Archive for the ‘YouTube’ Category

FedEx Deserves a Black Belt in Crisis Management for Response to Viral Video

December 22, 2011 2 comments

Earlier this week, a YouTube video from a security camera made the rounds showing a FedEx employee carelessly tossing a package (containing a computer monitor) over a fence to deliver it.  As of today, the original has over 4 million views and opportunistic content-scrapers who have re-posted to their own profiles have garnered hundreds of thousands more.

Huge public relations crisis, right?  Nope.

FedEx delivered a master class  in crisis communications with its response that should be taught in PR classrooms.  Check it out:

Let’s break down what happened (which is an affirmation of the principles articulated by Arthur W. Page):

  1. They responded quickly.  They didn’t wait for the situation to reach a tipping point; only two days passed between the uploading of the original video and the response.  Can you imagine the kind of effort it takes during the heaviest delivery season to negotiate and organize a well-crafted video response to a negative customer service experience for a global corporation?  Right now the response video is the #2 video, right under the original negative video which is #1.  It has over 116,000 views – six thousand of those were accrued in the time it took me to draft this blog post, so it’s gaining traction.
  2. They told the truth.  At no point did they try to write it off as an isolated incident, a hoax, or try to blame a third party contractor or regional human resources department.  They embraced it.
  3. They made it right with the customer (a YouTube user with the alias ‘goobie55’).  Before anything else, they reached out to the party affected and fixed the situation.  Unfortunately, goobie55 has not (yet) done the right thing – which is to post an update to the video noting FedEx’s response – hopefully that will still happen.
  4. They took it seriously.  FedEx knows how quickly information is shared online and they responded swiftly with senior management.  They didn’t let the situation linger unanswered or task local staff to handle it.  They also likely used all the resources in their arsenal – which may have included a traditional public relations pitch campaign (given the over 150 articles covering the response).
  5. They internalized the problem.  According to FedEx Senior VP Matthew Thornton, they are also are now sharing the video with employees as a case study in why careful handling of packages is important.
  6. They gave the organization a face.  You could hardly find a better face for the organization than VP Matthew Thornton; the nonverbal communication is fantastic.  He’s in a shirt and tie (no suit coat), with thick-rimmed glasses and a similarly-thick mustache – he looks like a working-class executive who is personally-invested in the company and doesn’t shy away from rolling up his sleeves.  Though he’s likely reading from a prompter, Thornton is convincing nonetheless.  In a way he projects the feel of a small business owner who knows well how accountable he is to his customers.
  7. They had a track record to stand on.  This is perhaps the most important part of any crisis is what happens BEFORE the crisis – something that can’t be emphasized enough.  Every organization needs to make quality service and products a priority (which should go without saying, but it doesn’t – plenty are operating on an old model of sub-standard quality upholstered in glitz and style).  No crisis response, no matter how eloquent, can save an organization that sucks at what they do from a high-profile example of their suckage – the companies that conduct themselves that way are only able to do so because they’re a monopoly (think AT&T or Comcast).

The only improvement I might have made is to have Thornton add an action item at the end of his video (you can provide hyperlinks within YouTube videos very easily) that invited any other customers with a bad experience to immediately share, or link directly to the process for resolving disputes, it so it could be fixed.  But that’s just me nit-picking.

Hopefully a lot of people are able to learn from this – kudos to FedEx.

Advertising Alongside a Parody of Yourself: the Power of the Semantic Web

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

The "Goldstein Advantage" Parody Video from John Kerfoot

A good friend tipped me off to the site “Not so Pure Michigan” – which parodies the brilliant and popular “Pure Michiganadvertising campaign run by the state, featuring the voice of Tim Allen.  Among the ribbing the parody site gives to U of M football fans, Grosse Pointe, and Construction Season is a parody of the commercials for well-known Michigan ambulance chase…err…civil litigator, Sam Bernstein.

Bernstein has recently begun featuring his children in his ads, as they’ve joined his law practice.  That prompted this less-than-P.C. parody:

Here’s the thing though; the Bernstein Law Firm uses Google ads, and they show up on the Not So Pure Michigan site:

The Bernstein Law Firm Advertising on via Google Ads

I’m not the only person to notice this either:

A post from someone else who saw a Bernstein Law Firm Google Ad appear on the video mocking the firm.

Advertising alongside a web video that ruthlessly mocks a handicap of one’s family member is either a brilliant bit of cutthroat advertising strategy, or an example of how clumsily wielding the power of the semantic web can go horribly wrong.

