How not to do social media: PR firms in war of words after Vodafone gaffe
A PR bod at Wolfstar (Jed Hallam) wrote a blog post slating the poor work of a rival PR outfit accusing them of basic errors on activity the agency had carried as part of Vodafone’s blogger outreach activity.
Worse for the offending PR firm as Wolfstar named the client (ouch) which meant it was pretty easy for some to work out that the agency concerned was Paratus Communications. Much irony as its appointment at the time was something of a big deal as 1) the account was valued at £500,000 and 2) Paratus won out over bigger agencies as PR Week reported:
“Vodafone has surprised the industry by shifting the bulk of its lucrative PR business to ten-person agency Paratus Communications. The UK’s biggest mobile operator selected the firm after a competitive pitch that saw it ditch long-term incumbents Harvard PR and Shine Communications.”
Hallam wrote that “no matter how good they are at traditional media relations, the new PR agency doesn’t seem to have grasped the ‘blogger relations’ bit of its brief. And it’s all gone a bit wrong, a bit quick”.
Wolfstar had got wind of the whole affair after Paratus had sent it two spam emails intended for bloggers…
“Quick note: We (******** Communications) have been appointed by Vodafone to assist with its media / blogger relations. We are in the process of reviewing lists / distribution methods at present so please let us know if these announcements are not to your liking – we’ll be in touch as soon as we refine this process further. Thanks for your understanding.”
As the Wolfstar’s Hallam points out not only is this poorly targeted, it is badly written piece of communications. I love the slashes. It’s all very from the school of “to whom it may concern” and it is like the kinda stuff we journos have seen so many times popping in our inbox or when we pick up the phone to a poorly targeted call. The intern did it right?
Well I’m guessing intern as Vodafone have form in this area after it passed responsibility of its Twitter account to an intern who then made a “homophobic” comment. Jeez Louise – did you never hear about Habitat (yes that time they blamed the intern)?
I digress, naturally Paratus did not take kind to being outed. Nor did others in the industry (sing with me to the tune of Yellow Submarine: “we all live in a big glass house, a big glass house”) who were unhappy about the flying masonry, which is fair enough as that stuff can sting.
Paratus’ lead social media consultant Adam Vincenzini defended his agency and blogged: “Its a shame you have chosen to take this route and I appreciate the support others have provided.”
You really have to feel for Paratus. It was certainly harsh to be outed in such a public way. This social media is like wild fire.
That said this is clearly a story worth telling. It is a great case study (unfortunately) in how not to do social media. However, it would have been nice to tell it without crushing those who did it (how mighty is hindsight?).
Journalists are very good at not revealing sources. Even when we blog, but the Wolfstar blogger just made a mistake. Give the kid a break.
Wolfstar admit that. Agency boss Stuart Bruce appended a comment on Hallam’s post saying: “You’ve always got to be careful about throwing stones in glasshouses and I’d never try to claim that Wolfstar is perfect. We make mistakes, like everyone else.”
He then blogged again and wrote addressed the issue more extensively: “Thanks for all the responses and Jon Clements is absolutely right when he says “Stuart’s qualification is right, but it feels as if he knows this post has gone too far and is unfortunately mean spirited and simply unnecessary.”
“So let me explain why I did it and still think something can be both right and wrong at the same time and how it happened. Right – highlight an industry problem, so we can all work together to fix it. Wrong – to have removed the agency name, but left in the client name. Should have taken out both. Sorry, my fault.”
This could run and run (and it will!), but what a big curve of learning it all is.
Stuff we should all learn from this:
1. Don’t slate your rivals in public. It will bite you in the arse.
2. Bloggers are like journalists. They publish and so you need to treat with a degree of respect and care.
3. Don’t send out rubbish beyond belief press releases or emails with bad grammar — every piece of comms counts.
4. This is early early days for social media.
5. If this post has grammar/spelling mistakes: oh dear.