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Guest

Brand Bullying: A Tale of Ragu and Social Media

By: Guest | October 4, 2011 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Michael Schechter.

Last week, C.C. Chapman blogged about the latest example of poor social media marketing – Ragu Hates Dads.

The brand had reached out to him on Twitter with a campaign that admittedly is in pretty poor taste, and C.C. took to his blog to respond.

It wasn’t the fact that he felt the need to call out their failure that caught my attention (and I certainly don’t argue that it was a failure), it was how he went about it that stood out.

The tone of his first post was excessive and I think we can all agree that going out and buying FURagu.com may be going overboard (no, seriously, he bought FURagu.com and redirected it to his post.). Ragu tried something and they failed. Hopefully they learn from the experience but do we really need to make them pay?

When we start by ripping a brand a new one, we aren’t encouraging them to learn. We are encouraging them to get the hell out of this space. I know this is their nightmare scenario. It is the reason they do not want to embrace social media. They live in terror of any negative review, nonetheless a scathing one from a top-tier influencer.

I have to imagine that the big brands feel the same way, especially when you consider they are a much juicier target.

We live in a time where the power is clearly shifting from brands to the consumer, but let’s not get carried away. All of these so called internet “kerfuffles” are great blog fodder and are perfect for the next keynote speech, but they rarely affect the long-term bottom line of a business (anyone flying Southwest Airlines less? Avoiding Nestle? Wearing less Kenneth Cole? Refusing Motrin? Didn’t think so…). This latest “tempest in a teacup” feels like an attempt to turn Ragu Dads into Motrin Moms rather than an effort to help a brand to do a better job with their marketing.

The real story here is that while there is the potential for a better balanced relationship between buyer and seller, things are still in flux. Brands are yet to fully understand the power of platforms that their average customers now possess (and by average consumer I really mean a person with a massive following and a high Klout score) and influencers can occasionally go a bit too far in their criticism…

To my fellow brands

Be prepared. At some point, someone is going to set their sights on you. At some point you are going to screw up. At some point you will deserve it. I feel your pain, but you are going to have to take smarter chances and frankly, you are going to have to become better companies.

Take the time to test your ideas offline before you go live. In the case of Ragu, if you want to connect with dads, talk to as many as you can before you attempt outreach (and while you’re at it, don’t use Twitter spam to do your outreach). By having these conversations in private, you’ll avoid heading in a wrong direction and won’t make your missteps in public.

On the days that you do try something new, be present and stay on top of things. If someone is being abusive, you don’t necessarily have to engage them in public (just make sure to connect privately as Ragu did). You don’t want to underestimate the power of an influencer and if you hope to leverage their platform, you better take the time to show them some respect.

To influencers

I have to ask, is this really how you want to use your power? Don’t lose perspective and don’t become a bully. Brands genuinely WANT to work with you, but this is going to be a bumpy road for most of them. They’ve done things a certain way for a long time and now the ground has moved underneath their feet. They have to change, but the learning curve is steep, so please try and be cautious with your criticism.

Take the time to ensure the tact you take is in proportion to the actual offense. Your blog can, and will, cost people their clients and possibly even their jobs. If you really want to help, worry less about looking for failures for your next keynote speech or the next chapter in your book (it makes some of us question your motives…).

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to call out brands who slip up, that you shouldn’t use the same platform that the brands themselves hope to leverage when they fall short. I’m just asking if this is the best way to go about it if we have any hope of encouraging businesses to participate.

I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not interested in joining a conversation that starts off by telling me how stupid I am and I can understand why Ragu wasn’t either.

So, how do we play nice in this brave new world? How can brands be smarter in their outreach and how far should influencers go when they feel that they’ve been wronged?

Michael Schechter is the Digital Marketing Director for Honora Pearls, a company specializing in freshwater pearl jewelry. He writes about all things digital over at his blog.

205 comments
missmims1
missmims1

Interesting, I will consider this post the next time I publicly complain about a company or service online. It never occurred to me that at a certain point, the person who's complaining about a company or ad campaign can start to come off worse than the company they are complaining about.

