#Epicfail. For those of us who Tweet, we know what this means: Someone or something has failed, has probably failed spectacularly, and this failure likely has some pretty solid entertainment value to the rest of us.
For those people who don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about hash tags (i.e., #), the simple phrase “Epic fail” speaks for itself: A failure of epic proportions, one that may involve costs to reputation and the bottom-line alike. And if #epicfail ever refers to your business, you’ll soon become all too aware of how cringe-inducing that term can be.
The Rules Have Changed
Before the proliferation of social media, when a business failed in some way, news about such a failure was pretty much limited to print media--and that’s assuming the failure was significant enough to be considered newsworthy at all.
Today? Not so much. Social networking sites, the 24/7 cable news cycle, and the fact that anyone with access to the Internet literally has the ability to speak to and potentially influence countless others, has created a world where one mistake, no matter how well-intentioned the effort or act, can be laid bare for all to see.
If you are a decision-maker involved in generating or approving the marketing messages your organization produces (or hires others to produce for you), you know the potential harm that a poorly designed, ill-conceived, or clumsily executed marketing campaign can do. History provides examples of some famously, shall we say, “unsuccessful” marketing ideas over the years (New Coke, anyone?). Fortunately, most of those examples didn’t garner enough widespread publicity to stay on the public’s radar for too long.
What Happens on the Web...?
An organization that makes such a marketing faux pas today is not likely to be so lucky, however. There’s an old saying (which actually became a marketing slogan) to the effect that ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’. That’s really not true anymore. What is true, however, is that what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet. And, given the widespread, if not almost universal use of Internet access, it's become increasingly difficult to manage information once it’s posted online and even harder to engage in damage control in the event something goes sideways.
Now some of you may be thinking “Yeah, I get it, but we’re not that large and our content marketing has a pretty limited target audience so we probably won’t be impacted as much as Coca Cola was, for example.” Well, if you’ll indulge us, when it comes to content marketing, size doesn’t matter.
The size of your “target audience” isn’t really relevant in today’s world of social media communications. Someone doesn’t need to be interested in what services or products you provide in order to be educated or simply entertained by a mistake you've made. Remember, what goes on the Internet stays on the Internet and whether you think it’s important or are even aware of it at all has no relevance.
Identify Your Company's Issues
Given the reality of this new world in which we all do business, there are certain factors you should consider whenever you engage in content marketing. Regardless of whether this involves simply updating your website, publishing a newsletter, launching a Facebook campaign or managing a Twitter account, for example, vigilance is essential. And so is a concept that doesn’t get much attention outside of the legal profession: Issue identification.
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at some of the most important issues you, as someone whom influences the content marketing your organization publishes, must be able to identify and prepare for or respond to. We’re not in the business of making fun of businesses but we will use a few key examples to illustrate how the inability or even unwillingness to consider certain factors, no matter how small, ultimately led to an epic fail and how your organization can avoid the same fate.
It’s been said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. We don’t recommend you put that to the test.
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