Monday, March 21, 2011

Chrysler and New Media Strategies: How can we learn from their mistakes?

There has been a lot of navel-gazing in the industry around the New Media Strategies gaffe on the Chrysler Autos Twitter account, and whether the reaction by Chrysler to terminate its relationship with NMS was warranted. In fact, on the flight from Minneapolis to Austin for SXSW last week, I participated in a great Twitter discussion with a few agency folks, and even among them there was no consensus. Some felt that Chrysler acted too hastily in firing NMS, and that social media is a channel in which people should be allowed to make mistakes, and that in the end, Chrysler's brand was not negatively affected and in fact received more notice than they would have otherwise. Others felt that the role of an agency is to ensure that the brand receives positive sentiment, growth of community and that no matter the adage "all publicity is good publicity" there are limits, and NMS crossed them and was rightfully canned.

Personally, as someone on the client side of the relationship there are numerous factors in play here.

1. Chrysler should have never allowed someone else to speak on behalf of their brand.

I did not hold Chrysler responsible for NMS letting the F-bomb drop on their Twitter account, but my bigger issue with Chrysler is that they allowed NMS to tweet on their behalf. Strategy? Sure, there's no problem getting help there, but when it comes to the actual voice, nobody will love your brand like you do. Hopefully Chrysler takes the opportunity to learn from this and bring day-to-day management of their social presence in-house.

2. Scott Bartosiewicz made an astoundingly bad decision when he tweeted "I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to ******* drive"

Ultimately the 28 year-old NMS employee is at fault. He showed poor judgment in tweeting what he did, even from his personal account. People know where he works. They know that NMS has a relationship with Chrysler and that Chrysler not only has a long-standing relationship with the city of Detroit, but that the city of Detroit is the backbone of the new brand strategy for Chrysler. Should he have really badmouthed the denizens of the Motor City when the connections can be made between him and Chrysler?

From the Star Tribune article, Chrysler contractor whose obscene tweet got him, agency fired is apologizing for 4-letter flub, "Bartosiewicz, a University of Michigan MBA student, blamed the mistake on a mix-up using a program that aims to help users juggle multiple Twitter accounts. "I've tweeted and posted on Facebook thousands of time before," he said."

Yeah, he screwed up using in how he used TweetDeck, but his mistake happened well before hitting send. Maybe he should read this article from Jeff Bullas - 30 things you should not share on social media.

3. New Media Strategies showed a major lapse in judgment with the way they handled the operational aspect of serving a massive brand in social media.

As Advertising Age pointed out, it ended up costing them a multi-million dollar contract - Chrysler Splits With New Media Strategies Over F-Bomb Tweet

Was Chrysler in the right? Did the agency deserve a second chance? How can NMS and other social media practitioners learn from their mistake?

My take, as a client, is that the biggest problem NMS has in not in their selection or training of employees. Their biggest problem is that they had no QA process. Sure, social media is a quick-fire channel. Things happen in real-time and as Ferris Bueller said "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." However, if you act too hastily, you may make a major mistake that can be easily avoided. So, QA in social. How can we solve the problem?

4. Why can't there be a QA process in place?

No tweet or Facebook update or blog post should ever go out in real time. There are so many programs and platforms that offer the ability to schedule posts and have workflows set up so that posts can be approved prior to publishing. Establish a process so that every tweet is scheduled for a minimum of 15 or 30 minutes from now and another employee approves the post. That person doesn't even need to be involved in the social channel or an approved social practitioner, but there needs to be another set of eyes on every post. Think about it this way: Social media is no less or more important to your business as email, web copy, print or broadcast ads. Do you let emails, print ads, radio or TV ads go out without having at least two people look at them for typos, message and brand standards? No? Well then why would you think less of the impact social can have on your brand? As an agency, is 15-30 minutes worth keeping a multi-million dollar contract?

To wrap up, there is no consensus on the Chrysler-NMS issue, but ultimately it doesn't matter, what's done is done. However, we can all learn from and build on what happened to Scott Bartosiewicz, Chrysler and New Media Strategies to make sure it doesn't happen to you and your company.

For a further dive into the aftermath, check out a great article from Advertising Age - Chrysler's Twitter Controversy Teaches Us 'Brand Journalism' Is a Lie.

  • Do you have a QA process in place?

  • Would you look down on a brand who doesn't tweet for themselves?

  • Would you have fired NMS?


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