image via DefenseTech
This week I was involved in a minor flap with the Development Director at a private agency I used to work for. The for-profit for which I'm now a contractor put out a news release about something we were doing in tandem with the agency. It was my idea, and everyone agreed it was a win-win until the Development Director got a copy of the company's news release sent out via an online news distribution service through our PR agency.
Are You Kidding Me?
From the email tirade I got from the Development Director, you would have thought I was personally trying to sabotage their mission (I'll cover some of this in another post about partnerships). The Director then demanded that I re-work every instance of publicity to the Director's satisfaction.
My answer was "no."
Now, I'm not saying the company I work with could not have done better by the agency - it's always possible to do better - but even if it had wanted to meet the Director's demands, it was not possible.
When you're using electronic media to send out information, once it hits the ether, it's GONE. Like a leaf in a hurricane. Like The Flash. Like a rick-roll link. Gone, gone, gone.
In the totally print media days, one could ask for a correction if the facts were omitted or wrong. Or a retraction (for all the good that little notice does). You could argue the writer took the facts out of context and write a rebuttal.
We Control the Vertical - We Control the Horizontal
So, you might think that what I'm saying here is be vewy vewy careful when hunting media wabbits. And that's true; it has been since the days of cuneiform. But what I'm getting at here is that you can't control social media.
You can use it, influence it, excoriate it, react to it, and even try to manipulate and game it. But in the end, it's going to do what all those other people using it want to do, which may not be what you want. Just ask the Star Wars Kid about that.
These days, it's fairly easy to become worried about your "brand." Marketing experts (I use that term loosely) like to talk about that all the time - how you have to be "on brand" and "control your brand" and once you get invested in that idea, you can go a little crazy trying to control every instance of how your brand is presented. But here's the thing: once people start tweeting or Facebooking or otherwise using social media to talk about your nonprofit, control just slips through your fingers. Oh sure, sometimes as with the model who sued Google to find out who was libeling her anonymously on a Blogger blog, you can find someone to hold responsible, but that doesn't stop still more people from talking about what is going on between you and the person you're trying to get to stop talking about you. Get it?
The best you can do is try to understand the beast and you do that by participating and by representing yourself and your nonprofit in such a way that if people hear something bad about you, they'll know it's wrong. As for the rest, if you're there, they can ask you.
Your Board of Directors can pass all the marketing plans it wants and create the strictest usage policy possible for your logo and your mission, including the exact wording that should be used, and it won't make a doodly squat bit of difference except in your own communications. Even grantees become forgetful or don't execute well. You going to withhold funding because they pixilated your logo on their postcard? And when they hit the social media ether with that, what will you say? Yeah, right.
Take a Time Out and Wax Your Board
In any case, overreacting when you feel slighted is a no-win. Understand that people are going to get it wrong sometimes and that it can't be helped. When you can, reach out with the right information and make contact. In social media, contact is what it's all about. As the saying goes, you can't control the ocean, but you can learn to surf.