW, I had no idea this was going on while we are at SocialMix!!!!

    • ginidietrich says:

       @geoffliving Oh yes… I should have let you see some of the emails I was getting. Wow. We do all make mistakes. Here, I make the biggest ones when I get distracted from the vision. 

  8. dangerdubs says:

    Many people think that old-school journalism is dead, but because sound bloggers base their opinions on facts, they are media sources reporting facts. My biggest mistakes in my career–whether on a blog or in a newspaper–have mostly been related to not getting my facts right. 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @dangerdubs I based what I wrote on some news outlets…and they were wrong. That’s very disappointing to me, but I also learned that I need to do more research and not take news outlets as gospel. 

  9. Mark_Harai says:

    Gini, this is why you’ve become a leading authority in social media… you have the knowledge, understanding and most importantly the courage to shape an industry and the courage to own your mistakes – – that takes integrity.
     
    Classy leader all the way miss…

  10. TheJackB says:

    I blogged about this one time at band camp and created a serious kerfuffle. Sometimes we forget about the boundaries in blogging and that there are real people reading our posts.

  11. I agree with @Mark_Harai …this post definitely shows integrity. Thank you for holding yourself and us to higher standards!
     

  12. allenmireles says:

    This experience was an important one: not only because the comments went off into areas not covered by the blog’s mission, but also because, even though you updated the post as you learned more, it became obvious that many people weren’t reading the update and were responding to the “noise” in cyber space and traditional media. I thought you handled it well by updating as you learned more accurate information.

    • ginidietrich says:

       @allenmireles And, even though I was updating, not all of the updates hit the RSS feed. It was a VERY good lesson. It’s different to update throughout the day if new information comes to light, but something else if you update because you didn’t do all of your research. 😐

  13. EricaAllison says:

    Yay, Gini! Integrity is the best commodity around and you have it in spades. I saw your updates that day on the page, but the bigger lesson you’ve pointed out is to nail it down before we hit publish.
     
    I try to slow it down and take my time on hot topics because I’m very aware of getting caught with my pants down in a very public spot (sounds lewd, doesn’t it?). That’s often why I’m so slow to publish. By the time I’ve researched it to a comfortable level, the polish has worn off the shine of the story. However, I think it’s still a good idea to publish later to adequately cover the bases. 
     
    Good on ya!
     
     

    • ginidietrich says:

       @EricaAllison Yeah…I write fast and furiously, which clearly caught up with me a couple of weeks ago. Usually I have some stuff in the can, but I didn’t that week because I’d used it all the previous two trips. Alas.

  14. kamichat says:

    I am really impressed with you Gini #thatisall

  15. rachelakay says:

    Gini,
     
    This is a great post and the sentiment is appreciated. I remember reading that post and was really disappointed that a lot of people, including people I have a lot of professional respect for, used it as a platform for political and religious debate. Not appropriate for a PR blog and I had a feeling it wasn’t what you  intended.  Also, I’m glad you pointed out where there may have been inaccurate reporting. Fair is fair.
     
    You rock.
    Rachel Kay 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @rachelakay No, it wasn’t at all what I intended and if I hadn’t seen the fake Facebook account articles in Mashable and Gizmodo, I wouldn’t have blogged about it all. Shame on me for not checking the CFA Facebook page before I hit publish. 

  16. bdorman264 says:

    I put my name on my blog; how do you undo that disaster? Even being invisible wasn’t anonymous enough…………sheesh. 
     
    Will the real Bill Dorman please stand up? Even though I don’t use my blog for business, I am so closely tied to Lanier Upshaw, I feel it incumbent upon myself to remain somewhat non-controversial and conservative with my online presence. Between that and my wife reading every post I almost have to be anti-social. Vanilla Bill…………..lovely…………… 
     
    I don’t think I would do well with a pseudonym or alias however; I’m not good at keeping secrets because I talk too much. 
     