SusanReed
SusanReed

If you have a bully problem, print a sign that says:

WE EXPOSE BULLIES HERE:>>> http://www.exposethebully.net/

and post it all over your school, workplace or blog.

- Please re-post this helpful information on other blogs -

TheJackB
TheJackB

What I really want to know is why Prego and our Newmans hasn't stepped up. This is the perfect opportunity for them to reach out to fathers and fill the gap.

C'mon brands, more then a few of us are willing to serve as the tomato sauce king... ;)

MSchechter
MSchechter

@ginidietrich It's the post that never ends, it just goes on and on my friend. Some people started commenting, not knowing what it was...

Adam Senour
Adam Senour

I'm a father. I have a daughter. I cook (mostly grill because my wife and I both prefer barbecue), I clean, and I feed and change and take care of my daughter.

The commercial never bothered me a bit. It's no worse than the stupid back-and-forth radio yammering between two people talking about a product or service in a way that could never possibly occur in the real world.

I'd be more pissed about the Twitspamming than the commercial itself. As far as that goes, I think the guy overreacted.

Dana_Willhoit
Dana_Willhoit

Amen! And I will consider that, next time I publicly complain about a company or service. At a certain point, the person who's huffing and puffing and stomping their feet about a company or ad campaign can start to come off worse than the company they are complaining about.

I have actually gone on Twitter several times to comment about issues I was having with a company - but I always try to couch it in a "This is an issue I'm having with such and such service" tone, rather than "This company sucks!" approach.

And when the company responded and fixed the issue - I immediately tweeted about the fact that they did so.

EmmaofCEM
EmmaofCEM

On a personal level, I still think of myself as relatively insignificant, so it's almost jarring to read a post like this and realize that, as a brand utilizing social media, you actually wield more power than you are aware of. And of course, with great power comes great responsibility. Same is true of social media as is any other powerful forum.

Exercise your influence wisely, brands. Power can shift and burning bridges always works both ways, as many of us are wont to forget.

kaitlinmaud
kaitlinmaud

I think that this is also a valuable read for individuals and their personal brands.

"Be prepared. At some point, someone is going to set their sights on you. At some point you are going to screw up. At some point you will deserve it. I feel your pain, but you are going to have to take smarter chances and frankly, you are going to have to become better PEOPLE."Eventually someone isn't going to like something you have to say. They're going to crucify you. But, usually, it will pass. You will learn.

MackCollier
MackCollier

In general, I get your point about not roasting brands for their 1st forays into Social Media. However the Ragu videos WERE purposely condescending to dads, and basically said they can't cook any better than children. So C.C., as a dad that DOES cook, took it personally. That's where I think this is a slightly different scenario than big name brand using social media and big name blogger jumping on them to drive hits to their site. I think C.C. vented for about 12 hours, then moved on, but I honestly didn't follow it that closely. And maybe I've missed a meeting, but I don't think C.C. has a reputation for slamming brands that use Social media, in fact he's got a rep as one of the more level-headed bloggers in this regard.

But most social media backlashes happen because of how the brand responds to the initial bruhaha. Did Ragu ever respond? I think they did, but it was like 15 hours later. This was a great opportunity for Ragu to reach out to C.C. and other social media-savvy dads and have them submit videos, or blog posts where they share their favorite recipes. A great way to turn a negative into a positive, but Ragu did what most big brands do when faced with social media backlash: They ignored it for too long, then had a less than ideal response when they did respond.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@TheJackB It's an interesting question, wonder if it is 1) not savvy enough to see the opportunity or 2) don't want to capitalize on a mess. If they eventually do, we know it is 2. If they don't, 1 :)

MackCollier
MackCollier

@TheJackB Bingo. I had the same thought the night this 'erupted'. Perfect chance for a competitor to make it clear that they love cooking dads as well as cooking moms.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Adam Senour Have you tried grilling pizza? I get dough from Whole Foods, let everyone put their own toppings on, and then grill it. So. Good.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@Dana_Willhoit We all vent sometimes. I'm as guilty of it as anyone. It's when we try to turn it into something bigger that it pays to really look at what we are doing here...

