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Gini Dietrich

Blogging Mistakes Equal Lessons Learned

By: Gini Dietrich | August 6, 2012 | 
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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, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

106 comments
TonyBennett
TonyBennett

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!

gojohnab
gojohnab

@gail_nelson thanks for the RT:)

shonali
shonali

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

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

rdopping
rdopping

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.

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

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. 

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

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.

ceslsu
ceslsu

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@debdobson DId you have a nice birthday?

Karl Sprague
Karl Sprague

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...) 

cloudspark
cloudspark

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 

DavidRM
DavidRM

Bravo!  Well spoken, Gini

debdobson62
debdobson62

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. 

jenzings
jenzings

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.

magriebler
magriebler

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.

gail_nelson
gail_nelson

@shonali I'm doing well! Enjoying the summer, working and playing hard. How are you doing?

adamtoporek
adamtoporek

@ginidietrich Don't you know you're supposed to delegate mistakes... :)

RoastedKeyboard
RoastedKeyboard

@ginidietrich no no I meant I love your post not what happened :/

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

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
ginidietrich

@ceslsu You're editing my blog posts now?

debdobson
debdobson

@ginidietrich I did have a nice birthday my friend. I'm tanned (not quite at Gini's tan level) & relaxed. Thank you for the bday shoutout.

cloudspark
cloudspark

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.

KellyeCrane
KellyeCrane

 @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
ginidietrich moderator

 @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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @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. 

shonali
shonali

@gail_nelson Good, thank you! Any chance of seeing you in DC?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@adamtoporek Dang! I keep doing it all wrong!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @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.

ceslsu
ceslsu

@ginidietrich Inside joke ... Remember how I used to edit some of your staff's writing?

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

 @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.

magriebler
magriebler

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

shonali
shonali

@gail_nelson And I need my Gail fix!

gail_nelson
gail_nelson

@shonali Ditto. Would love a Shonali fix!

shonali
shonali

@gail_nelson No, not right now... but if something comes up, you'll be the first to know! It's been way too long since I've seen you.

gail_nelson
gail_nelson

@shonali I don't have plans to go to DC anytime soon. Is a trip to NY on your docket?

ceslsu
ceslsu

@ginidietrich Even you need checks and balances and I'm just the person to provide them for you!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@ceslsu Oh I remember. That's why I wondered if you were extending to me now.

debdobson
debdobson

@ginidietrich Yep, quite nice. DM check my friend.

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