Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pot, I would like you to meet Kettle.

I wish it were not the case, but nothing quite makes me as anxious as not having access to the internet.   Beyond research (Google) and entertainment, I namely use the internet to connect via social media (Facebook).  I know that every piece of information I place online no longer becomes my own, nor can I ever take it back so I am pretty cognisant of what I post.  I do find it quite disconcerting that after doing a few searches or checking out a few pages most of the advertisements are related to whatever it was I was just looking at (or what I look at most often).   Nothing really drives home the aphorism, 'If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold' quite like it.  Admittedly, I do not read the fine print when I check the box accepting all of the new terms and conditions for using a site partially because I want to continue to use the internet in my semi-ignorant state.  This is a conscious choice, plus, some days I do really want to know which 8 foods can banish belly fat…

This brings me to discuss a particular PR campaign that not only failed miserably, but was quite reminiscent of a grade school politics with the two aforementioned companies.  In May 2011 it was  discovered that Facebook was behind hiring a prominent PR firm to secretly wage a smear campaign against Google.  The focus of the campaign was to highlight the collection of personal information for Google Social Circles (no longer in existence) by infringing on the privacy rights of consumers.   Here are some of the email exchanges.   Privacy concerns are a hot topic with publics, so why did this campaign fail?  

If you Google (ha ha) “Google privacy violations” it’s quite obvious that the company has a slight reoccurring problem in the department.  Facebook has the same issues respecting privacy of users, and that's where the irony of this whole campaign comes in (to be kind we won't discuss this being an issue).  If you read the email exchanges you can see that Facebook had a ton of valid information, but the way they went about ‘exposing the truth’ was haphazard.  Key issues with the campaign were that the feature had been in used for a few years but was being presented as new, the audience was inappropriate, and the medium strategy was not well thought-out.  The publics focused on were probably familiar with the feature in question.   They were also very informed and inquisitive, without doubt going to question the source before passing it on.  In the end the PR campaign did nothing but make the PR firm and their client look bad.

All of these blunders could have been prevented with more research, and planning.  It's really easy to get caught up in the action parts of a campaign when you know what you want your end state to be.  Publics are sophisticated, and much like they do not appreciate ‘newsjacking’ after a disaster, they do not appreciate a company trying to undermine them under the guise their best interest is in mind.  If you have a great product, or a valid piece of information that obviously could be beneficial to your publics don't ruin it with a poorly-planned PR campaign!

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