MSchechter
MSchechter

@EmmaofCEM Same is true on the other end. There power is shifting and both sides need to be responsible.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@kaitlinmaud And that learning doesn't always happen instantly. Sometimes you need more than a week to reflect on things and really let what happened sink in.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@MackCollier He still keeps bringing it up and has made it clear he plans to bring it up in several keynotes going forward. That seems like more than a vent session. I've always thought him level headed and have always loved hearing him speak. Maybe I just truly don't understand his passion for brands and dads, but I still don't think it excuses the tact.

As for why they happen, I disagree. It takes two here. It's when someone lashes and a brand makes mistakes. Both parties acted poorly and continue to act poorly. But again, that's just one mans opinion.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@ginidietrich and now they'll keep on commenting forever just because this is the post that never ends...

MackCollier
MackCollier

@Danny Brown@MSchechter When you've offended your customers via social media tools and they are looking to you to answer them via those same tools, yes, 15 hours is way too long to respond. 15 mins should be plenty of time for a big brand that SHOULD be monitoring social media.

If it takes 15 hours to respond, you might want to consider that customer service and response isn't a 9-5 job, it's a 24-7 job.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@Danny Brown@MackCollier That may actually be worse than the spamming, the fact that they seemed to spam them as they were walking out the door... All of this seemed to take place after hours.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@MSchechter Not debating like politicians:) Like the Debate Club.

Did you see CC's response on my blog?

MSchechter
MSchechter

@jeffespo It's still not ideal, but you're probably correct. It wouldn't matter much.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@AmyMccTobin Didn't know we were debating :)

I think that is well summed up. As for the reaction time, I don't think it's a math problem. Depends on the situation, the company, the tact and 100 other things.

As for where the response goes... I know we disagree here, but I just don't see what they gain from walking up to a lynch mob.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@AmyMccTobin@MSchechter@CarlThress I think response time would depend on a lot of factors.

- How serious is the faux pas?

- Is it a crisis or simply bloggers / social users over-reacting?

- Is anyone's health at risk?

- Does legal need to prep a response to stop further action?

- Is there any libel(or potential of) involved?

So many variables to offer a simple answer. Could be within an hour, could be within a day. Ideally, you can respond quickly and say, "Sorry you feel that way, we'll look at our process" and ward off any possible comebacks. But again, every company has its process, and may be governed by external forces and regulations (Ragu is owned by Unilever, who have a ton of pharma laws to abide by).

If the brand feels responding at the source is viable, without getting ambushed by an angry blogger and mob mentality readers (not using CC s example here, but in general), then I'd say yes. If you're just going there to get drowned out and beat down, no.

Publish elsewhere, advise why you're not replying to source (which I think Ragu were trying to do on Mediapost), and reference original complaint. Not much more you can do.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@MSchechter@CarlThress@Danny Brown Ok, so we're at some sort of a final agreement:

1. A brand standing up for itself is good, a brand doing it the way Unilever did on Media Post - not so good.

2. Apologizing for the offense good, pointing out what the attacker did, bad.

3. CC's being offended as a dad and blogger, understandable. CC, who talks about Brands for a living buying FURagu.com and stating that he will incorporate Ragu's mistake into future presentations: and overreaction.

The last questions:

What is a decent response time for a Social Media PR faux pas?

Should the brand respond at the source, even if the source does not look willing to play fair.

jeffespo
jeffespo

@MSchechter Learning from mistakes is how we all get better. I think it is just another bump in the road and something that won't leave a permanent mark.

I am still on the side of wondering if even all the backlash from this will do anything to them. If the campaign hit all the KPIs, does it matter that they pissed off a group of guys? I would think not...

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@CarlThress@MSchechter Hi Carl,

I agree they probably could have handled the way they included the critics better, but I can also see why they felt they needed to, mate.

Mike - in general. There are so many examples of brands being held to ransom just because we have a voice; it's nice to see them stand up and not be bullied.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@CarlThress@Danny Brown

Danny, out of curiosity, do you think this particular example of a brand standing up for itself to be a good one? or are you saying it from more of a general standpoint?

