Michelle Sullivan Communications

Cooks Source’s annus horribilis: a Marley-esque warning for CEOs and Community Managers

Last month, I walked you through the firestorm surrounding Cooks Source. The editor of this food magazine had unleashed the wrath of bloggers (and those who love them) first for copyright infringement, then by mishandling the blogger she had wronged.

Time for an update.

The protest launched by the online community in support of blogger Monica Gaudio and critical of Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs not only bombarded the Cooks Source Facebook page with negative comments, making it virtually unusable, it was picked up as a story by traditional media. Cooks Source began to lose advertisers and, consequently, revenue. In an interview with a far-too-sympathetic journalist from the  Daily Hampshire Gazette, Griggs explains the impact the online campaign has had on her publication as well as on her, personally.

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of a death knell.

Cooks Source magazine closed mid November. Its Thanksgiving edition was, apparently, its last. Toronto Star/Montreal Gazette contributor Craig Silverman sums it up in his Crunks 2010 : The Year in Media Errors and Corrections piece : Error of the year? Cooks Source Magazine!

While Sarah Lacy of Techcrunch is critical of the online campaign in her « Congrats, Self-Righteous Internet Mob. You killed a magazine » blog post, Caitlan Fitzsimmons of the All Facebook blog has another take on Cooks Source’s disappearance, laying blame squarely on the shoulders of editor Griggs.

What does this dramatic saga tell CEOs and Community Managers?

Big Brother is actually Little Brothers .. and they’re watching you. Orwell warned that Big Brother would be watching. I doubt he imagined that Big Brother would in fact end up being made up of millions of Little Brothers with the power to share information and mobilize online to affect change. Corporate conduct, whether it be from a customer relations point of view, or social engagement point of view, can now be amplified — either positively or negatively — through social media. There’s no such thing as  letting a single disgruntled client go anymore because, after all, how much harm can he do? Angry clients might have complained to their immediate circle ten years ago. Today, they’re complaining to their 600 Facebook friends and Twitter followers. CEOs and Community managers must be aware that poor behaviour is of even greater consequence in a social media world.

The Internet isn’t a huge place. It’s a village. And people talk. Before the average person travelled particularly far, the village he lived in was his world. There was no television, radio or Internet to keep people indoors. Villagers would look for ways to connect with one another, whether it be on the church steps after mass or spending evenings dancing to the music of a single violin at a neighbour’s house. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. Online communities aren’t that different from those villages. Divided into niche groups, they form relatively small circles with tools at their disposal to speak to one another and to share information. CEOs and community managers need to tap into their tribes and listen to them. More than that, they need to join the tribe.

It’s wise not to lose sight of the Wisdom of crowds. James Surowiecki coined the phrase, and it is applicable to the Cooks Source scenario. The crowd not only rallied against Cooks Source’s editor Judith  Griggs, it mobilized to fact check, research, dig up other copyright infringements attributed to Cooks Source and publish a list of its advertisers. The crowd pulled its resources together to make the protest movement a reality. Had Griggs apologized sincerely and humbly, she might have quieted the opposition. Her unfortunate attitude, however, only served to fuel the fire. CEOs and community managers should not underestimate the wisdom of crowds, their ability to self-mediate and, especially, their potential for intelligent mobilisation.

You have to react to a building crisis and react quickly. Cooks Source proves that a situation can turn into a crisis within a matter of hours. CEOs and Community managers need to stay on top of their online reputation by ongoing monitoring. Setting up something as easy as a Google Alerts is a quick way to monitor your brand. More sophisticated tools like Sysomos’ Heartbeat and Radian6 comb social media platforms for you and pull together conversations into buzzgraphs and share of voice. Whichever you choose, know that the key to nipping an impending crisis in the bud is staying ahead of it. Address complaints head on, apologize when appropriate and, if Judith Griggs has taught you anything, always communicate with respect and humility. Arrogance does not go over well, and you’ll end up looking like an ass.

Know your tribe. Really know them. If you don’t already engage with the online community that is interested in your industry or market, you’re missing an opportunity to build goodwill before a crisis can happen. Become a respected member of the community and people will not only give you the benefit of the doubt, they’ll come to your defence. Nothing should please a CEO or Community Manager more than to see that the community has his back.

Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs will certainly consider 2010 as her annus horribilis. The damage she created for her brand not only through her initial mistake but through her mishandling of the online community cause her brand irreparable damage. This all sounds very ominous, but it shouldn’t. The good news for CEOs and Community Manager paying attention to the Cooks Source soap opera? They’ll take it as yet another sign that companies and brands appreciated by consumers, who treat them right, and who engage in dialogue with them, will come out as winners in the social media space. Cultivating and working hard to deserve and maintain a good reputation has never been more important as in the age of social media.

Because I’d never heard of Cooks Source two months ago. Had you? Now it has its own wikipedia page. And not for the right reasons.

Did you know: Griggs is now a verb. As in « Why’d you get an F on that essay? » « I griggs’d the professor’s doctoral thesis from her website, and I even cleaned it up for her and told her she should give me an A, but she failed me anyway. »

Let Judith Griggs be your Jacob Marley. Repent, Scrooge. Repent!

