Consider this scenario:
You're a small business owner. You hire a marketing/PR consultant to manage your brand. Later, you find that your brand's name is being mentioned all over the social web. Huge, right? That's great!
But, on closer inspection -- and as your gut tightens -- you discover that words like "moron," and audacious phrases like "...sperm in your daddys balls (sic)...," as well as off-color references to "...you're the douchiest (of customers)..." were being ascribed to your marketing consultant in communications with one of your customers.
That scenario, believe it or not, actually played out this week with as much bewildering trance as watching someone chew sand while immolating himself even as your brain screamed for him to STOP!
(Read the whole sad story about "How to self-destruct your company with just a few measly emails" here. Or, google "Ocean Marketing fiasco OR debacle". It's a pretty huge topic right now.)
What would you do?
I mean, after you fired your marketing/PR consultant? How would you go about picking up the pieces and recovering your brand?
That question came up as a thread in discussions with colleagues in my social marketing sphere.
Brainstorming For the Benefit Of Messrs. Dave Kotkin and Mr. Chiullan
Without rehashing all the sordid details about the sequence of events, I'll just direct you to the VentureBeat article via the link(s) above and instead jump to some thoughts my colleagues and I discussed about damage control. And, dare I say: there's potentially an opportunity being missed here; even in the wake of this nuclear mess.
First, it's worth listing for you some of the players I'll reference:
- "Customer Dave" - the kindly customer whose polite email inquiry sparked the whole thread.
- Paul Christoforo - the boneheaded "marketing consultant" from Ocean Marketing whose hamfisted SERIES of responses to Customer Dave fueled a fire that eventually went nuclear.
- Dave Kotkin - the reportedly kindly founder of a game device whose business judgment -- or lack thereof -- found himself at the center of the scenario I outlined at the beginning of this article.
- Moises Chiullan - the new marketing consultant brought onboard by Mr. Kotkin to manage the fallout. (And, I'll add, that by initial accounts seems to be doing a decent job -- definitely a hell of a lot better than that "other guy.")
There are a few more names worth mentioning in this whole bewildering story, but I'll only make reference to the four folks above. (Click the link above to get the whole story. You'll want to pull up a chair and get a cup of coffee when you read it. It's a bit involved. But, I promise you, you'll be enthralled, albeit, in a watch-the-man-kill-his-career sort of way. You'll want to read it all, as well as the updates and perhaps even a few of the referenced links. Tip: If you're a social media or business consultant/trainer, you may want to bookmark these articles. It makes a great case study.)
Suggestions For Next Steps
So, my friend Kathi (founder, KruseControlInc) wondered outloud if Mr. Kotkin's brand can recover in the wake of Mr. Christoforus' inelegant series of responses. As my friend Kathi correctly puts it,
"...(Mr. Kotkin) seems pretty sincere and transparent... but this couldn't be the first time Christoforo acted like this, eh? Time should help them and if their customers are like Customer Dave, maybe they'll look past it because the (game) controller is so awesome?"
I think Kathi is right. By even Customer Dave's account, Mr. Kotkin's game device is actually a desirable product, despite the shipping challenges the company had been experiencing.
[Via Customer Dave.] "...It's truly a shame because I think this device is great for gamers with disabilities and problems... I'm really gonna feel bad if I think that sick children may somewhere down the line have fewer Avenger controllers because I got into a pissing match with a sad old man... As much as I hate this asshole (in reference to Mr. Christoforo), I still WANT (Mr. Kotkin's) product and think it should be out there..."
In my response to Kathi, I shared my thoughts about how I believe Mr. Kotkin can recover. Moreover, there's probably an opportunity for him and Mr. Chiullan to improve the company and their brand. It begins, first and foremost, by making things right with Customer Dave.
Thank Customer Dave for bringing to light a very very weak and blindingly incendiary link in their company's whole customer lifecycle. Pay Customer Dave for his troubles, reimburse the charges on his order, ship the device to him free of charge, whatever it takes; make him whole again. Then go further....
Once Customer Dave has been made whole, offer to bring him "inside" as a consultant. Or, better yet, bring him in as a member of a newly formed customer advisory panel. The purpose of which should be to give feedback and guidance on customer service improvements.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chiullan should send a series of timely press releases that coincide with key milestones in the company's genuine attempt to improve customer service:
- (Timing: Immediate.) Announce the formation of the advisory panel (or announce the retention of Customer Dave as an external consultant.)
- (Timing: About 3-5 days later.) Inform the public about specific and measurable feedback received from Customer Dave and/or the advisory panel.
- (Timing: Another 3-5 days later.) Subsequently announce the specific changes that have been made (or will be made) based on the customer advisory panel's feedback.
- (Timing: At about the same time as the previous step.) Give video testimonial from Customer Dave and/or other customers about their candid and truthful assessment of the action steps Avenger has taken since the nuclear ground zero that was Paul Christoforo.
There's clearly much more that can be done here. But, wouldn't you agree that it's not a hopeless situation for Mr. Kotkin? He can, in fact, recover if he takes genuine steps now to make changes while keeping the public informed about the steps he is taking?
What other guidance would you add?
For Messrs. Kotkin and Chiullan:
I say this with no sarcasm and with genuine sincerity -- your situation is tough right now. I truly hope you do recover, especially since Customer Dave's account of your product testifies to it filling a very much needed niche. You clearly have a fan in Customer Dave. I have to believe there are more.
I respect the initial steps you've already taken to course-correct. And, I truly believe it will benefit you further to give voice to your customers. Over time, I think you'll find that if you give them an opportunity to contribute in building the "new" company, they will undoubtedly help support that which they help to create.
Good luck. And, if you'd like to brainstorm a bit more, let me know and I'd be proud to make introductions with some of the professionals whom I consider friends and experts who are more skilled than I in public relations and social marketing.
Learn to teach online. Go beyond PowerPoint: learn to screencast using Camtasia Studio for Windows, Camtasia for Macintosh, or ScreenFlow for Macintosh. Watch the free previews now and read the topics list on our 5-star rated screencasting courses. Click here to learn more.