CarlThress
CarlThress

@Danny Brown@AmyMccTobin@MSchechter Fair point, and I can see the value in defending yourself and your brand, but the statement from Unilever came off (at least to me) as more defensive than defending, and really did nothing to diffuse the situation. They would probably have been better served to leave out the section where they take their critics to task. The rest of the piece, where they admit they screwed up, explain the campaign in greater detail and talk about their community-building efforts on Facebook, could have provided a good opportunity to highlight some of the positives, while avoiding the verbal fisticuffs of "yeah, but they're wrong, too." However, your point about CC being more than "just a blogger" is well-taken. And Michael's advice to influencers (in the post itself) addresses that well.

dough
dough

@CarlThress@AmyMccTobin@Danny Brown@MSchechter I would argue that it is the responsibility of the audience to examine what they are consuming-- it's not on the company, makreter or content publisher to assume that, tho- so fair on both sides.

When it comes to a social media professional taking a kneejerk reaction, I think it show your chops in a very public way to do just that-- find the context.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Danny Brown@MackCollier@AmyMccTobin@MSchechter I think I just spent my entire daily allotted blog reading hour on my own blog!

If I may: Remember a couple of years ago when Domino's employees made a video of themselves doing inappropriate things with pizzas and sandwiches...and then posting it to YouTube? Do you remember how long it took the company to respond?

It was a week. Two years ago it took them a week to respond. Today that would be an eternity and it was too long then. I don't know what is the right time for response, but I do agree brands have to respond.

I said this on Facebook, and I'll repeat it here...we advise our clients to always (as soon as humanly possible) respond publicly to negative criticism. Then to take it offline. If the person continues bullying, even after those two responses, the issue is not with the brand, but with the bully.

There are some very valuable lessons in this and in Domino's and Motrin and Kenneth Cole and more. That's the purpose of the blog post: To provide the lessons to other brands. Someday we'll all laugh that any of us were paid to teach companies how to respond on the social networks.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@MackCollier And I guess that's where we don't fully agree. I believe that he was personally offended, but I also believe that he is savvy enough to understand the fire he was starting.

As for personally offended, I hear you, but there were several better ways he could have handed his displeasure. If the brand felt he went too far, they have the right to chose not to reengage.

Ragu screwed up and in my opinion (obviously you disagree) CC went WAY overboard. That doesn't make him a Troll, it doesn't make him a bad person, it makes him a human with emotions like the rest of us. That said, while I don't think Ragu should have said it, there were two parties at play here, neither that acted in the best way that they possibly could.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@MackCollier@jeffespo@MSchechter@dough PS - Mack, the "troll" part was from a tweet CC himself put out. And fanboys? Hell yeah, there are plenty of these in social media especially - though I don't recall using the term to describe CC himself, but more the way followers jump on the bandwagon to praise those they follow, without necessarily reading through all points by all parties.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@MackCollier@jeffespo@MSchechter@dough Everyone's expectations of timely are different, Mack, as pointed out so well bu Doug in this post:

http://vocecommunications.com/blog/2011/10/social-media-and-response-times-planning-and-expectations/

As far as "understanding bloggers" and "ignorant", that works both ways, no? I'm fully aware of CC's background and his "passion for dads" - but he doesn't speak for all dads, which many would have you believe.

The beauty of "ignorance" is that it can let you take a measured view, as opposed to a herd one. If that's ignorance, I'll continue to be an ignorant SOB.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@MackCollier Is there no world where they may be entitled to feel that CC's reaction and the fever pitch of the audience was excessive and decide to cut bait rather than continue fishing? They certainly didn't help themselves with the apology, but I get why they didn't walk up to the lynch mob either.

Yes they brought it on themselves, yes they clearly wanted CC's attention. But why continue to run into a fist that is held out in front of you?

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@MackCollier@Danny Brown@CarlThress@MSchechter

Not to toot my own horn, but I believe that was part of my 2nd or 3rd statement. Offending someone as a DAD, MOM, or anything laden with deep emotional value is a BIG,HUGE Taboo.

