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Marie Claire’s Response Sucked. Here’s Why.

5 Oct

It’s now been almost 48 hours since I first saw the Hunger Diaries piece that trashed Kath, Tina, Meghann, Caitlin and Heather , and in that time there has been near total silence from Hearst (publishers of Marie Claire) and Katie Drummond, the author of the piece.

Hearst published a really weak statement that thanked everybody for the comments, both positive and negative (I think I saw four positive over the two days, vs hundreds and hundreds of negative ones), and Katie’s tweeted a couple of snarky tweets. That’s it.  I guess they feel that there’s nothing to be gained from them saying any more than that or engaging with their detractors, who have clearly already made up their minds.

I believe they’re wrong about that.  Here’s why:

1. Damage to Marie Claire’s Reputation
There have been an astronomical number of posts created on this topic over the last couple of days: a HUGE amount of content has been created, the vast majority of which has attacked Marie Claire. Their standards are being called into question, but they’re silent. It makes them look like they’re scared to get into a conversation because they know they’ve done something wrong. Surely if they hadn’t they’d want to defend themselves, wouldn’t they?

2. Damage to Katie’s Reputation
One of the key charges leveled against Katie is that she deceived the bloggers when interviewing them. Ask yourself one question: will a source ever trust her again? The first thing I would do if I got a call from her would be to google her name. Doing so pulls up a bunch of posts accusing her of lying to sources about the story she’s working on.  Would you want to work with somebody that has been accused of that? Whether the accusations are true or not they’re out there for everyone to see. There are always two sides to every story, but her silence doesn’t do her any favors.

3. SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
This is related to #1 and #2, but important enough to call out on its own. There are thousands and thousands of tweets, blog posts and comments out there, almost all in support of the bloggers. Again, with almost nothing substantial from Hearst or Katie out there, it doesn’t look too good.  Organic search results (that is to say the ones you can’t buy from google, that appear naturally in the larger section of your results page) are dominated by posts attacking the magazine and author. One or two you could put down to a crank, but dozens and dozens…

4. Plain Old Ethics
This one’s a bit dull, but perfectly valid. If you’ve been accused of something, particularly something like this, why wouldn’t you want to defend yourself? If you’re in the right, back your position up. If you’ve made a mistake, ‘fess up to it. But just doing nothing…. I don’t get it. Well, I do (legal and/or simply don’t care), but I don’t agree with it. It’s just not the right thing to do, period.

5. Community Backlash
A few people will cancel their subscriptions, sure, but it’s just a few bucks, microscopic in the grand scheme of thigns.  Longer term what they’ve done by failing to engage is caused an entire community (a BIG community, too), to not trust them. Right now that’s not a huge deal to them, but it could come back and bite them in future.

6. Avoiding being a Case Study
Cynical, but true.  In future this incident will be cited as an example of old media just not getting it. Failing to engage, not putting their hands up and admitting to having done anything wrong or even understanding why people were upset… is a mistake, and will be cited as an example of old media being a dinosaur.

So, what do you think about how they’ve handled the situation? Were they right to essentially shut up shop and ignore what was (and still is) going on, or do you agree with me that it’s a pretty major misstep on their part?


The Real Problem With Facebook: CRM

14 May

Lots of chatter this week about Facebook’s complex privacy settings.  Plenty of people making valid points (lots of echo chamber bleating too, of course), but for me the real issue is a CRM one.

For individual users, the reality is that Facebook offers an extraordinary level of control over what information you share.  I’ll concede that they’re a little shady in places (e.g. there’s no ‘hide everything from everyone I don’t know’ button), but the fact is they give you the ability to hide any information from anyone if you so choose. As the end user you have a responsibility to take a little ownership: if you don’t like their terms, don’t use the service.

The bigger issue, as far as I’m concerned, is the huge amount of customer and constituent data Facebook has control over.  Say you have a fan page that 140,000 people like, as we do at Autism Speaks. Facebook OWNS that data, 100%. Yes, we get extraordinary interaction on the content we publish, and are lucky enough to have an incredibly engaged and active community, but ultimately we’re at Facebook’s mercy when it comes to those users.

We can’t export our data, we can’t message our supporters directly  and we can’t properly integrate our facebook base into our overall CRM strategy. Our Facebook community essentially exists in near complete isolation. If Facebook turns around and pulls a Ning by charging (entirely within the realms of possibility at some point), lots of organizations, non-profit and otherwise, will have a very tough decision to make.

Does this mean that Facebook isn’t important?  Of course not… 400 million + users is an incredibly compelling proposition: it’s a cornerstone of many people’s online lives, and there’s a huge opportunity there.  It does mean though that brands (and in particular non-profits, who tend to have less resources), need to go in to it with their eyes open.

The speed of Facebook’s growth is absolutely staggering. It should absolutely factor into your overall digital strategy, but don’t make the mistake of putting all your eggs in once basket, especially if you don’t have CPG sized budgets to play with if you need to dig yourself out of a hole further down the road.

The personal privacy complaints leave me cold, and in all honesty ring a little hollow: if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.

I’m much more concerned about the CRM issue.

26 Apr

Check this out if you haven’t already:

It aggregates your Facebook network’s activity on one page. The custom search piece is particularly cool: scroll to the bottom, type in the URL of a site you’re interested in (your org’s, for example), and it will tell show you activity related to it on Facebook.

Here’s Autism Speaks’: [edited 4/28/10 ‘cos the link stopped working]

Very, very cool.