Digital PR Lessons from Romney’s Really Bad Week

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Celebrities and big companies are some of our favorite teachers when it comes to learning about brand engagement. From old directors who talk to furniture to stage moms who show up wasted on talk shows, the last few weeks have been filled with tons of great “What Not to Do Lessons” in online PR. Yet nothing has been more powerful than those Romney videos — you know the ones — that have been making waves this week.

In case you slept through the last three days, a video from a fundraiser last spring made waves this week for featuring the Republican presidential nominee describing 47 percent of Americans as government-dependent, self-defined “victims.” This bitch-slap to the American population was explained in a stumbling, sweaty press conference. Romney didn’t really apologize in this clearing of the air and in fact sort of made things worse. Then another video featuring Romney’s thoughts on Israel and Palestine was leaked on Tuesday where he claimed that Palestinians are not interested in peace. He went from casually ticking off the people of the U.S. to basically spitting on the rest of the planet. If PR disasters were big-budget movies, Romney’s week would make Titanic look like an independent film.

The first thing we can never, ever do (that Romney has done repeatedly) is forget that everything will eventually go viral, especially if you’re on a national stage. What planet does he and his team live on where what we say doesn’t eventually end up in an online video? This baffling arrogance regarding the digital media has cost Romney dearly. As marketers and small business owners, we owe it to our brands to carefully watch our language, social media messages and appearances at events, regardless of how casual they seem.

The second lesson here is to skip the apology and explanation press conference if you’re not going to really do either. Press conferences and Twitter statements all have their place if the message is sincere and really talks about the issue at hand. In short, only apologize if you’re really sorry.

The final thing we can all learn from Romney is to have a good team around us. From day one, this campaign has suffered from sloppy marketing, confused social media strategies and weird public relations choices. Someone paid by that campaign should have told him what to say and how to say it and that, hey, everything’s gonna end up on the Internet.

Keeping knowledgeable people around us and listening to their advice is essential for great PR, online marketing and social media management. Obviously, Team Romney didn’t get that memo.

Five Things You Might Have Missed

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Hello summer! While the kids are playing Marco Polo in the pool, marketers are playing a no-holds-barred game of King of the Hill in terms of brand engagement dominance. But don’t take your eyes off the kids. We’ve collected these just for you — five of the best videos, Twitter campaigns and content marketing efforts making headlines this summer:

1.) Overista: We groaned last year when TJ Max released its “Maxinista” ad campaign. I mean the whole fashionista thing seems decidedly tired and very early 2000s, no? Yet consumers and marketers just won’t let the “ista” go. Just last week, juice company Odwalla unveiled its new partnership with gardening website/blog/giant commercial Gardenista. Gardenista is the latest website from Say Media, the company behind Remodelista. Okay, branders and marketers, we’re crying uncle here. This “ista” overload almost makes us wish for the “diva” days. Almost.

2.) Waiting Sucks: Every summer, we can count on HBO to roll out some clever online marketing campaigns for its vampire soap True Blood. This year the network took to Twitter with the hashtag #waitingsucks. The hashtag winks at the year (well, nearly) that fans have had to wait for their favorite bloodsucking show to come back. Couple it with some truly stunning viral video spots and HBO has once again created some serious buzz in a season where television is expected to be dominated by the Olympics.

3.) Dine and Dash and Do Dishes: Scotch Brite Sponges presented hip, young Brazilian diners with an interesting proposition: Do dishes and your dinner’s free. The result is a fun viral video and innovative interactive campaign.

4.) Crumbs of Wisdom: The Pacific Cookie Company is one of those great, old-fashioned Northern Californian companies whose business model has been changed by online marketing and new media. Behind the Cookie is its blog and great example of how every business can invite readers and consumers into their world with blogging.

5.) Sirilebrities: First Zooey Deschanel, then Samuel Jackson and now John Malkovich. Apple is hoping that if enough cool celebrities are shown using Siri on their iPhone 4S then maybe regular people will actually like Siri, too. In the new spot, Malkovich gets cerebral with Siri, asking it the meaning of life and even cracking some jokes. The commercials are a good time and certainly buzzworthy, but only time will tell if mere mortals will warm up to Siri just like the stars have.