FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.


Topic: What Happens When Content Doesn’t Go Your Way?

We’ve all had the experience either from an audience point of view, or from the point of view of the content creation – that uncomfortable moment when content goes sideways. We talk about what to do when presentations, guest speakers, social media, and press releases don’t get the expected results.

Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Manager, Marketing & PR GinzaMetrics


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Karen: Hello, everyone. Welcome to FOUND Friday, our weekly YouTube episode where we talk about everything marketing. I’m your host, Karen Scates, and with me today is Erin O’Brien, our own COO.


Last week we started a series based on Erin’s experiences and some of the conversations she had with attendees at Content Marketing World. This week we’re continuing those discussions by talking about what happens when a presentation or public discussion doesn’t go quite as planned.


Let’s start by talking about this from an attendee perspective. When you’re in the audience and you realize a presentation or discussion isn’t going exactly as planned, what are you hoping for or, more importantly, what are you dreading as a reaction from the presenter?


Erin: I think sometimes maybe you’re hoping it doesn’t go as planned because you get the best stuff then. In general, for one, things really don’t go as planned. I think the humor goes a really long way in handling a number of issues. It really makes the situation more palatable for everybody and lets you know that the presenter is taking what’s happening in stride because the worst thing to see is the actual presenter themselves freak out.


Anger is obviously always a really bad reaction. It doesn’t help the situation and it can stir the audience into a more negative feeling than they would have had if you hadn’t gone there as a presenter. Really depending on what’s not going as planned, there are a number of things that can be addressed. There’s a big difference between minor technical issues and major technical issues. There’s also a pretty big difference between someone going slightly off the rails and someone saying really inflammatory remarks. Pretty much all these things happen at every conference I’ve ever been to some degree or another. My trip to CM World was really no exception to that.


Karen: Maybe we’ll hear some details about that later. I think being in the moment, using humor and minimizing the immediate damage is one level of reaction, but what about after the fact? There are a couple schools of thoughts here. Some people say, “ignore it. It will go away. It’s temporary. Move on.” Other people will go back and try to create some kind of a positive spin on the negative moment. I think there are pros and cons to each one of these reactions. Let’s talk about that a little bit.


Erin:   You’re right in the fact that there are pros and cons to each type of reaction. Ignoring it or not dwelling on it or putting the focus on whatever happens is typically my response to things especially if the [2:47 inaudible] has gotten into more [2:49 inaudible] things occur. It really seems like when you emphasize what didn’t go to plan or what did go wrong, you’re probably drawing people’s attention to it and maybe didn’t completely notice it in the first place or that wouldn’t have paid attention. You’re also probably drawing attention out of people who weren’t at the event unnecessarily. You’re also bringing it up when somebody might have moved on to something else or another experience they would’ve had at the conference instead. And instead of focusing on how to make the rest of the event, the rest of the content, the rest of the specific thing that is happening more of the focus, dwelling just at that. I think that’s a bad idea.


One of the things that is a pro to addressing situations when they come up is it allows you to take whatever happened and put it in context. Own the story yourself. Figure out how to tell the story and message it in your own way. I think that there’s a way to do that without emphasizing the problem, placing blame which is one of the worst things you can do, or denying everything and acting like it didn’t happen. If you’re going to place the blame doing finger-pointing or try to say something it didn’t happen at all, then you might as well have just gone the complete ignore it route because all of those things are worse than the original.


Karen: There are times when you have to maybe not react to it but maybe go ahead and do something that’s more positive or something that’s positive around that same subject. If you have someone who is saying something negative or you get some kind of a negative reaction, not really acknowledging or referring to that negative comment because that just gives it more weight, but then coming out with your own positive messaging on the same subject seems to be a way to handle that and to get your story out in front of your audience.