Either way, it’s another great reminder of the interesting times we live in.

10 Amazing Videos of Lightsabre Duels (A Post Mostly Devoid of Intellectual Merit)

July 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Memes have long been the coin of the realm online, and now the tools are available for the average geek to act on his/her geeky impulses to mash the detritus of pop culture together to create new art forms.  It looks like this:

Sword fights = Cool.  Lightsabres = Cool.  Sword fights + Lightsabres = Nerdgasm.

In the course of my academic and intellectual pursuits (read: goofing around) I ran across an entire subculture of Youtube mashups where digital video artisans (yes, I mean artisans) photoshopped lightsabres into movie swordfights.  The process probably began with the Star Wars kid, and has gone deliciously viral.  Here are my 10 favorites:

1. Count Roogan vs. Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)

2. Cap’m Barbosa vs. Cap’m Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)

3. The Spartans vs. the Hordes of  Xerxes (300)

4. Arwen vs. the Nazgul (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

5. Freddy vs. Jason (Freddy vs. Jason)

6. Deadpool vs. a Room of Thugs (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) – PS – I demand someone photoshop lightsabres over Wolverine’s claws IMMEDIATELY.

7. Indiana Jones vs. Egyptian Thug (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

8. Benjamin Martin vs. British Soldiers (The Patriot) – Incorporates blasters too!  Sweeeeeet.

9. Beatrix Kiddo vs. O-Ren Ishii (Kill Bill)

10. Robin Hood/Little John vs. Prince John’s Thugs (Disney’s Robin Hood)

[Blog Title courtesy the Linkbait Generator]

Five Insane but True Things About Outrage Fatigue: “Meh” Metrics on the BP Gulf Oil Spill

July 6, 2010 1 comment

Mashable had an intriguing post about the social media activity surrounding the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill today; chiefly that activity is on the decline. The title asks “Are We Losing Interest in the Oil Spill? [STATS]” The answer, obviously, is yes.

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For the public relations world, this new era seems to hint that no matter how bad an organization or individual misbehaves, eventually we’ll talk ourselves out of interest in seeing consequences meted out for that misbehavior.

Where’s the outrage over the mismanagement and systemic problems in the financial industry back when it was Enron, Tyco and Worldcom?  How about more recently over Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Washington Mutual?  Isn’t it likely that the outrage over the next impending financial scandal is already waning?

  1. Our Access to Information has Reduced our Attention Span
    There are many studies on attention span that have measured its decline over the past few decades.  It stands to reason that with more accessible information, we have more incentive to move on from one bit to another.  Guided by our reptilian impulses, we move on when something no longer stimulates us.  Tired of depressing photos of pelicans covered in oil? – Just see what
  2. We Can’t Process Long Term Costs
    As the frog in the boiling pot aphorism goes – gradual change goes unnoticed.  Even though there are direct costs borne by all of society by industry-wide malfeasance, if they’re paid slowly over time – they go virtually unnoticed.  Pick virtually any large problem; the imperial ambitions of most developed nations, global climate change, the health consequences of our high-fructose diet – and we’ll always opt for short-term gain over long-term benefit.
  3. We Only Want to Dwell on the Pleasurable
    As our access to information has sped up, it appears to have dramatically reduced the amount of time we’re willing to tolerate unhappy news.  In fact, that’s frequently the complaint of the news media: that they focus too much on the negative.  “Where are the happy stories?” people demand – so they crowbar in irrelevant stories about the latest American Idol contestant or the latest viral video of an animal doing something unlikely and adorable.
  4. The News Media is Less Capable of Keeping Crises on the Radar
    The budget for most news outlets has not kept pace with the demand to do investigative journalism.  Why bother with a months-long investigation that may or may not prove a local politician was involved in real-estate speculation when you can send a camera crew out to interview the early adopters in line for the next iPhone or publish a poll on how the US public feels about gays in the military?
  5. This Has Happened Before
    The public relations case studies for crisis mismanagement often don’t stand up to scrutiny.  Just look at the Exxon Valdez disaster; though the company was guilty of extraordinary negligence – it’s still a viable brand two decades later and the massive $5 billion judgment against the company was whittled down to $507.5 million after years in the courts.  Or take Firestone; that company was guilty of deadly negligence not once but twice and yet it survives today.

I really, really hope I’m wrong about this.

[Thanks again to the Linkbait Generator for the title of the post]

Video: My Best Practices for Social Media Presentation

February 20, 2010 1 comment

Thanks to Grand Rapids Community College’s intrepid Media Technologies department, a recent presentation/training I gave to some GRCC employees on best practices for social media is now available on YouTube.  It covers the what, why and how of social networking/social media using case studies from GRCC.

