Monthly Archives: January 2012

Social Media PR Disasters: #McDStories

This PR crisis may have come and gone within a few hours, but it’s still important. Why? Because it happened to McDonald’s, the sixth most valuable brand in the world. The story demonstrates that no one, not even a global restaurant giant, can control conversations on the internet.

The Response
McDonald’s pulled the promoted tweet within two hours. Social Media Director Rick Wion released a statement that included, “With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger.” Wion pointed out that there were around 1,600 negative tweets about McDonald’s that day, out of almost 73,000 total mentions, putting the “disaster” in some perspective.


The Result

Though the crisis only lasted for a few hours, media outlets from the Los Angeles Times to London’s Daily Mail, jumped on the story of such a high-profile PR failure. I find it interesting that McDonald’s #MeetTheFarmers hashtag was untouched in all the madness. A few days later, McDonald’s launched another promoted hashtag, #LittleThings, apparently unaware that it was already being used by DoubleTree Hotels.

The Takeaway
Sure, you’re no McDonald’s. Still – how can you avoid a similar PR disaster?

 – Focus on Your Fans
McDonald’s promoted #McDStories to the entire internet, inviting anyone who visited the Twitter homepage to post their thoughts. While I admire this, there’s no reason the company couldn’t have simply used the hashtag in tweets to its almost 300,000 followers. That audience would have been more likely to share positive stories.

– Manage the Message
McDonald’s second mistake was introducing the #McDStories hashtag without any explanation, and leaving the meaning vague. I bet just about everyone in the world has had an experience with the restaurant, and some of them are bound to be bad. On the other hand, #MeetTheFarmers is very clearly defined, even to the point that it doesn’t really invite people to use it. How many people know the McDonald’s farmers? 

– Know When to Fold ‘Em
McDonald’s could have tried to steer the conversation, allowing the hashtag to continue for hours or even days. Social Media Director Wion saw that, while #MeetTheFarmers was getting the company’s message across, McDonald’s was paying for people to publicly criticize its brand. And there was no dignified way to explain what #McDStories was intended to mean. Rather than fight a high-profile, losing battle, Wion made the right call and chose to end the campaign.

While this crisis is over, it goes to show that social media PR disasters can happen anywhere, at anytime, for any reason. Whose hashtag will be next?


For the latest on social media, online recruiting, mobile marketing, and other branding trends, please 
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Extending Your Brand Through Your Careers Site

After years spent years studying how brands communicate their mission, vision, and values through messaging and design, here’s the Golden Rule:  Whether speaking to shareholders, management, employees, new hires, or job applicants, a brand must be consistent and compelling to be effective.

You’ve seen how I’ve highlighted companies that make great use of branding. In contrast, here are two brands that might be missing great opportunities to extend their brand within their Career’s Site:

NBC Universal

 NBCU is a media powerhouse with a century of history. Universal produced the classic 1930s horror films and has created some of most beloved film franchises of all time: JawsBack to the FutureJurassic Park, and the Bourne movies. NBC’s contribution to television includes Friends, The Cosby Show, Cheers, Seinfeld, ER, and Law & Order – not counting the shows from its cable channels USA, SyFy, and Bravo. The combined company also includes five theme parks that feature attractions based on Harry Potter and Shrek.

With all that entertainment history, what might they show on their careers site? Are you thinking movie stars, rides, aliens, dinosaurs, or monsters?  Nope.
Just plain text.

Compare that to CBS, which provides five images of its entertainment properties.


Condé Nast
This publishing house brings you a wide array of magazines: Vogue, Glamour, GQ, Architectural Digest, Wired, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, to name a few. In all, Condé Nast publishes two dozen magazines that feature amazing photography, beautiful locations, and cutting-edge fashion. The titles cover architecture, food, and travel. The company must have millions of visual assets from almost 30 years of publishing.

So what images does Condé Nast show prospective employees on its careers site?

A single window of ten rotating images, which are supposed to evoke passion. I’ll let you decide. 

What about your brand? Are you showcasing your brand’s assets on your careers site? Are you displaying your products, exhibiting your office space, presenting your history, or showing off your employees? What do applicants see when they first encounter your brand?

If not, we’d be happy to help. At Brandemix, we love branding.

Why State Farm is a Social Media Superstar

As many of you know from my speaking engagements around the country, I like to discover brands that are using social media in innovative ways. I honor these organizations with the name “SoMe Superstars.” Recent winners include PepsiCo and Moleskine.

Today I’d like to recognize a company that’s using social media for recruiting: State Farm. I like how the insurance company recently rebranded with its clever “Magic Jingle” commercials, alongside funny ads featuring everything from falcons to giant robots. But the company has continued its transformation with a big push in social media and interactivity as well. Here are the three superstar ways that State Farm engages job applicants:

First, State Farm has a dedicated careers Facebook Page with more than 16,000 Likes, featuring lots of interesting content from both the corporate communications department and individual agents. Responses to questions and grievances usually come within 24 hours. The page’s admins go beyond typical stories of disaster recovery to include posts that are useful to job-seekers, such as asking “What’s the strangest thing you ever sent a recruiter?” and giving “Tips for networking at holiday parties.” This makes the Page a destination for anyone looking for employment, even outside the insurance field.

Second, the State Farm careers site includes eight videos under the title “See For Yourself.” These feature testimonials from agents and employees and great photography of the State Farm headquarters. The company offers a section called “Meet Our Interns,” with videos, written interviews, and “Advice and Guidance from Real Interns.” This is a powerful way to reach out to young people by providing content that’s educational but also fun. It also shows an awareness that Millenials would rather watch a video than read a long corporate mission statement.

 

Third, State Farm offers a unique interactive website, exploresfagency.com, which the company calls a “virtual job tryout with real-world scenarios.” Job-seekers are put in situations faced by real insurance agents, from marketing a new office and handling staff to dealing with customer complaints. There are no wrong answers; users simply pick the action they’d most likely take, and the one they’d least likely take, from four options. State Farm then evaluates what sort of agent they’d be. It’s a job preview unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Finally, these career sites add to the overall State Farm online presence, which includes branded accounts on YouTube, Twitter, and Flickr – and an interesting Facebook Page called State Farm Nation, “where fans can get helpful tips, be inspired, and have fun connecting with others.” That Page has more than 1.3 million Likes.

What can you learn from State Farm? First, set up a dedicated careers site, preferably accompanied by a careers Facebook Page and Twitter profile. Then post content that’s useful to anyone looking for employment, not just posts about how great your organization is. Offer photos and videos, showing job-seekers what your office looks like and what your employees love about working there. And, if you really want to stand out, invest in something unique like State Farm Nation on Facebook or the revolutionary “Day in the Life” interactive site.

For communicating with talent in smart, fun, and interactive ways, I name State Farm Insurance a SoMe Superstar!

For the latest on social media, online recruiting, mobile marketing, and other branding trends, please like Brandemix on Facebookfollow us on Twitter, and join our LinkedIn group, Your Digital Brand.

Happy 2012