Erin:   One of the important things to remember is while something may be all that anybody is talking about right now this very instance that it may be the biggest thing that they talk about for the entire experience. So what you want to do is you do want to try to create a more memorable moment that is more positive and have that be the lasting memory. If you can’t do anything about what’s happening right now, a lot of times because people are talking about it, it’s going to get buzz, things are going to happen, whatever, accept that that’s right now but that you still have time to go ahead and make a new impression and create a better, lasting impression than whatever that is, which is again is why my recommendation is not to dwell on it because I feel like that is what creates it as the lasting impression if you keep bringing it up. Just let it go.


Karen: The whole conference experience brings up some other issues like technical issues. As we know, this can really rattle a presenter and can sometimes derail the planned content. Aside from using humor, how can you recover from that kind of a problem?


Erin:   It’s really a tough one because it depends on the nature of your presentation, how reliant are you on the technology. This actually just happened to me at the CM World. I’ll make a few pointers that help make the best of a bad situation.


The first thing is I would say if you know your presentation inside and out, this will help you have a conversation that is not really reliant on notes or slides at times. At least you have the content in your head and can usually speak to it in some sort of intelligent way – I hope or you shouldn’t be presenting. Have a few ice breakers in mind, prepared to things that you can say to your audience. Because standing nervously and awkwardly isn’t a good, lasting memory and it also doesn’t promote you as a commanding presence. This is also where the humor thing really comes in handy.


I always say have backups of everything in multiple formats. If it’s supposed to be in a note presentation, have it in PDF, in PowerPoint; saved on multiple drive types like save it to Dropbox, save it to some drive, save it to whatever. Multiple iterations of something.


When it comes to notes, have these things printed out. Technology can be a fickle beast when it comes to crunch time, so there is pretty much nothing somebody is going to do technologically that’s going to destroy your piece of paper. So I feel like having it in a tangible format as well as in multiple formats available on technology and in something that’s stored both locally and non-locally on your computer is going to be really helpful for you.


You were mentioning you wanted a story so I’ll give you them. When I was at CM World, they asked that we submitted our presentations a few weeks early and one of the reasons for doing that is to avoid technological issues with people bringing things in multiple formats and then taking forever to get everything loaded when each presenter comes up as they change over. That actually makes a lot of sense when you run conferences. You find that everybody wants to bring something in a different format and everybody wants to use their computer and they didn’t bring the right dongle. It’s just a massive issue.


Considering we had to submit this stuff way ahead of time and couldn’t make edits and didn’t bring our own things and it’s not being presented off of our own computer, when I got up there, I was expecting [8:39 inaudible] off and running. Instead, it took around 10 minutes for them to get this loaded because of some sort of technical glitch. For 10 minutes of 30-minute presentation that’s supposed to have 15 minutes of follow-up questions time afterward, I was standing there and had to figure out a way to converse with the audience, which ended up being fine. From a presenter though, it does definitely rattle you a little bit because you are trying to figure out how to shorten your presentation, you start talking really fast because you’re worried at time. I naturally speak really fast, so if you can imagine a souped-up version of that. It’s terrifying. A lot of little things like that happen.


I remember also our microphones didn’t work at the end, so when people got up to go to the microphone to ask questions, you can’t hear them. Because they’re recording it and they’re trying to sell the videos afterwards or share the videos afterwards, I was trying to repeat back the questions. But in some instances, I couldn’t even hear the person.


It’s a conference, right? As the conference organizer and as the presenter, you need to expect the unexpected and be prepared to roll at things. A weird example of this in a non-conference way – I love The Today Show – is I was watching The Today Show and Justin Bieber who’s really surprised that this guy was acting like a jerk. Because he was dancing around The Today Show’s stage thing, one of these cameras that was trying to record the concert didn’t back up, I guess, quickly enough for the Bieb and at the end of the concert, he thought that the cameras and the microphones were turned off while they were switching to another segment and you could hear him saying, “You can’t be all within my space when I’m trying to dance!” He was springing at this camera guy.