Yes, I would say that CC reacted as a DAD (I've never met him). I also get Michael's point that he overreacted, or at least reacted in a way that made it really unfriendly waters for Ragu to tread into.

If it was my call, I would have apologized RIGHT THERE and in public for all the world to see, ON CC's blog.

MackCollier
MackCollier

@Danny Brown@CarlThress@AmyMccTobin@MSchechter The one thing that's missing from all this discussion of criticizing C.C.'s response is an actual attempt to understand WHY he responded in the way he did. He lashed out because he was PERSONALLY offended as a dad. That is probably the most salient point here, when someone is personally offended, they tend to lash out. I barely know C.C., but from the little time I have spent with him the LAST terms in the world I would use to characterize him is as a 'troll' or 'fanboy'. In fact, he's one of the most level-headed people I've ever met in this space.

Danny no offense, but you are saying that some here need to better understand Ragu, I think you also need to better understand the bloggers you are criticizing. Not saying that what C.C. or any other blogger did is above reproach, but I see some labels being carelessly tossed around in the comments that are incorrect, and a bit ignorant.

MackCollier
MackCollier

@Danny Brown@jeffespo@MSchechter@dough So Danny you're saying Ragu thought enough of C.C.'s value as an influencer to hawk their product to him, but didn't think enough of him as an influencer to actually address his criticism in a timely manner?

I think that might be the most accurate and telling indictment of why this was such a failure for Ragu. Again, it's all about understanding expectations of the people you are trying to reach.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@CarlThress@AmyMccTobin@MSchechter Hi Carl,

Disagree away, mate! :)

Here's the thing - CC isn't "just a blogger". He speaks about brands at events; he works with them on programs; he's written a book on content strategy; and as Amy covers in her post, some see him as a leader.

If you're someone with that reach, and you're about to character assassinate a brand because they never reached out to you in a certain way, and you're going to use a single example over a campaign, then yes, you deserve to be questioned back.

I agree - offer your take in a tweet, blog post, whatever. But if you're going to take a brand to task and use them as an example of bad practices in future presentations, at least make sure you have the whole story and are offering it, as opposed to just the condensed version that makes your attack look more palatable.

CarlThress
CarlThress

@AmyMccTobin @Danny Brown @MSchechter It's rare that I disagree with Danny Brown, so I hope I don't get banned for it (kidding... not that I hope I get banned.... never mind), but the Ragu response came off as arrogant and defensive to me. It was pure spin, and we all know how this blog feels about that. "We're sorry, but..." 

The thing that got me most was taking bloggers like Mr. Chapman to task for basing their response solely on the ONLY attempt at engagement Ragu ever made with them (the spammy tweets and lousy video). As if it's the customer's responsibility to visit other social channels (Facebook) and watch all the videos in the series before they're allowed to comment on the tweet and its contents. No, if someone sends me a spammy tweet with a link to content I find offensive, why should I subject myself to even more content from the offender before I'm allowed to call them on it? Marketing 101: Nobody cares about you and your company. Your job is to make them care.

If Mr. Chapman had reacted positively to that tweet, do you think they would have said, "Whoa. Hold up. Don't write a glowing review of Ragu based on just that one video and tweet." No, they would have patted themselves on the back for a well-executed campaign.

Yes, the reaction was over the top, but don't fan the flames by pseudo-apologizing and then blaming the person you wronged for getting upset about it.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@Danny Brown@MSchechter

First of all know that I am, at heart, a farmgirl and I DO own a pitchfork, so handle me gently. :)

That's my POINT - WHY blame anyone?? I think Michael's answer somewhere in this long thread was the right one:

Apologize for unintentionally offending any one and move on.

Sometimes 'standing up for yourself' comes across as disconnected arrogance.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@jeffespo Nicely put. There's no doubt it shouldn't have taken this long, but this is probably the first time they needed immediate response. Something tells me (even despite the Mediapost post) that they will learn a thing or two for the next time around... It will be interesting to see how/if they evolve.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@jeffespo@MSchechter@dough@MackCollier Perfect example, Jeff. We set so many unrealistic expectations without knowing the internal processes.