    I will take a vote……ok, it’s in, you get a hall pass for your minor indiscretion. There were 17 readers who were going to jump ship but I told them you have ‘earned’ a second chance. So I’m leaving the door open, don’t blow it again because it could get much uglier next time………just sayin’……
     
    Rock on King Kong. 

  17. JayDolan says:

    I made the mistake of blogging once. NEVER AGAIN! 😉

  18. rachaelseda says:

    We all make mistakes right and we’re all human. It’s about how we handle those mistakes that really shows who we are. Thanks for being a great role model Gini!

  19. I don’t have any blogging mistakes to report (other than just posting stuff that no one seems to be interested in) but I’m so glad you wrote this. Ever since that whole issue broke (not the phony account, but the mayors calling out CFA), I’ve felt like I was caught in the middle of a fight between two friends. I’m a huge fan of CFA, for many reasons. And so many of my advertising and marketing pals and coworkers for 30 years, as well as neighbors, are gay. Which is why I felt compelled to to blog about Chick-fil-A. 
     
    There’s a lot of emotion tied up in the politics and values of this episode, and so many others these days. Just because we’re in PR or some other marketing functions doesn’t mean we are immune. What makes it confusing is that our emotions and empathy are vital in some parts of our work. And then you’re expected to slam on the brakes.  It ain’t always easy, but it comes with experience. 
     
    Which is why I would NEVER hire a social media director under 25 years old. 
     
    JUST KIDDING!! Mistakes are rarely as bad as they seem. You just learn and go forward. 

    • Mark_Harai says:

       @barrettrossie LOL!  Too funny… I make that mistake – only I thought I was the only one 😮

    • ginidietrich says:

       @barrettrossie HAHAHAHA on the 25 year old. LOL!!
       
      The problem is I KNOW BETTER. I never talk politics with clients because I know better. I know their stances, but they don’t know mine (they could probably guess) and that’s better because it allows us to do our jobs without getting emotion tied up. Sigh…I know better.

  20. ifdyperez says:

    You brought a smile to my face, Gini. Thanks for being real with us. 🙂

  21. magriebler says:

    I recently managed a blog for an organization that shared your punishing, five-day-a week publishing schedule. (We had three pieces of fresh content daily, one from a user.) I found we too made mistakes when we felt pushed to the wall, just like you did the day you wrote the post that you wish the earth had swallowed up. And after one particularly painful experience, I vowed it would never happen again.
     
    So I created a “green” policy: we recycled and reused. (Blog posts from the archives, not just our endless supply of diet Coke cans.) We didn’t do it often, but if circumstances were extraordinary we ran an old post (and advertised it as such; full transparency). Typically I made the decision the night before, but there were days when I had my managing editor pull the plug on something in the early a.m. because the cold hard light of day revealed it to be at odds with our mission.
     
    There are always good blog posts that don’t get the attention they deserve or that seem relevant again because of something in the news cycle. A little freshening up actually gives you a second chance to say something better. You have such depth of content here on SS that you could easily tag a few pieces for the recycling bin for days like you described above. 
     
    Take care of yourself, Gini. We need you. Your third paragraph isn’t an excuse for what happened; it’s your reality.

    • ginidietrich says:

       @magriebler I love you for this. I usually have stuff in the can that hasn’t been published yet, but even those were used up a couple of weeks ago because I just haven’t had the time. I’m taking a few days off in a couple of weeks and we’re going to recycle some older blog posts. While I update those for vacation, I’m going to take your advice and put some in the can so I am not always pressured when I’m in a rush.
       
      And…my third paragraph is not an excuse. It just caught up with me. 

      • magriebler says:

         @ginidietrich I know. Being human just sucks sometimes. And the pace of our work lives doesn’t help.

  22. jenzings says:

    I can’t recall making any mistakes, but that’s not a positive. It means I’m unwilling to take risks in my posting.
     
