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!

Social Media: gourmet, not fast food

When I think social media, I think five course meal. I think candles. I think cloth napkins. I think extensive wine list and sommelier. I think silverware. I think china. I think digestif. I think gourmet.

I don’t think fast food. I don’t think disposable flatware. I don’t think throw-away containers. I don’t think drive-through. I don’t think pepto-bismol chasers.

We’re living in interesting times. Those of us who were ahead of the wave are now watching it crash down on the beach, and the sound is exhilarating. Companies are convinced and coming to us asking for social media strategies. How do we counsel them?

It seems easy to offer up the fast food solution. Terms like ‘viral’ are bandied around, and the number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers seem to be the golden ring everyone is reaching for. But what about community? Social media is at its best when building community ties is the ultimate goal. This requires patience, investment and commitment … not really qualities we’re known for, as a society, here in North America. Or at least not qualities we’ve been known for since our economy was turned upside down in the post-war period. Since we entered into the consumer society era.

Social media is like a gourmet meal. It’s at its best when time is taken in its preparation. When benchmarking studies and influencer audits are done. When listening takes a front seat. Then you choose your wine. You take the time to choose between Bordeaux and Merlot. Blog or Facebook. You decide on vintage. Twitter or podcasting. The first course comes and you savour it. You enjoy sitting at a table with your other dinner guests, discussing common interests and learning about one another. By the time the third course is served, you’ve started to warm up to one another. You build trust. You feel you can lean over and ask for a favour or for advice. By the fourth course, you’re not surprised when the person sitting across from you at the table offers up an apology or a solution to a problem you’re experiencing. By the time dessert has been served and the last digestif enjoyed, and you stand up to leave the table, you’re promising one another that you’ll have to do it again next week. And offering to bring an interesting guest to the next dinner party.

Social media done right takes us back to a time when we relished in long conversation, and trust was earned and then sealed with a handshake. It is life at a slower pace, at a time when our business culture has us moving at breakneck speed.

It is a gourmet meal in fast-food times.

Blog with integrity

Ethics is a big deal in the blogging world. As bloggers, podcasters and other social media enthusiasts start to be approached by PR and marketing firms, they’re taking a stand on issues like product reviews, sponsored posts and disclosure.

As I’ve stated elsewhere in this blog, respecting blogger integrity is the keystone of my approach. I look to strike a balance of mutual respect, that includes respect not only for the blogger, but for his or her readership.

As I gear up for yet another campaign that will reach out to bloggers, I’m pleased to come across a new initiative launched in July of this year. Blog With Integrity is a simple code of ethics to which bloggers can adhere and promote through a badge on their sites. The Blog With Integrity pledge is as follows:


By displaying the Blog with Integrity badge or signing the pledge, I assert that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is important to me.

I treat others respectfully, attacking ideas and not people. I also welcome respectful disagreement with my own ideas.

I believe in intellectual property rights, providing links, citing sources, and crediting inspiration where appropriate.

I disclose my material relationships, policies and business practices. My readers will know the difference between editorial, advertorial, and advertising, should I choose to have it. If I do sponsored or paid posts, they are clearly marked.

When collaborating with marketers and PR professionals, I handle myself professionally and abide by basic journalistic standards.

I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.

I own my words. Even if I occasionally have to eat them.

Simple. Clear. Straightforward. Well done.


RezoPointZero.com – J’ajoute une corde à mon arc

Sachez que dorénavant vous pourrez également me suivre sur une deuxième plateforme web, à rezopointzero.com. Hé oui, je fais partie de l’équipe de rédaction de cette nouvelle publication web pour hauts dirigeants francophones qui cherchent à mieux comprendre les médias sociaux. Vous le devinerez … je m’occuperai du volet RP 2.0.

Un court descriptif:

Plus d’une vingtaine d’experts sont regroupés pour vous guider sur la scène passablement mouvante de l’innovation web. Leurs écrits/conseils comblent un besoin urgent pour l’ensemble des gestionnaires francophones en :
– vous procurant une vision concrète de l’évolution rapide du web;
– vous apprenant comment saisir les opportunités déjà offertes;
– vous présentant les tendances sous l’angle des promesses autant que des menaces.

Avec rezopointzero, vous devenez des gestionnaires aguerris en matière d’innovation web. Vous pouvez échanger de façon transparente avec votre personnel technique et vos fournisseurs grâce à :
– des histoires à succès et études de cas d’entreprises innovatrices sur le web;
– des comptes-rendus des meilleures pratiques et pires erreurs;
– des sondages réguliers en collaboration avec l’agence SOM;
– une couverture avertie des événements consacrés à l’innovation web;
– de la formation en ligne pour approfondir un sujet particulier.

Doté d’un pupitre d’édition professionnelle, rezopointzero affine son propos sous trois dimensions :

– vulgarisation des contenus pour des généralistes;
– sujets sélectionnés pour leur pertinence à l’endroit des décideurs;
– couverture complète de toutes les facettes de l’innovation web.

Unique au Québec et premier réseau de la sorte qui s’étend aux quatre pays principaux de la francophonie, rezopointzero effectue une veille stratégique quotidienne à partir de plus de 400 sources d’information des plus importantes en matière d’innovation web.  Il en extrait l’information essentielle pour les gestionnaires (…)

source: rezopointzero.com

Il s’agit d’un service payant, mais sachez que l’abonnement est gratuit pour les 3 premiers mois, donc profitez-en .. et parlez-en dans vos réseaux, svp!

MAJ: Un peu de vidéo, pourquoi pas?

MAJ2: Mot de bienvenue explicatif, sur le site de rezopointzero.

Comment aborder un blogueur – règles de base

Une présentation simple et concise de la part de Chris Brogan, qui vient de publier Trust Agents avec l’ami Julien Smith

À voir si vous vous demandez toujours par où commencer pour travailler avec les blogueurs.

(source: Bad Pitch Blog)