Who said Ragu weren't aware of the situation, and were deeming whether it was a storm in a teacup or something more? Perhaps they were actually looking for user responses, as opposed to folks who were clearly angry opponents and non-users of their product.

Response101 - choose your battles and allocate the energy where it can help redeem your faux pas (if, indeed, you made one). Mixing it up with trolls and fanboys rarely does this for you.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@MSchechter@AmyMccTobin Agree and disagree, mate. If you continuously allow yourselves to be beat up (rightly or wrongly, especially wrongly), you'l lose the confidence of your employees, stakeholders, customers and more.

Do that,and you won't have a company left to defend.

jeffespo
jeffespo

@MSchechter@dough@MackCollier@Danny Brown Cont...

At Vistaprint we have a small team managing English-speaking social media. The hours posted came back in 2009 when we had customers in the UK noting that we were not responding to them in a timely fashion. So we decided to proactively put it out there as to when we would be responding. We also sign in and out publicly to the community.

Our standard response time is generally within 60 minutes, unless we are off for the night or over a weekend/holiday. That is not to say that we do not look at the page and communicate with urgent issues while "off the clock."

In the case of Ragu, the response might have taken 15 hours as the person giving the response was unavailable or traveling. A response that could have stopped some of the aggravation could have been a Tweet, email or other form of communication saying X person is going to reach out to you to clarify this with you as it was their campaign and pointing out that the response would come in X hours given a situation or travel schedule. It puts a human touch on things.

Fact of the matter is that we all make mistakes and companies are made up of individuals. So there needs to be a give and take on both ends.

jeffespo
jeffespo

Thanks for adding us as an example on setting expectations @dough :) @MackCollier @Danny Brown @MSchechter

While social media is a great outlet for companies to interact with their customers, at the end of the day they cannot devote 24-7 coverage and responses because as a society we are not close to being fully wired into social media as a communications medium.

We all might like to think of ourselves as special - and we are except @Danny Brown - to companies we are just a sliver of the pie. Leaving complaints sit on a social site might be a calculated risk - for example if their core audience is moms who rely on TV ads or product placements on Rachel Ray, how does this social trip up influence their bottom line? After all black eyes do heal.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@Danny Brown@AmyMccTobin I agree with you and I'm sure it felt good to call out someone you felt you were wronged by. That said, they did it in a way that was only going to perpetuate things rather than end them. In any situation (and BOY am I about to go into hypocrisy land right now) were better off simply owning our own part, improving and moving on.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@MSchechter@AmyMccTobin Should they have "blamed" anyone but themselves in the letter? Maybe, maybe not. But I actually respect them more that they took a stand, because they were right - the reaction was over-the-top.

We see so many brands get hijacked by names in social media, and they lie back and take it because they're afraid that person's fanboys and groupies will come rushing with pitched forks (and no, Amy, not calling you either of these!) :)

So fair play to the company for standing up for themselves. More should.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@AmyMccTobin Agree 100%. Had they simply said, "we messed up, we never meant to offend and we will learn from here, but we are moving on" they would have been far better served. Let schmucks like watch the watchmen :)

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@MSchechter I guess you are right and the problem is that they didn't come to a definitive answer. I think their response was more finger pointing and arrogance.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@AmyMccTobin Isn't part of learning to understand it having to play the game? I don't think they are dictating time, I just think they needed it. Companies like Apple do this all the time, they take their time, they let the fire burn, they come to a definitive answer and they answer. I'm not coming close to saying that is what happened here, I'm simply suggesting that there isn't a textbook "right".

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@Danny Brown@MSchechter@MackCollier Just because the company CAN dictate response time doens't meant they're right. Perhaps Mack is not spot on with the 15 minutes, but I think he's right - 15 HOURS can let an ember turn into a Forest Fire.

And if you look at their Facebook page you'll see that 15 hours or NEVER responding is pretty typical. If you're going to play the game can you at least understand it?

