Tag Archives: PR issues

Banned from the cafe that does not exist yet

imageSometimes the comments on a blog are better than the blog itself.  This is a fantastic example of small business PR gone horribly wrong.

Brian Ward received some PR asking him to write about a new cafe opening in the area.  They offered him a free coffee card.

Brian declined the coffee card and blogged about the opening

The cafe was slow in opening so Brian blogged about it.  The owners of Stencil cafe started a diatribe in the comments section of the blog.

Brian re-iterated that he doesn’t accept freebies – not even free coffee.

Now he has been banned from visiting the cafe – when it opens.  Here’s the email:

Hi there,

The team here at Stencil have recently had a discussion about your article and poor behaviour regarding it. As a result of this we have decided to place a 6 month ban on you coming into the cafe when it opens up the road from the original planned location in just under a month’s time . However, you can work to over turn this ban with positive press on your blog. But as it stands it will be 6 months of not being allowed into the cafe or getting someone else to come in on your behalf so you can blog about it. Once the ban is up you are welcome to come in and PAY for your coffee or check out some of the fantastic artwork.

I trust this clears things up and I will notify you when the ban is up.

Kind regards
Phil and Christine
Stencil Cafe Team

The Stencil cafe team are still trolling in the comments to this blog post – and there are a fair few comments.  They don’t seem to realise that he doesn’t accept free coffees.  He doesn’t accept freebies…

He makes it really clear.  He doesn’t accept freebies

Are the owners of the Stencil cafe naive or clever?  All this trolling back and forth is a lot of free publicity for them.  All PR is good PR right?  the brand is getting mentions.  Awareness is growing pre-launch.  After all, the big brands do this to get attention.  It certainly seems to work here.

Or perhaps they are naive – expecting that bloggers will accept free stuff in exchange for a mention on their blog.  It happens to all of us.  Some of us decide to accept the offer, others don’t. It’s a personal choice.  Perhaps you have limits.  A cup of free coffee might be ok, but a free meal would be over the top.

But I think that someone needs to go back to PR school and learn some fundamentals of PR.  Don’t upset the customer.

Especially before you open your doors for business…

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Image credit: Flickr

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Do you really own your online profile?

imageThere have been some interesting issues recently over Intellectual property, privacy, profiles and blog styles.  Who really owns the content you produce on Twitter and your blog?   Who really owns your Twitter account? Who really owns the content you write on your blog? Why does it matter so much?

Blogs can bring big rewards for business.

Successful bloggers pull in hundreds of thousands of readers onto the blog.  A great blog can improve perception about a company. They bring awareness and reach for the blog site owner.  They bring new views to pages with associated advertising.  They bring revenue.  So by protecting their revenue streams its understandable that companies also want to protect their investment in maintaining their strong brand.

Bloggers with a strong personal brand can cost businesses dearly if the blogger decides to move on to another job..

The York Times sued AOL over Trademark infringement claiming that blogger Lisa Belkin had taken her Motherlode blog over to the Huffington post when she moved.  The Motherlode blog was actually still being published by the New York Times but Lisa had called her new blog ‘Parentlode’ to incorporate male and female parenting. The New York Times claimed that it would ‘confuse’ readers

Some companies have clauses in their employee guidelines which talk about IP ownership of content whilst you work for them.  If you have a multi million idea whilst you work for a company you could develop that idea and bring it to production.  This idea could turn into a thriving business and make you millions.  If the idea was somehow related to what your job was, then the company could have a claim on your potential fortune.

But what about followers and friends that you’ve built up over your time at the company?  What about your LinkedIn connections?  If you make connections in the normal course of your job, and add those connections to your LinkedIn profile, are they your connections – or are they part of the CRM database at your employer?

Your Twitter account is yours – isn’t it?

Laura Kuenssberg built up a strong following whilst at the BBC and took her personal Twitter account – and her followers with her when she joined ITV.  Phonedog sued Noah Kravitz when he left Phonedog and changed his Twitter username to noahkravitz, keeping his followers on his personal account.  Phonedog  sued Noah for “(1) misappropriation of trade secrets, (2) interference with economic advantage; and (3) conversion”  This ‘land grabbing’ by corporates over Twitter accounts raises an interesting point for those of you who use your personal online Twitter brand to communicate on behalf of a company.

If you register something on behalf of a company, or maintain a list of passwords and other data, then that data belongs to the company and should be returned when requested.  Similarly, any credentials should be returned to the company – who should already know the usernames and passwords used to access the account.

But is a company Twitter account really a trade secret?

It’s easy to see all followers and all that you’re following, your favourites are for everyone to see, as are your images and public Tweets.  A simple call to the api can track conversations and trends.  Is it really all that secret at all?  The only thing that is secret are Direct messages – and the logon password.  Techdirt sums the argument up well..

If you want him to Tweet as the company, give him the company account.  If you want to him to Tweet as himself, let him do so.  Suing for the account just seems silly and petty.

