Amercia We Have A Problem
June 5, 2012
The collective wit of 2.2 billion Internet users blended with everyone's "digital debris" sets the stage today for poor decisions and even innocent mistakes to be amplified and ridiculed at any given time.
We are prone to errors in judgment and oversights because we are human. But it's in our approach in how we recover from fumbles that determine the shelf life of snafus, and how our reputation fares.
By now you have probably seen the screen shot of the "app with the gaffe" that Mitt Romney's camp released last week (if you weren't fortunate to download the app yourself before it was fixed):
Oops! "Amercia?" OK, an honest spelling mistake, right? Romney's camp realized the mistake, so they sent Apple a request to correct what they called a "bug."
But it was too late. To the delight of Tweeters, Tumblers and Instagramers, #Amercia became a trending (snarky) topic:
Even Tumbler and Instagram users had fun with "Amercia Is With Mitt!" to all kinds of photos of "Captain Amercia."
And even though it's been nearly a week since this blunder, people are still having fun with the original "I'm With Mitt - Amercia" app, refusing to update it for the proper spelling of America:
But beyond the comedy lies an important lesson for all brands when facing PR nightmares (no matter how big or small you think they are.) Today's world is too open and connected to take that "it'll blow over" attitude. And Twitter moves too fast for even the best spin doctors to come up with a "fix."
It's time for everyone to create a communication strategy that speaks to what is expected from brands today - authenticity.
Case in point, when Romney's campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told MSNBC,
"Mistakes happen. I don't think any voter cares about a typo at the end of the day."
Maybe voters don't care, but immediately after that statement, hundreds of thousands of people went to Mitt Romney's official #WithMitt Twitter hashtag and "hijacked" it, hammering away with even more "Amercia is With Mitt" jokes.
It's as if that flippant reaction or perhaps lack of humility to an honest mistake reignited the rowdiness.
The suggestion to create a communications strategy isn't to add more stress to your workday as it requires you to spend time thinking of worst case scenarios and how you can confront them with honesty and where appropriate, a sense of humor. But being prepared for mistakes allows you to stay focused, confront situations immediately, and not lose too much of that brand equity you build up each day through these channels.
And responding authentically changes the situation where hecklers might come to actually feel some sympathy for you - if not simply feel sorry for you, thus shortening the life of the flub.
In this situation – the Romney camp may have been able to neutralize the situation by making fun of it. Imagine if Governor Romney had gone on Letterman to do a misspelled Top Ten List. That's probably the real end of the story.
This real-time digital and social interaction has offered brands a great opportunity to connect with fans in new and more meaningful ways. But it comes with cautions and pitfalls that need to be understood and assessed.
Watch what you say (and how you spell it) so you don't get caught in the clutches of the minions who have mastered this new medium to amplify any and all errors. And if something careless does happen, have the confidence and humility to genuinely address the mistake head on –so your brand can move on.
Reach out to me anytime on Twitter @lorilewis.
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