Just sat through the first 10 minutes of arguably the worst session at SXSW2010. It had a great title – Interactive Agency Workflow: Design and Development Process – and based on the full room and the fact that SXSW staff were doing a “1-in 1-out” process to keep the room from going over fire code capacity, you could tell a lot of us IA agency folks were looking for real insights.
Unfortunately, the material was nothing new, was presented in a non-visual way and became very sales-y, very quickly. Almost instantaneously the tweets started out about the presentation:
The exodus began and everyone started ganging up on the guys who presented on twitter. (Don’t believe me, see for yourself here, the results are funny and sad). I ended up feeling bad for the presenters… because they were unable to stop the onslaught (presentation was built already and underway, the only feedback they were getting at the time was the people leaving the room). But online the slaughter was on and has continued since it ended. I felt bad, but in the end their session should have been better. So it truly was a mistake.
This experience got me thinking about the type of effect a failed brand touch can have on your business. This could be a bad presentation, a failed webinar, a buggy product launch or any other number of things.
In the ‘old days’ if you make a presentation and it doesn’t go well, you chalk it up as a learning experience, your audience chalks it up as a waste of time and you both move on, probably to never interact again. Prior to social media if you had a product that failed to deliver, people could call or email you (or the Better Business Bureau), but rarely did they have the means for public, instant feedback and an audience of interested readers.
Since the dawn of social media, feedback is instantaneous and often it’s brutally honest. What can you do to protect your brand reputation in the days of social media (besides not giving horrible presentations)?
Make Sure You Know You Failed
Sure there were clues during the presentation (people leaving and potentially chuckling quietly), but the folks from Archetype probably didn’t know how bad it was until they look at the twitter hash tag search results. You need to make sure you know you failed and are being flogged online, to do this you need to:
- Monitor the results of brand searches – use twitter and google searches (or a twitter tool or client, rss feader, google reader, etc) and save searches for your company name and key terms.
- Solicit feedback from others at the event. Hopefully you have people at the presentation who will give you constructive criticism (if you don’t, you should, this will help you improve your public speaking and presence).
You Know You Failed, Now What?
- Publicly acknowledge your mistake(s). This is important and should be through a public forum (blog post, tweet, press release, web page, etc). Once acknowledged, start reaching out to the people who are publicly pointing a finger at you and apologize that they had a bad experience and insist you’ll try better next time. Honestly most people will stop publicly flogging your company if you just acknowledge the source of their frustration, sincerely apologize and tell them you strive for improvement.
- Strive for improvement. Fix the problems and try to prevent them from happening again.
- Move on to hopefully bigger and better things.
FYI: I have a lot of other posts queued up and will be publishing them daily for the next few days. This one came out first since it was the most timely.