Gini Dietrich

Ocean Marketing Fired and Crisis Managed

By: Gini Dietrich | January 23, 2012 | 

As most of you know, N-Control recently was the brunt of a social media consultant gone rogue.

The issue was a N-Control customer sent an email asking why his delivery was delayed and, taking the role of customer service, the company’s social media firm, Ocean Marketing, responded, IN WRITING, in ways most of us would never even think to do.

The issue was told over and over again on Reddit, giving N-Control a PR crisis they never could have expected…all from hiring the wrong firm. And it made the rounds on a lot of the blogs the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It has not been a pleasant few weeks for the video game controller company.

But they recently took control of their own destiny, fired Ocean Marketing, and hired Moises Chiullan to help them discuss delivery issues with customers.

And the first thing Chiullan did is take them to Reddit, to address the irate customers who, to this point, have pretty much been ignored.

Chiullan talked to The CMO Site about his strategy and how he helped to turn around three weeks of an absolute mess.

I did some research and thought, ‘These guys are getting destroyed on Reddit, and a lot of these people don’t appear to know who actually owns the company.’ Going to Reddit became a top priority. It was the best way to interact with a large portion of the audience in a direct, transparent manner.

But it presented a special challenge in that Reddit allows pseudonyms and rarely do you know who the person is behind the computer screen on the other end. As well, users can vote comments up or down, which means, unless they really like what they had to say, N-Control conversations could be voted down and the Ocean Marketing debacle will still be found on top.

Keeping all of this in mind, Chiullan launched an Ask Me Anything comment thread for N-Control and let users take the stage.

While the client didn’t answer the questions, Chiullan fielded hundreds of questions and users voted it up so many time, it landed on the home page of Reddit and garnered attention from Venture Beat and other major tech blogs.

We don’t know how or if this affected sales at N-Control, but it is a great step in an effort to gain goodwill for the company.

The only advice I have is they should have had someone from N-Control, not the PR pro, answering questions. It took him more than two days (with little to no sleep) to get through all of the questions, so I understand why they didn’t.

But this is the new world. People don’t want to hear from the middle man; they want to hear from the company with which they do business.

It’s inevitable. You are going to experience a customer service issue that becomes a PR crisis. Take notes from Domino’s, FedEx, and N-Control in the right things to do.

Answer the criticism where it’s the loudest (YouTube for both Domino’s and FedEx and Reddit for N-Control). Be human. Be open and honest. Answer in real-time. And always, always, always say you’re sorry.

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. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • jennwhinnem

    “But this is the new world. People don’t want to hear from the middle man; they want to hear from the company with which they do business.”

    Amen my friend!! And thanks for following up on this story.

    • ginidietrich

      @jennwhinnem There is plenty for PR and marketing professionals to do, including a crisis management plan. But it is no longer our job to serve as the voice of the company.

      • @ginidietrich@jennwhinnem Perhaps it’s a scapegoat mentality? Is PR the best scapegoat so it can be blamed when things go awry? Fascinating as to what you said above, too; they put a new guy in front. Astonishing.

        • ginidietrich

          @Soulati | PR@jennwhinnem I definitely think this is a step in the right direction. A great next step is to answer these things yourself.

  • ginidietrich

    @jennwhinnem Morning!

    • jennwhinnem

      @ginidietrich good morning!

  • John_Trader1

    Transparency. Don’t leave home without it.

    *sigh* maybe one day all companies will embrace this and wake up to the fact that consumers are just too damn smart and influential to be ignored. It’s notable what a little proactive customer service TLC can do for brand reputation.

    Thanks for the post Gini,

    • ginidietrich

      @John_Trader1 I think they’re doing a good job of managing the crisis now. The Reddit fans are very encouraged and are even commenting that it sucks N-Control had to go through this. A really good next step is for them to actually respond themselves.

  • I watched this N-Control story unfold as it happened, was very sad. Worse yet is the company never really answered some questions, and still hides behind PR people….. step out and stand up for yourself I say.