Domino’s Pizza and the Life Cycle of Public Opinion

April 16, 2009 Leave a comment

In the democratized, media-saturated era we live in incidents like the one that just happened to Domino’s Pizza (where two employees, Kristy Hammonds and Michael Setzer, videotaped themselves doing a variety of unsanitary things to customer’s orders) are inevitable. In fact, I can’t believe that this hasn’t happened more frequently.

The PR industry is wringing its hands over how to respond given how seemingly powerless large organizations are to stop these sorts of events. The solution is (as with many problems in the age of social media) transparency.

Here’s a couple free suggestions for Domino’s:

  • Install webcams in all of your 8,500 kitchens and broadcast them in real time on your website so that customers can go peek in on the happenings at their local pizzeria to assuage their fears that some douchenozzle is snorting the shredded cheese into their Chicken Bacon Ranch Oven-Baked Sandwich.
  • If you really want to do a good job of it – crowdsource enforcement: empower your customers by giving them the option to flag a section of video for further scrutiny (and possible criminal charges).

Given how cheap digital technology and cloud computing are, it likely won’t cost that much and you can simultaneously 1) recover from the negative perception, 2) build credibility by following up a promise with concrete action, 3) get a hot, cheesy promotional slice of earned media for being the first major fast food chain to adopt this safety measure.

The best part is that there’s really nothing startlingly-new about this approach; it’s the same principle as putting the kitchen in a restaurant within view of the customers.

Even if Domino’s did nothing but make sure the two miscreants end up on the business end of a lawsuit and criminal charges – that’s likely enough to restore their bruised image. That’s the way of the wired world: yes, it casts a spotlight on an organization’s negatives – but people are more open-minded and forgiving than we give them credit for when it comes to considering the context of bad PR (especially if an organization has built up credit by operating above-board and generally doing the right thing on a daily basis).

YouTube .EDU Hints at Possible Future of "Open Source Education"

April 7, 2009 Leave a comment

YouTube’s recent release of its “.EDU” site which features channels and content from educational institutions hints at a possible “open source” future for education (particularly higher education). Grand Rapids Community College has a thriving YouTube channel as a result of the excellent work done by our Media Technologies department (which produces content for the Grand Rapids Public Schools as well as a number of local colleges and universities).

In fact, GRCC is one of the heavyweights in the new YouTube EDU site (as others have noticed, including Time Magazine in a recent article titled “Logging on to the Ivy League”); it has more content up than Harvard and almost as much as MIT. Many of the four-year universities in Michigan don’t even have YouTube channels.

Watching the potential of online courses leads me to this question: what is the difference between an online course and a traditional course? This question is important, because as online course content from top-tier universities is increasingly available for free through the web – they’re going to offer some serious competition to other education institutions.

One of the things the web does best is to free people from the geographic bonds that hold them; you’re no longer limited to the offerings at your local mall, dating pool, or social circles. The same is true of education.

I see a possible future where students from across the US (and around the world) take online courses from the best faculty at the best schools, and the role of regional higher education becomes to provide the necessary support services, lab space, proctoring and resources for those students to become credentialed.

That is to say, your semester (assuming there’s still a need to keep rigidly-defined calendars, which is less and less likely) looks something like this:

  • You fill your class schedule this semester with an online Chemistry class from M.I.T., an online English class from Yale, an online Social Science class from U.C. Berkley, and an online Ethics class from Oxford.
  • You watch podcasted lectures, participate in collaborative group exercises with Google Apps, and interact with the faculty (or their graduate assistants) in immersive virtual environments.
  • Then, when it comes time for tutoring, lab experiments or testing/assessment – you head to Grand Rapids Community College for the one-on-one instructional support and hands-on learning (which is GRCC’s true core competence as a “teaching” institution).

One particular aspect of that scenerio that is particularly promising in terms of creating a dramatic opportunity for regional education institutions is assessment. Currently the means we use to measure comprehension (standardized tests) are woefully-inadequate; they’re inherently biased with respect to culture and learning styles – yet they’re necessary in order to keep class sizes manageable while still being cost-effective.

If we’re free of some of those time constraints – suddenly a dramatic window opens up for personalized, one-on-one interview-style assessments of one’s ability to comprehend, master and think critically about course material.

The reasons this can’t be the near future are rapidly eroding away – which means that it’s an increasingly likely future. Something to consider.