MSchechter
MSchechter

@Danny Brown@MackCollier And was he even a customer. Sure they reached out to him, but I think it became quickly clear that 1) he wasn't and 2) he probably wasn't going to be anytime soon. I will say that red tape is starting to get a lot less red, but I'm also going to be realistic and be ok with the fact that it will probably take time and missteps for that to really happen.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@MSchechter @MackCollier Exactly, Mike. Was this a customer service issue? No. Even if it was, who dictates how long a company should take? They do - not us, not a pissed off blogger. They do - the company. And having worked on a few Unilever programs, I know how red tape they can be. So by all means, offer your take but saying a brand should have a response time of X without knowing that brand's internal procedures is missing a little of the process.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@MackCollier@dough@Danny Brown Possible is one thing, but is it necessary? I just don't think we are at the point where the average global brand requires that kind of reaction time. 2-3 years may be a very different situation, but I just don't feel that we are quite there.

MSchechter
MSchechter

@MackCollier@Danny Brown We may just agree to disagree here, while I think 15 hours is on the edge, I think the expectation of 15 minutes is unrealistic. I also think you have to take into consideration what the product and what the complaint happens to be. Let's keep in mind that this was not a problem with the product, it was a problem with their marketing. This was not a customer service issue, it was a customer relations and I think companies have a right to reflect and think about what they are going to say before they react (not that it did them a ton of favors here).

dough
dough

@MackCollier@Danny Brown@MSchechter http://twitter.com/#!/vistaprint

Official Twitter page of Vistaprint (VPRT).This page is run by the company's PR team M-F 9-5:30 EDT. Customer Service # 866.614.8004

Love this. Set expectations for response.

Truth in even big corporations, is, it's as good as the resources you throw at it AND the expectations you set,

MackCollier
MackCollier

@dough@Danny Brown@MSchechter BTW Doug that's a great point about how Vistaprint(?) posts when someone is watching their Twitter account. Anything brands can do to help communicate and manage expectations is a good thing.

MackCollier
MackCollier

@dough@Danny Brown@MSchechter Doug a truly global brand should always have someone monitoring, so something close to real-time response should be possible. Should be. Most big brands don't have the infrastructure in place to do this, but in 2-3 years, I think that will be a different story.

But if you have a serious Social Media firestorm brewing, leaving it alone for 15 hours is only going to make it 10X worse. Again, most of these firestorms happen based on how the brand responds. Or if it doesn't.

dough
dough

@MackCollier@Danny Brown@MSchechter 15 minutes? That depends. It would be nice though (and yeah, i agree that 15 hours is too long). I think it's great to discuss the 24/7 nature-- who's monitoring and responding at 3am, the director of marketing? Who's on Sunday morning?

One elegant solution by a brand (may have been vistaprint) was to post on a Twitter account bio what hours someone is present-- that of course, is only part of the solution, and a real brand crisis (let's leave aside whether the subject of this post constitutes a "real brand crisis") does require monitoring and response-- it's something we need to make companies aware of, but I'm not sure of the 15 minutes- (understanding you may just be throwing a number out there)

MackCollier
MackCollier

@dough@ginidietrich@Danny Brown Yes, I think the platform does play a role, to a degree. I would love to know if there are studies to back this up (think I remember hearing about 1 or 2), but I would guess we expect faster response times from brands on Twitter than we do a response to a blog post, for example. BTW if anyone knows of a study that shows the differences, I'd love to see it.

dough
dough

@MackCollier@ginidietrich That's actually one of the points of the blog post @Danny Brown kindly linked somewhere in this bramble of comments- platform, content and topic often dictate expectations for response (as does actually dictating expectations for response), Dang, I just sucked all the fun out of that

MackCollier
MackCollier

@dough@ginidietrich I just replied to a couple of comments on my blog and realized they were left hours ago. Thankfully, being a social media pundit means I don't have to actually follow any of the same advice I give companies ;)

dough
dough

@ginidietrich No, but I'm running out of scotch-- thanks! (Sorry it took me 24 minutes to respond to you)

MSchechter
MSchechter

@TheJackB@dough Getting your message across is key. And owning when you don't is essential (speaking from experience here). That said, I think the intent was to be a bit edgy, but not to hurt. It was a mistake and a misstep, but I don't think they were looking to hurt anyone with that video.

dough
dough

I know CC too well to tag him as unreasonable. I know these stereotypes upset him (more than they do me, vive la difference), and to belabor my earlier point, Ragu should have done their homework and known that as well.