Rick Sanchez took his personal Twitter account with him when he was fired from CNN taking almost 150,000 Twitter followers with him too.  He tweeted about CNN as a business- but probably mixed in his personal Tweets in his main stream.  Most of us do this – even with corporate Twitter accounts.  Many people Tweeting about a company from a personal have a disclaimer on their Twitter account.  They usually state that their tweets are their own opinions and do not reflect the views of the company.  So why do some companies get so bothered about the loss of followers if they have allowed employees to blog as themselves.  The spam notes blog has some interesting points on how CNN could have incorporated some appropriate clauses into their social media guidelines:

If they had built in contractual protection, it could provide that upon termination:

(1) Sanchez would stop using the account immediately; (2) CNN would have access to Sanchez’s password at all times; (3) Sanchez would not post any public statements without CNN’s approval; and (4) Sanchez would turn over the account to CNN.

Who owns the brand?

If you want to ‘own’ the brand name such as @BTCare, @Bing, @Starbucks, @Ford and @Microsoft Twitter accounts then it’s better to create a corporate brand name and get members of the team to use the corporate account to broadcast on your behalf.  Then, when a team changes, a simple change in password will ensure that corporate identity is maintained.

If your internal staff have ‘personality’ Twitter accounts, be prepared to lose the followers if your employee leaves the company.  Make sure you have great guidelines and policies in place and make sure your measurements reflect the brand not the individual.  Taking staff to court in order to reclaim followers may rebound adversely on the brand.

If you followed a personality, and they left the company and their Twitter account remained with the brand, what would you do?  Would you stay with the brand or would you continue to follow the personality?

Who ‘owns’ the online brand, who ‘owns’ the ‘personality’?

The answer to one seems simple, the answer to the other could be argued in court for some time yet.   Make sure you’re very clear about who you really think you are – before you touch that keyboard…

Eileen is a social business strategist and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Image credit: Flickr

Twitter: Not the place for a vitriolic argument

Dear me..

Sometimes Twitter is used as though its a personal channel of communication between 2 people and not the rest of the connected world. Personal insults get traded without any awareness that the rest of us can see what’s happening.  So people lash out and they don’t realise the consequences.

Last week, Otarian, the vegan restaurant announced that it wasn’t going to open a restaurant in London.  The food blogger Chris Pople commented on the fact that the restaurant in London’s Covent Garden was closed.  Unfortunately, Otarian took exception to this and responded bitterly.  Magnus has a selection of Tweets  on his storify where he talk about the story of a hashtag gone sourGrub Street picked up on the fact that the Twitter feed had gone haywire


Link to original tweet

This diatribe between Otarian and anyone that comments on Twitter  to them – or uses the hashtag otarianwatch is interesting to see.  It’s either a very clever bit of PR or utter foolishness on the part of Otarian.  Looking at the vitriol  on the stream from 5th – 7th August – I’m not so sure.  There’s anger certainly and a lot of bitterness, resentment and nasty comments.  All recorded forever on Twitter via links and screen clippings and blogs. 

As Judith says in her Tweet…  


A great example in how not to win friends and influence people  Social media specialists and Twitter trainers –  you can see that there’s still a heck of a lot of work still to be done…  Smile

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Do draconian social media policies really protect your brand?

Oops.  There are restrictive social media policies and there are unworkable and unreasonable social media policies.  This one is one of the latter. 

The Commonwealth bank in Australia has been asked by the Finance Sector Union (FSU) to review their social media policies after they were criticised as draconian.  Employees could be fired for posting negative comments about the bank on Facebook.  Unfortunately for the bank, the FSU took exception to some of the points raised in the policy itself.  Read the entire policy here…)


This part of the policy states that you should inform on any of your work colleagues who have been posting inappropriate content.  Is this an acceptable policy?  Is this ethical for a bank to ask you to tell on your work colleagues in order to protect its brand?  Or has this turned into a PR disaster for the bank, which has a great customer support policy to resolve issues raised through social media channels.  But spying on your colleagues?

In my book I talk about social media guidelines, how to create some good, workable social media guidelines that aren’t too restrictive, are workable and don’t impact your staff who are going about their lives outside of work.  And you don’t even need to create these policies from scratch.  Social media governance has a database of over 150 policies to give you a starting point.  One of the clients I’ve worked with in the city have quite a restrictive set of social media guidelines.  They can’t give referrals on LinkedIn to anyone – whether for a contractor, vendor, or one of their colleagues.  In short, they can’t put their comments next to their company name – even when they have left the company.

From the Finextra blog

States the FSU: "We believe it (the policy) seeks to impose unreasonable restraints upon employees’ use of social media channels and misrepresents employees’ statutory rights and their contractual obligations to their employer."
After initially standing by its policy, the bank has adopted a more conciliatory tone following a stream of negative press comment.
It now says it will meet with the FSU and "will amend the policy, where it is considered reasonable to do so to ensure that all of its staff continue to be treated fairly".

Restricting your employees actions outside of work could be considered a breach of your civil liberties, but it’s not all that unusual.  Government employees, vendors, or anyone who has signed the Official Secrets act in the UK is forbidden from discussions like this at any time – it may be to protect national security.  If you think that this is a breach of your civil liberties, then you don’t need to work there or sign the act. 

Or is reporting on your colleagues social actions, as Business spectator says, trying to take the social out of social media?

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