    With a hot-button issue like the CFA one, it’s tough to separate out the PR issues from the political ones, because they frankly are tied together in a bunch of ways–crisis comms, the leader being the face and defacto voice of the company, the issue that is covered, etc. There is a reason Public Affairs work is part of PR (and, that was the practice group I was in at FH). Trying to contain the discussion to just the PR aspects isn’t impossible, but it can be tough.
     
    I think your apology is admirable, but also that you are being a bit hard on yourself. I’ll add my apology here as a contributor to the off-topic part of the discussion. It won’t happen again.

    • ginidietrich says:

       @jenzings For the record, I thought you added value to the conversation and you caught me just as I was shutting down my computer so I was able to quickly add an update. Without it, the post would have gone all day with no updates and no action and I think that would have been worse. So thank you.

  23. debdobson62 says:

    Gini, I love you my friend and one of the reasons is your honesty, openness, integrity. I respect and admire you tremendously.
     
    I don’t have any blogging mistakes, but god, life is full of mistakes and I certainly have my share.  I have found I’ve learned so much from making a mistake whether that is in business, social or on the tennis court.  And being able to admit your mistake is something many are not comfortable doing, particularly on such a public forum.
     
    I must say that some of political/religious comments were definitely not meant for a PR blog and I knew your intent was to create a dialogue, but not in that tone. 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @debdobson62 It was kind of crazy. I had to stop reading the comments because I was getting really angry about it. But then I realized I had created it so I couldn’t get that upset. I certainly learned a valuable lesson.

  24. WhoIsDave says:

    Bravo!  Well spoken, Gini

  25. cloudspark says:

    gini – as others jumped into the fray, flaming the issue before verifying or even understanding the context, you’re the *only* one who is brazen and confident enough to admit you made a mistake.
     
    as social media provide an opportunity for discourse, it also allows people to go on irresponsible rants without all the information. i wish facebook had a way to verify accounts. i wish company’s or people had a social and legal way to go after those that misrepresent themselves/their companies (in the u.k. a 17-year-old teen who faked being a reporter was arrested for malicious communications: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/london/diving/story/2012-07-31/Olympic-tweet-threat-diver-arrest/56601380/1). i wish people could keep their politics out of pr chats, but it happens. see the recent solopr chat.
     
    but mostly, i wish we could reign in our personal rants in favor of dialogue or in addressing the issues in the post. most of us are really, really tired of the vitrolic words (see recent survey – it’s 8 in 10 of us: http://www.kofc.org/en/news/releases/detail/poll_civilityinamerica_20120726.html) and we would do well to remember we all need to promote more civil conversations.
     
    brava to you for owning up to the mistake and making us all take a step back and ask if we’ve done the same. jr 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @cloudspark Late last week, Mack Collier posted on Facebook a personal story about religious beliefs and how we would be better off just listening to other people’s views instead of trying to change their minds. I think that’s the biggest issue with the reason we’re tired of the vitrolic words…instead of respecting the fact that we all have different backgrounds and different cultures and different values and different beliefs, we think we have to change their minds so they agree with us. It’s kind of ridiculous.

      • HowieG says:

         @ginidietrich @cloudspark I think the important this is people being steady. It is much easier to accept someone’s beliefs if they aren’t hypocrites or refuse the admit truths. And I think that clouds everyone’s responses to each other.
         
        I also think trying to change people’s minds is important. Can you really accept Rand Paul not thinking you are due equal pay as a woman for equal work? Just like he probably wants to convince you to let Mr D work and you stay at home or at least accept lower pay. I think debate is healthy as long as it is civil.

    • KellyeCrane says:

       @cloudspark 

    • KellyeCrane says:

       @ginidietrich We weren’t talking about Chick-fil-A on the #solopr chat, but since @cloudspark mentioned it, I thought I’d share that I’ve learned a couple things (which relate to this post) over the past week, too: 1. You can’t have a completely non-partisan discussion online about anything related to politics (even if the issue seems PR-only to you); 2. Even if 90-95% of the discussion is non-partisan, people will focus on the parts that are; and 3. If you raise an issue, *everyone* who is offended – on both sides – will blame you. Lessons learned!

