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!

Article of the day : Local realtors reach out to new clients with blogs

I would so blog if I were a real-estate agent.

I’ve often thought that I might eventually try my hand at real estate. A couple of years ago, I went house hunting and visited about 75 of them before finding the perfect home (ok, I’m picky). I had a blast scouring MLS listings, checking out foundations and rooftops, imagining potential and scoping out neighbourhoods. Then I flash back to the amazement I felt as a ten year old, that the real estate agent presenting an offer on my family cottage was at our house at midnight. Crazy.

Then again, sometimes I’m working at midnight…

Either way. I would so blog if I were a real-estate agent. It’s a perfect mix, allowing not only the promotion of properties, but, maybe more importantly, self-promotion. Convincing someone to list with you depends so much on the image they have of you and the confidence you’re able to inspire. I’d blog about properties, of course, but also give those house-selling and house-buying tips that can be touchy to share when you have your clients in front of you. Like telling them their 100+ doll collection, chintzy sofa and floral wallpaper have to go. What better way than a blog to share the kind of advice that will help sellers unload their properties quickly, at the maximum possible price?

With this in mind, I was interested to come across this article on real estate bloggers.

Check it out here.

(ed.note : fixed the link on 20080115 – hope this version of the article stays online more than 24 hours!)

Last minute social media Xmas shopping : doing it ‘barefoot’ with the figure skater

Looking for a stocking stuffer for that hard-to-buy-for social media afficionado?

Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo of Capulet Communications have just launched Getting to first base : A social media marketing playbook, a book they describe as :

(…) a 100-page ebook filled with tricks, tips and case studies that show

you how to :

– Bring more visitors to your website

– Increase your company’s visibility online

– Approach bloggers and other online influencers

– Create compelling viral campaigns

– Get your website social media ready

– Craft a potent social media pitch

– Market effectively inside Facebook

– Avoid campaign killers and online faux pas

Now what’s a social media book launch, without the proper accoutrement, you say?

Try this on for size :

A blog with an RSS feed and all the right bookmarking tools

A YouTube video or two (or several : if you check out their individual YouTube profiles, you’ll see that they’ve even included personalized pitches to some heavy hitters (pun intended) like Robert Scoble and Steve Rubel. Clever, clever. Strange .. the Michelle, a Quick Message from Malta video must have gotten lost in the shuffle… )

A Facebook Fan page

You can even read some sample chapters.

Walking the walk.

Oh and how cool is this : $1 from the sale of each copy is being donated to the David Suzuki Foundation.

Ed. note : Hey. Does that too-clever-for-its-own-good blog post title sound a tad naughty to you too? Totally unintended. Hrm. No wonder Santa brings me coal every year.

La rentrée

Bon, c’est officiel! Malgré les températures records et l’humidité, c’est la rentrée. Les clients me le disent, mes collègues me le disent. Il faudrait maintenant que mon corps le comprenne. Je suis toujours dans le beat relaxe qui est propre à Vancouver, mais j’en sors, tranquillement. Il le faut bien, un jour.

Une fin de semaine de travail avec bon mélange de plaisir en perspective. Quelle joie retrouver les amis autour d’une table lors de ces dernières belles soirées d’été, dans le jardin chez nous!

Tel qu’espéré, je ressens les vibrations de plus en plus frénétiques des médias sociaux à Montréal depuis mon retour. On en parle plus fréquemment qu’il y a même 3-4 mois. Les collègues m’approchent pour se renseigner. Même ceux qui, il y a de ça quelques mois seulement, étaient sur leurs gardes face à tout ce qui ressemblait à blogue/podcast/Facebook/ Twitter et al. ne semblent plus nier l’influence grandissante du phénomène et cherchent à en savoir plus.

On me solicite maintenant en tant que conférencière. Super, ça.

En parlant de conférenciers, Infopresse en fait venir un grand. Chris Anderson, auteur de l’incontournable The Long Tail, sera à Montréal le 9 octobre prochain.

Détails ici. Si vous avez les sous, ça vaut la peine.

Geek Dinner, Mitch Joel? On ne peut faire autrement que se croiser les doigts. Et merci d’avance, en passant, pour celui pour Tod Maffin – ça devrait être génial.

Vidéo du jour : YULBiz

On se fait parler de nous!

Également disponible sur le site montreal.tv ici