There’s always going to be stuff that doesn’t go your way. Know your presentation, having multiple versions of it, having a few ice breakers that you can use in case there is some kind of stall are probably the best you’re going to do.


Karen: Always assume that you’re on mic.


Erin:   Yes. Always assume the mic is on. It happens a lot to presenters. It happened at CM World. In my room, I was waiting and the guy was getting offstage. He thought they turned his mic off but he walked out of the room and somehow the mic got turned back on and he was in the hallway. You could hear him talking to people in the hallway. It wasn’t anything really bad but some of it was not glittering reviews of things.


Karen: Right. There are multiple examples where people think they’re off-mic. Until you’ve actually turned the mic over to someone and turned the off switch or unplugged it, assume that the cameras are rolling, assume that the mic is on.


Talking about content going sideways, outside of the conference arena, there are other examples of content not quite going the way you expect it to go. We’ve all heard those horror stories of the auto-scheduled tweets that just happen to go live in the middle of some tragedy. It makes the brand look selfish and uncaring. It’s not really logical to say, “Then we just won’t do any scheduled tweets,” because for a lot of people, that’s just how they manage that part of their marketing. How do we recover from that? These things are going to happen. We’re talking today a lot about how to recover. What do you think about that?


Erin:   We could all tell you a million things to do to prevent the problem from happening in the first place and we don’t want to focus on that. Just telling you to not do it is never going to be 100% the cure.


When we’re talking about recovery from having to send something out, this is a place where you do need to acknowledge the mess up and humility is your best friend and sincerity is your other best friend. I think trying to make a light of it at that point is a really bad idea. This is one of the places where additional humor may not be your fallback. I think that straight-to-the-point humility and sincerity in your apology is the best way to go.


Unless you have really wronged someone or done something atrocious that requires legal counsel, if you said something stupid, you need to apologize, you need to be sincere about it, you need to be humble about it. You need to try not to mess up again for a little while to give people time to get over your first mistake.


Then I think you have to move on. This is actually one of the mistakes I see brands making every now and then. They’ll say something stupid or insensitive and then they’ll keep bringing it up like saying, “We’re going to donate 100 bottles of water to this thing wrongdoing,” or “We’re going to adopt 75 puppies because we feel really bad.” Dude, apologize. Let it go. People get it. Mistakes happen. Some people are going to be weird. You just have to let weird people be weird because you can’t solve that.


When content doesn’t go right, remove the ascending content, acknowledge the ascending content, and then start creating new content that’s not offensive. Get that out there and try to give it some time.


Karen: Part of this, especially when we’re talking about social media, is making sure that you educate your employees. Even when it says, “The tweets are my own,” a lot of times you’re still reflecting on your company because people are going to connect to you through those professional connections. I think it’s important for people to realize it’s going to happen. If people are going to tweet things that maybe aren’t going to reflect as well as they like them to reflect but starting out with an education program and setting those expectations early helps in this area, as well.


Erin:   A lot of this comes down to management’s poor education of people on what happens. What I mean by that is you need to know specifically if you write something on your personal Facebook page or your personal Twitter account, just because you have a newbie, an employee of an organization doesn’t mean you’re not also a human. If you happen to write something that somebody in your organization disagrees with and they happen to see it, what’s going to happen? You need to know. Are you going to be asked to delete that comment? Are you going to be asked to remove that you work at that organization? Are you going to actually be held accountable for your private statements at work?


If you’re not a public figure, if you’re not a politician, or the CEO of a large publicly traded company or something like that, if you’re just an average Joe at a normal organization, I don’t think that you actually should be held personally responsible for your thoughts and opinions outside of the workplace unless you are posting them under the guise of your work information.


I actually had a situation like this five years ago. I was working with an agency and had a personal blog and a personal Facebook page. None of which had anything to do with my workplace. Ironically, my blog was actually posted under a pseudonym. I had written some posts of randomly funny things that you encounter in the agency world. If you’ve ever worked in a marketing agency, weird stuff happens all the time and clients are crazy. I am a client and I’m crazy – and I know that. I know my agency thinks I’m crazy and that’s fine.


