Opinions & Thoughts.

Things that don’t work in Social Media: Taking your ball and going home [PR Fail]

If the The Redner Group could only be at fault for loving their client TOO much then all would be forgiven. However they took to the social media stage and lobbed an open-threat volley against what they perceived as “venomous” coverage of their client’s hallmark product, Duke Nukem Forever. The reviews were mild and disappointing for such a high profile video game franchise. Arstechnica provides excellent coverage of this PR debacle and context of the gaming writers working relationship with game developers.

In a nutshell, the relationship between the gaming press and game developers is similar to any other industry where access is critical to both parties. What The Redner Group did was overestimate their leverage in this symbiotic relationship and the clout of their client. And of course, let emotions take control of their Twitter account. What is fascinating in this story is that the principal of The Redner Group accepted responsibility not only for the tweet, but for tweeting it himself. At first glance, I had assumed an overeager employee among the Group had vented on the company Twitter feed. Alas, it was James Redner himself. When asked for a response by Arstechnica, I applaud the honesty of Mr. Redner in explaining his tweets and accepting full responsibility:

I have had a wonderful relationship working with you in the past. I plan to continue working with you in the future on all projects, if you will allow me.

I believe reviews are completely subjective. Everyone is welcome to their own opinion and opinions are never wrong.

It is not my intention to bully anyone. I over reacted. I just voiced an opinion. I have poured my heart into this project and I just want it to succeed.

It is my hope that you understand.

His tweets created a crisis for his company and being honest and open at least helped limit the damage to the tweets themselves. The damage already has been significant. The Arstechnica story has already 1,159 tweets and was also picked up by Techmeme. And as of this morning, it appears they lost 2K sports as a client.

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So here we are again, another slip of the twitter thumbs, another PR disaster with offline consequences. In social media, the paramount principle is that the community is first and foremost the owner of conversation. No one is above the community and when the score is against you, don’t think you can just get up and take your ball and go home. The ball is not yours to begin with. Especially in PR, social media can build you up just as fast and effectively as it can humble you.

What should have The Redner Group done in response? Best thing probably was to learn from it, maybe even be a little playful and find humor in the lame reviews. Social media is a humanizing tool, and there are few things more human than humor. If done cleverly, you won’t diminish the hard work your PR firm and client have put in to the product, in fact you can help refocus the conversation on the positive aspects and retain your supporters. One idea for  The Redner Group to counter industry reviews via social media would be to highlight their customers in their tweets. Solicit video reviews from actual players who love the game. Or if it was still pre-launch, surprise some of your devoted fans with advanced copies of the game in return for a 2-minute video of their playing experience.

Spite and anger do not translate well in 140 characters, especially if you feel you’re being wronged in the business community. Google provided one of the best examples when Bing was copying their search results. Instead of crying foul and demonizing Microsoft, they set up a clever “trap” to highlight their cause for concern and put Bing on display with their pants down. It was the only argument they needed in that debate.

The last thing you want to do is ostracize yourself from the community because then you’re at the mercy of a global audience that is being introduced to you for the first time and for the wrong reasons. Game over.


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