    • ginidietrich

      @keithbloemendaal I think so, too. But this is definitely a step in the right direction. Obviously I’m not there in the meetings, but from what I’ve read, I’m pretty sure they let their PR guy handle everything because he already had a presence on Reddit and because it took him days to get through everything. I don’t know if it’s because I have a controlling personality, but if I had a social media consultant screw me like Ocean Marketing did, there is no way I’d leave my business in the hands of the new pro…no matter how well I thought he or she would do.

      • @ginidietrich On top of that, why hasn’t anyone noticed that the actual owner of N Control (David Kotkin) has the EXACT same name as the magician David Copperfield (who’s real last name is Kotkin)… strange coincidence?

        • ginidietrich

          @keithbloemendaal LOL!! I didn’t know that! What a great piece of trivia.

        • @ginidietrich@keithbloemendaal there is another story here in this story. Whether you outsource your social media or have it in house. The people who run it have the keys to your reputation and possibly even livelihood.

          I give Twitter training for a client for all their interns and employees. While I run the feed most of the time others participate.

          The first section is about behavior. Like no cursing. I also discuss the Chrysler episode.

          My sister acosta discussed on Sat the fear businesses have of not controlling their message. I think there should also be a healthy fear of who runs your social media. Remember the Nestle Palm Oil Incident?

        • ginidietrich

          @HowieSPM@keithbloemendaal I’m with you – I don’t understand why companies outsource the first line of communication with their customers.

        • @ginidietrich@keithbloemendaal@MolliMegasko It is kind of a catch 22. I would prefer teaching clients how to utilize social media for communicating/ customer service, etc as a tool. But I see businesses not wanting to do it themselves. Then I see what others offer. I haven’t had the nerve to ask him (to not be named here) but someone on their site had social media pricing and for $1500/month they would create a FB page and post 2x per week, create a twitter account and tweet 3x per day, create a youtube channel and help them create one home made video per month, and create a blog and write one post per month.

          What i learned from the one client I run their social media and community is that I have to 1] believe in the product 2] be part of the actual brand team 3] be a good personality fit. Otherwise it will not seem genuine and transparent. The real proof of this situation being a good fit is many of their diehard fans also follow me on my own Twitter account now. They even know I tweet from the northern wastes. LOL

          If you hire an actual agency to run your social media they will not be genuine in their communicating because they won’t have buy in for your brand, product, service etc.

  • Thankfully we live in a society that has a very short memory. And if you handle it well, that memory will be even shorter. We can be a very forgiving people. And as you say, always say your sorry. That’s usually the best first step.

    • ginidietrich

      @KenMueller It’s amazing what “I’m sorry” does in diffusing an issue.

      • @ginidietrich@KenMueller well I’m still waiting on your apologies. Harumph!

        • ginidietrich

          @HowieSPM@KenMueller Apologies from whom?? Ken? Me too.

  • Great case study, Gini. Even greater is to be quicker to the draw and manage the crisis sooner before it spins to suckdom.

    P.S. You wrote above “on the homage page of Reddit.” Can you please explain that? Is it a special page for posts that get voted up? Just curious as Reddit has not been one of my frequently frequented sites. Thanks.

    • ginidietrich

      @Soulati | PR Uh…that was a typo. I meant home page.

  • This is crazy stuff and very impressed with how it was handled.

    @ginidietrich you are not supposed to showcase positive PR case studies here 😉

    • ginidietrich

      @HowieSPM Remember we decided to show good case studies every once in a while? Now I have to go over to FB to see your every two week visit!

  • a social media consultant gone rogue Call me crazy but it sounds like you are describing @HowieSPM 😉

    That alien could be a secret agent gone rogue. A mystery man who leaves the big city to go live in the wild while he prepares to launch his assault on the world.

    • @TheJackB wait are you saying I am not the Martha Stewart of Marketing? Calm. Safe. Innocent. Inside Trader. Makes great table arrangements.

  • ryancox

    I like most everyone else, saw this happen right in front of my eyes and was pretty shocked that the “Marketing/PR firm” let the individual go on that long saying what he said. At least from the gist of what I grabbed, there were other people at that firm. To @ginidietrich ‘s point — its pretty amazing how far saying I’m sorry goes. We live in a consume-now society. In another 2-3 months, we won’t even remember N-Control, it’ll be just another link in the Google cache. However — the mess-ups that happen, and are handled WELL, become badges of honor that stick in our memory for a lot longer than the bad. It’s a double-edge sword. The sharper of the two blades though, is that they won’t be remember for handling it well. That could of been something that made them a ‘case study’ for how to do it right, and in turn, kept them relevant longer.