The thing was, I had posted this blog post that I had written under my pseudonym to my Facebook page. Somebody from a client side thought and assumed it was about them. Ironically, it wasn’t about them.


Karen: Just another crazy client.


Erin:   Right. What I thought was really funny was (1) you assumed that this crazy as you, which means you’re kind of copping to being this person and (2) you thought that something that was written under someone else’s name posted to a private Facebook page, it means that you’re going to your agency people’s Facebook pages and reading all their stuff. That actually does make you kind of crazy.


Karen: There’s a lot of that in that whole cross-pollination and how that gets separated out I think people are still struggling with. But when we’re talking about that kind of negative comments and feedback and how the best way to minimize the impact that makes me think of the stories about a business owner who has refused services or tried to retaliate against people who posted negative comments on social, it’s probably not the best course of action, right? There has to be other ways.


I think that they do need to respond but there has to be other ways, more positive ways to respond, because there’s going to be a negative Yelp review here or there. So what do you do? What do you do as a business person if your employees are saying something that you don’t want to reflect on your company? How do you separate that out?


Erin:   There are examples of this from B2B to B2C standing everything. Somebody takes something that you said, did or whatever, they didn’t like it, and they decided to go public and get super shoddy and stabby. Yelp from a consumer point of view is a decent place to review things if something actually is not up to par.


I have a personal rule which is I ignore all one-star reviews and all five-star reviews. I feel like one-star reviews are all flame more people who just are trying to create incendiary responses. Five-star things are your family, friends, your nanna, and your boyfriend writing posts. Most things are not actually five-star “This is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me!” Is it really that pedicure the most amazing thing that ever happened to you? Was that grilled cheese the most amazing thing that ever happened to you? Which is fine. That’s great because those things usually cancel each other out. That’s always extreme. So I typically read the two, three, and four-star thing because that comes from people who are level-headed who probably have had more than one grilled cheese in their life.


When somebody posts something really negative on Yelp, I’ve seen businesses reply back and say, “We’re really sorry you had that experience. We’d like the chance to try to make it right. Please come in for a complimentary ______.” Going on and disagreeing with the person and saying, “You’re a liar, you’re wrong and you have zero taste,” is a horrible plan. Even if it’s true, it just makes you look like a jerk because for everybody who has never actually been there, they don’t know whether or not that’s true. And you may insight people who have been there and actually felt that way and didn’t write the negative post to take up the cause and defend that person and slam you too. You have to be really careful.


If you’re going to respond back publicly, you need to only respond back with the nicest possible intentions of, “So sorry that that’s how you feel. We would love to fix it.” Where this actually is not the case like the one caveat to this is libelous and slander type things that people do. That borders on legal issues depending on what your legal situation is. That’s something to take up with them. If somebody is posting something that is patently untrue and defamatory, you’ve got another situation, although a lot of legal counsels think that this is a really big problem in a social media age. It’s really hard to proving this kind of stuff.


In terms of stuff in the B2B realm, a good example is somebody who did this to us.


Karen: I was thinking about that.


Erin:   You remember a few months ago, we have sent out e-mails to people that we have e-mail addresses for. We have your e-mail address somehow because you at some point gave it to us. We had sent an e-mail out to people and this guy, instead of responding to our e-mail and saying, “Can you unsubscribe me?” posted on Twitter, “You think it’s acceptable to e-mail me? I hate you.” He was super-public about it.


At the time, my reaction was not, “Oh my God. People are going to think that we are a bad company.” My first thought was, “I feel really sad that this is how you respond to e-mails in your life and this is your general MO.” I replied back to him and said, “Hey, I love your website. It’s really awesome. You guys are doing great work. We’ll totally unsubscribe you. You’ll never hear from us again.”