NetProspex’s NPSI Score: Business is social south of the border

Interesting report out of the States on how ‘social’ American business really is. The NetProspex team ranked social network activity on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, coming up with something they call the NPSI (NetProspex Social Index) score. It measures things like activity (ex: number of Tweets), connectedness (employees with social media profiles) and friendliness and reach (connections per employee)

Things that caught my eye:

– Banking (3rd) outranked traditional media (4th)

– Pharma ranked a surprising (from a Canadian perspective) 25th – the medical industry didn’t make the top 50

– The tobacco industry isn’t big on Twitter. Neither are funeral homes. They’re more a Facebook industry, apparently.

– Toys & Games = at the top in the consumer category

– CFOs are only slightly more social than admin assistants, payroll and maintenance … meaning not very

– The study ranks companies with the most social employees. HR staff have the most number of “friends”

– B2B employees are social. Non tech B2B businesses aren’t leveraging social media.

– Highest blue collar industry ranked = the trucking, moving and storage industry

… Marketers are more social than HR, which is more social than PR.

The NetProspex Social Index (NPSI) doesn’t include blogging/podcasting. I bet funeral homes would have ranked better if they had 😉

Hat tip to Michelle Blanc for the heads up on this study.

De Madonna à Lady Gaga: ou comment définir sa marque à l’ère 2.0

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(photo: Wenn.com)

Pas nécessaire d’être un Perez Hilton ou un Kanye West pour voir les ressemblances entre Mlle Gaga et La Madone. Si on s’en tient au concept de l’évolution de la marque personnelle (the personal brand), ces deux phénomènes du pop ont pleinement tiré profit des outils marketing à leur disposition. Madonna s’est réinventée ad vitam aeternam et a dominé MTV. Elle était de son époque. Normal, donc, que la machine Lady Gaga carbure plutôt au 2.0.

Cette vidéo intitulée « Brand Romance », de nos amis chez Newcast,  démontre à quel point Lady Gaga est la poster-girl du marketing 2.0

Brand Romance par Newcast de Newcast VivaKi sur Vimeo.

De la part d’une fille de lycée catho à deux autres, bravo mesdames!

Open File – journalism, wide open

This new journalism project by Wilf Dinnick has piqued my interest (piqued being a giant understatement). Definitely one to add to your Google Reader:

Welcome to the beginnings of OpenFile.ca, a new voice for local news.

We are warming up, getting ready to unveil our website in just two weeks. We promise to provide smart, original, insightful stories about the places and topics that matter most to the people of Toronto.

For me, OpenFile represents a fresh chapter in my journalism career, which began more than 20 years ago in this city. As a video journalist at CBC Television, I was the night reporter, handling breaking local news – going live here, whipping over there for an interview.

After working in all of Canada’s national network newsrooms, I became the Middle Eastern correspondent for ABC News, then an international correspondent for CNN. I reported from Africa, Asia, North America and all over the Middle East. I covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tsunamis and civil conflicts. These were big stories, but they taught me that all news starts as local news.

Over the past few years I’ve watched the news business change dramatically. Big media companies have struggled to figure out how to adapt to the way people are getting their news in the digital age. My biggest fear was that real journalism, stories that affect you and your community, would get lost as traditional news outlets scrambled to come up with a quick fix that would lure back their dwindling audiences.

We are not trying to replace daily newspapers or newscasts. We do not have the answer to all the questions that are keeping journalists like us awake at night. But we believe that journalism cannot evolve without input from you, the reader, so we’re trying something different. At OpenFile, readers can collaborate with our reporters and editors, creating a place for great storytelling to flourish.

When I returned to Canada last year, I got together a group of journalists and clever web thinkers and developers whom I admired. We spent months huddled over our kitchen tables, scribbling on Post-it notes, arguing and eating a lot of takeout before agreeing on this approach.

We asked some smart venture capital people to help develop a business plan. We did the « finance dance » for about five months and raised some money. We moved into an old factory in Toronto’s west end, and here we are.

We’ll start by doing one thing – local news – and doing it well. The internet is full of aggregators powered by search engines that spit out the same story over and over. We’re not like that. We’ll assign real reporters to cover the developments that affect your communities and neighbourhoods.

Toronto is our start.

This will be your site! Think of it as a work in progress, because we want to know how you feel about what we’re doing.

Wilf
Founding Editor and CEO

wilf@openfile.ca

Le Trente – en blogue!

Le magazine Trente prend une nouvelle tangente cette semaine en lançant son blogue au Trente.ca.

Extrait du premier billet, signé Steve Proulx:

Il est toujours risqué de prédire quelle forme prendra un blogue, puisque ce sont les lecteurs qui, très souvent, l’investissent et décident de la tangente qu’il prendra. Nous souhaitons tout de même que ce blogue du journalisme devienne ce terrain neutre où peut se tenir un débat sain sur les enjeux qui touchent le métier de journaliste.

On le sait, la profession traverse une période charnière de son histoire. Elle se réinvente. Ce serait bien de s’en toucher un mot ou deux, non?