    I know that’s an interesting way to look at messing up, big-time … but I think its a way to turn short-term bad publicity into long-term great publicity.

    • ginidietrich

      @ryancox I don’t know. Do you really think we won’t remember the screw ups? I mean, think about Boners BBQ last week. I’m pretty sure I’m going to remember that guy for a really long time.

  • digett

    @kmueller62 @ginidietrich It’s a good first step, at least. But like you, I don’t want to talk to the PR guy.

    • ginidietrich

      @digett I agree. I’d rather talk to the company. But it’s definitely a step in the right direction

      • digett

        @ginidietrich And it’s definitely better than trying to ignore it.

        • ginidietrich

          @digett MUCH better than ignoring it

  • I think that outsorcing customer service is always wrong, even if this means you can pay someone 1 dollar per hour and save big money. Usually they are not as interested as the owner is about business image. The same goes if you pay someone thousands of dollars.

    Better handle everything that is possible within the business, this clearly means less money but usually pairs with higher quality and commitment. I might be wrong though. 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      @hypnodude I don’t think you’re wrong. At all.

    • kmskala

      @Andrea Hypno It’s not outsourcing that’s the issue. It’s the relationship and goals the outsourced team needs to have. We technically “outsource” our customer service, but our vendor has been with us for a significant amount of time and does business like they’re part of our company. The customer doesn’t see any difference and the feedback process is smooth and effective. So I wouldn’t automatically on the “outsource is bad” wagon.

      • @kmskala Well, this probaly means that you are not like so many companies that outsource just to increase earnings without any interest in providing a good service for clients. I mean if you have selected well your customer service company and they work like they would for their own business that’s great.

        But generalizing a lot I don’t like outsorcing as a way of business, also because as an example outsorcing production is the main reason why economy everywhere has collapsed and quality is most of the times a word of the past.

        I prefer inhouse services as they are more reliable and are easier to control. But I agree that this might not apply to everyone. Imho the customer servce should be under the direct control of the business owner as he or she can immediately put the feedback to work. 🙂

  • as a friend (ish) of mine once said –

    not seen this brew-haha – but at the end of the day – life should be simple…. Give people what they want. I rarely (and using the Nic English Dictionary – we see that defn of rarley = never) buy anything that I don’t want – and poor cust serv means no sale – sorry compadre!!

    Spin Sucks!!

    • ginidietrich

      @Nic_Cartwright I think the Websters Dictionary also has rarely = never.

  • ginidietrich

    @ewittke Morning!

    • ewittke

      @ginidietrich Morning to you! How are you and Mr. Bauer doing?

      • ginidietrich

        @ewittke Well, it’s no longer morning. That should tell you!

  • RockstarsTribe

    RT @bdorman264 Ocean Marketing Fired and Crisis Managed via @ginidietrich

  • Pingback: Why Companies Outsource | Internet Marketing Blog - Free IM Tips and free Resources()

  • ReginaSymphony

    @JephMaystruck Very interesting.

  • jfritsche

    @nuprinz That was SUCH a mess. Almost painful to witness.

    • nuprinz

      @jfritsche Almost? I was reading the original post through my fingers.did you reading the follow up interviews?

      • jfritsche

        @nuprinz Yes. I say “almost” because it was also humorous (not for N-Control, but on the Ocean side).

        • nuprinz

          @jfritsche true. what an example of social media CS gone to the pooper. good recovery tho. I wonder if it helps or hinders my industry.

        • jfritsche

          @nuprinz It’ll be interesting to see…

        • mattstratton

          @nuprinz Tried to figure out what you and @jfritsche are talking about, but can’t find the whole thread…

        • jfritsche

          @mattstratton @nuprinz For your viewing pleasure:

    • trager

      @jfritsche, painful? That was a hilarious train wreck of ego over brains. @nuprinz

      • jfritsche

        @trager @nuprinz …or lack of brains.

        • nuprinz

          @jfritsche @trager …and full of inflated ego.