Whenever people do things like that, it goes back to if you’re going to respond publicly, you can just say, “I’m really sorry that you feel that way. I will attempt to fix this for you ASAP.” For things where somebody is attacking your business and your brand, I think the best thing to do is send them a personal message, obviously take it offline, and attempt to defuse the situation in a non-public way.


For people who really won’t stop and are continually abusive to your brand or your employees, that’s when it’s time for that magical block button. I usually reserve that as a last resort. Technically, it’s legal. The block button is really my last resort as a company employee and as a manager.


Karen: I was just going to say that in general, a lot of these things can be solved by just taking the conversation out offline. Just saying, “I’m sorry that that’s your experience. Contact me.” And give an e-mail address. Just take the conversation somewhere else so it becomes less public and then you can move on. Your social media network channels can then have more positive content instead of this ongoing conversation between you and maybe someone who thinks that it’s inappropriate to e-mail somebody with a certain title. I don’t know.


Erin:   One of the things that I thought was interesting from the CM World experience that’s relevant here is – because it’s both content from a conference as well as becoming social media – was John Cleese who was one of the keynote speakers. Back story on that is Content Marketing World is hosted by Cleveland every year. It’s where Content Marketing Institute is based. They have a lot of pride in their city and that’s great. Pl should have pride in their city. If you aren’t proud of your city at all or don’t like it, I don’t know why you’re still living there.


Joe does a lot of work. Joe Pulizzi has been on the show with us before. He does a lot of work to make sure that people really try to enjoy Cleveland and they get the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame involved and a number of other local businesses. A lot of Cleveland was under construction this time and Cleveland itself has had some recent new stories and things that were [24:33 inaudible] in nature.


During the keynote address, John Cleese said, “Cleveland is a horrible city. It’s disgusting here.” He didn’t say anything positive. Then he also said, “I can guarantee you, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will never come back.” He also railed a little bit on the hotel that they logged in who was also a partner at the conference, which was I’m sure absolutely mortifying for both the conference organizers as well as Joe. But it was funny because somebody that actually owns an agency in Cleveland posted to Twitter and took John Cleese’s picture and then put on top of it, “Cleveland is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” which exactly was the quote. This didn’t include the whole thing. So I thought that was amusing.


I also think it was amusing that following the conference, Joe sent out an e-mail saying that he does feel like Cleveland is like the epicenter of the Content Marketing World and that it’s growing and a lot of things are happening there. So instead of saying John Cleese is wrong, he took the tack that you mentioned at the beginning which was try to focus it on a more positive outcome for the city itself.


I think that that’s a good example because there was a lot of conversation about John Cleese’s keynote presentation, not just about his comments about Cleveland itself but he’s John Cleese. He says a lot of off-the-cup things. He’s a little bit sarcastic and snide. You have to know that going in.


I think this also brings up a really good point of when you allow someone else into your content creation, it’s like being a circus tamer and being on stage with a lion. As much as you may have trained the lion, as much as you may try to control the lion, as many little lion zapper things as you may have, sometimes you get [rued] and the tiger bites you. Who knows? Stuff just happens. That’s what happens when you work with talents that you can’t 100% control and you’re not going to control a film, movie star, author person. You’re just not.


Karen: Especially John.


Erin: If you could, somebody would control the Bieb, right?


Karen: And lots of other people who does rail against whatever. Speaking from experience, I’d say don’t mess with production crews. They can make you look bad, but that’s okay.


Speaking of negative PR, I think we get used to controlling what’s said about our brand on the Internet because we’re creating the content and that controls – not as true when you send out a press release – the recipient of that bit of news can take any spin here she wants to and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t send out press releases but you should be prepared to respond to unexpected reactions to your news.


Erin: Oh man. I don’t even know where to go with this. You and I had this conversation recently because this stuff happens not just to us but it happens to everyone. And so we get to speak about our own experiences because of our show.