      • ginidietrich says:

         @KellyeCrane Uh…yeah. I was shocked at where the conversation went and how fired up it was. If I’d been around, I would have moderated it (against our policy), but I was not and people just kept going at it. On a PR and marketing blog. Amazing.

    • cloudspark says:

      a short follow up: several recent twitter chats have had political intrusions these past few weeks, not just solopr. the good thing on the solopr chat was the moderator (@kellyecrane) quickly and swiftly moved the group past the distraction despite several folks carrying on.

  26. Karl Sprague says:

    Integrity? Conscience? Admitting mistakes? Learned from those mistakes? Open to discuss and learn deeper lessons? That, my dear, is why we love you.  (BTW, I think you just earned some write-in votes for November’s election. Now wouldn’t that be a hoot…) 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @Karl Sprague I think Secret Service would have a field day with me. Addicted to my iPhone and iPad AND trying to keep up with me on the bike? They’d fire me within a week.

  27. Jill Tooley says:

    Well said, Gini! 🙂

  28. ginidietrich says:

    @debdobson DId you have a nice birthday?

  29. ceslsu says:

    @ginidietrich Allow me to edit this …. I’ll get right back to you.

  30. HowieG says:

    How do we know they did not create the fake accounts? Just because they said so? Just curious is all. Also curious did mashable respond like you did? I do not see an update on the post.
     
    Very impressed with you find it important to write a retraction due to lack of proof.

    • HowieG says:

      Ok I see a 1 sentence link saying the company has denied this fake account.
       
      On a positive note it doesn’t seem like the Cathy’s lie. I might not like them. Might even loathe them. But they don’t seem like liars.
       
      Their supporters on the other hand…..

    • HowieG says:

      Ok I see a 1 sentence link saying the company has denied this fake account.
       
      On a positive note it doesn’t seem like the Cathy’s lie. I might not like them. Might even loathe them for being biggots. But they don’t seem like liars.
       

      • ginidietrich says:

         @HowieG I don’t think so, either. My first inclination was they weren’t telling the truth, but all the facts now point to the fact that they’re not liars and, while it may have been an employee creating the accounts, they did so without the company’s knowledge.

  31. It isn’t the mistakes in life that hold our final judgement but it is the willingness and fortitude to address those misgivings and change that will be our ultimate measure. We are a combination of our past, present and future. You possess a heralded past, remarkable present and incomparable presence. Each of the comments on this page bears witness and commits faith that you will continue to have a triumphant future. ‘Nuff said. 

  32. rdopping says:

    I tried this blogging thing once. It worked. Sorta.
     
    Since we all have a fiduciary responsibility to be as truthful as we can be it behooves us to find the facts. Not always as easy as it looks but what is easy is owning up to your mistakes. That in itself is where respect is borne.
     
    Everyone screws up, even me. I know, shocking, but true.

  33. ginidietrich says:

    @RoastedKeyboard Yeah…you were there seeing me in person when that whole thing exploded.

  34. ginidietrich says:

    @PeterSterlacci Thanks Peter!

  35. ginidietrich says:

    @adamtoporek Ha! Or just a dummy admitting a mistake.

  36. ginidietrich says:

    @annelizhannan xoxox

  37. shonali says:

    @gail_nelson Hi Gail! Long time… how are you?

  38. gojohnab says:

    @gail_nelson thanks for the RT:)

  39. I didn’t write a post for 60+ days, totally a mistake. Easy fix, though, as I dusted off the keyboard and churned one out yesterday!

  40. […] their readership.  Unlike, MCLE programs, which charge a lot for individual classes, bloggers can find information easily on the Internet, shared by other bloggers who also want to improve their craft.  But, I still think a formal class […]

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