I get the reaction to the stereotyping of fathers- I also stick by my statement they could have a lot of fun (risky perhaps but fun) with this, rather than the flat campaign they presented (look what FiberOne did with the Cheech and Chong Magic Brownies video-- not at all social, but taking a risk and actually being entertaining and self-deprecating).

I probably wouldn't counsel a client to respond on Mediapost like that because there's no real win in stoking the fire-- but I think, for us, it has opened up a lot of thoughtful conversations.

As someone who counsels companies on social media, I am pretty mindful of what I say publicly about brands (I may not be perfect on that count- let me take this opportunity to apologize to Ford for past and future comments about people who drive Mustangs- but few are). What this conjures for me is that as social media professionals, I think we do have to be measured in how quick we are to judge and how harsh we are. I think the debate as to whether CC was too harsh here is a good one. The best part of this whole debate is that it's taking part among many professionals who do this counseling- and Ragu's response is part of that debate as far as I'm concerned.

(Not that I can't be snarky and ask "WHERE IS CC's RESPONSE?" - yes i know he commented on Gini's post, but where would my joke be then?)

TheJackB
TheJackB

@dough We're in disagreement here about a number of things. Your reference to CC's post about having penis made me smile- I have one too and I know how to use it, watch out. ;)

But seriously if you are trying to portray him as being unreasonable I suppose it makes sense to use just the headline there. I don't know, maybe I am wrong.

What I am certain about is that fathers sometimes receive "funny treatment" by brands and media. We're not all buffoons, pedophiles or ignoramuses who can't parent, cook or get along in the world.

There has been a push by many dads to ask for those stereotypes to be removed from the discussion and a request for brands to include us in their outreach as something more than a second thought.

That response on Mediapost felt disingenuous and came across quite poorly. It seemed to me that it blamed those who were upset for not understanding their message.

As a writer I take responsibility for ensuring that the readers understand my message and my intent. If they do not then I have to take a hard look at my words.

Maybe it could have been handled better by all parties, but I just have a hard time with that reply. Perception influences everything and well...

dough
dough

@MSchechter@Danny Brown@MackCollier Ah, now that LiveFyre has let me in to the system,,,

LIVEFYRE WHY DO YOU NOT LET ME RESPOND INSTANTLY BUT MAKE ME SIGN IN BEFORE COMMENTING- DON'T YOU KNOW THIS THE AGE OF INSTANT RESPONSE? IF I DON'T HEAR BACK FROM YOU IN 3 HOURS....*Breathe into paper bag*

Better, sorry. Kidding of course.

This whole thing gives me a headache. The Ragu campaign suffered more from being boring than anything else-- the fun they could have had with the stereotypes- oh well. and the targeting was basic bad PR 101- just search "CC Chapman" and "penis" (c'mon, you've done it), and you will come up with this: http://www.digitaldads.com/2010/01/i-have-a-penis-i-am-not-a-mom/ - and you will know instantly how he would react to such a campaign. So yeah, probably better to skip him there (did any of the other dad bloggers campaign? No idea).

But I also believe Michael and the commenters raise some great points about the expectations for response when brands make mistakes. I was ready to explode on Amazon over a shipping charges issue, but 10 minutes and some excellent customer service presented the typical knee-jerk Tweets that ,any of us in this community would have done.

By the way, I thought the MediaPost article was a pretty reasoned response to getting flamed. I'm not sure I would have done it that way in that venue, but it shows thought and a level head.

There was a lot of great constructive feedback in the whole exchange- and I am a big fan of being critical online- but I think sometimes we need to count to ten- or 1,000.

TheJackB
TheJackB

@MackCollier No, they didn't and the author of that letter isn't what you would call a low level staffer either.

Trackbacks

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  7. […] Chapman was offended by the campaign and a lot of back and forth ensued. Whether C.C. was being a brand bully is up for debate; the fact that Ragu should have extended a direct and sincere apology […]