You had a conversation with a journalist about a new feature that we were announcing and he wanted details. Nowhere in his conversations back and forth with you did he mention that he was gathering points from other places to turn it into a back-and-forth devil’s advocate, less-than-amazing reply and he didn’t say anything bad about us and he didn’t say anything bad about our product. He just also was not talking about the feature we were releasing in a positive way or talking specifically about the features. He was using us as an example.


I think the conversation you and I had afterward was interesting because it did not center around – he has no right to do this and he’s not allowed to do this. We know that this is journalist’s job. I think that the conversation that we had – and I’d love to see what the general world thinks about this – if you were going to do something like that, we would just wanted the general heads up, so that it wasn’t a surprise. The idea is I don’t think that it should be that journalists feel like they have all the power and that marketers, PR people, and advertisers need to beg them to write. That’s a terrible relationship and a way to do things. It also shouldn’t be that people who work at really big companies that journalists are always clamoring for information about feel like they have all the power and they get to dole things out as they see fit and control things and not be forthcoming. I think that that’s a terrible relationship.


As a small organization, I just think that if you know what you’re going to do is not what you originally said you were going to do and it goes against expectations, have the common courtesy to just give the person a heads up. We couldn’t have done anything about it anyway. The embargo was lifted.


Karen: I also think that there’s something to be said again for building relationships. In a professional world as I see it, it’s job of the people within the brand who build the relationships with the journalists so they can get the information they need when they need it and to be available and willing to share that kind of information. I think there’s also an onus on the journalist to build that relationship back. You don’t have to ask my permission for what to write but to say to me, “I have another opinion on this. I have some opinion that maybe doesn’t match with what you guys told me. Would you mind responding to that? Or I’d like to give you the opportunity to respond.”


Erin:   The lack of opportunity to respond I think was also an interesting thing. Tying back to what we were talking about here is the real issue when we’re creating content, because everything is content – everything – press releases, whitepapers, conferences, this show. It’s all content. When we’re talking about creating content, even the content that we create and put it on our channels, we never know what’s going to happen with it once we release it live. We could release an e-book and somebody could literally pick that e-book, download it, and then turn it into something horrible. They could Photoshop it, edit it, do all these things. We don’t know. Once it leaves our hands, it leaves our hands.


It’s our job to do a couple of things:


  1. Create content conscientiously and think through all the ways that someone might use it or at least try to think through all the ways someone might use it.


  1. Distribute it and keep an eye on it after you distribute it and take ownership for what’s live even if it has been live for a year or two. We all have evergreen content that’s out there. You got to keep an eye on things every now and then.


  1. When content doesn’t go according to plan, take ownership. Don’t overreact and attempt to take individual negative reactions offline and just use the situation as opposed to continuing to make whatever this one-time thing is, the thing that everyone is talking about.


I think that that’s really all you can do. With the nature of the Internet and all the sharing and everything that happens, trying to control everything is going to make you crazy and probably a much less productive marketer.


Karen: The tactic of just being positive in your own communications probably will set you apart anyway. Just continue to be positive, put out your messages in a positive way, and don’t get stuck in that spiral of either placing blame or apologizing too profusely or whatever that looks like. Because then that just adds fuel to the fire. That just makes whatever it is bigger than life.


Erin:   That’s all you can do.


Karen: I would love if people could have reactions to this or if they’ve had some similar experience because I’d love to hear about them and what they did to solve those problems and maybe some unique situations and solutions. If I hear from anybody, we’ll include that in our next episode because I think that’s an interesting conversation.


That’s all the time we have for this week. Be sure to join us next week as we continue to respond to some of the hottest topics from Content Marketing World and discuss the technology challenge and talk about how much tech knowledge is really necessary for future marketers.


Give us your questions and feedback at and, or join the conversation live on Twitter at #FOUNDFriday.


Happy Friday and we’ll see you next week.


Erin:   Alright. Bye, everyone.


Karen: Bye-bye.

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