Last night, sitting in the DFW airport on the last leg of an eight hour travel ordeal, I received the link to a blog post about offense taken to the tip cards we created for and distributed at SXSWi. To say I was surprised by the response of those who were offended by the cards is an understatement. Being offensive is not in our company culture, nor in my personal nature. But, no one goes through life pleasing everyone and if you’re willing to put yourself out there, as we are, there’s a high probability that at some point in time someone is not going to agree with your approach. Such is life.
Throughout this experience, a few things we counsel our clients to do have been reinforced (nothing like personal experience to solidify client counsel!), and I personally have learned a few lessons as well:
Know your audience. At the office prior to printing the cards, we talked about what we wanted on them and we went for pithy, visual language that had a sense of humor to it. None of us were offended by the tip, nor did we imagine others would be, but we are not the target audience of SXSWi. This happens to our clients all the time too – messaging can’t be created in a vacuum. Get out, figure out your audience, come up with messages that will resonate with them, not just with you.
Humor is hard – very hard – to pull off. We usually counsel our clients to not even try it, unless they are comfortable with their audience. We fell flat here to the extent that not only were we not funny to some, but were offensive. Ouch. Not our intention.
Respond quickly. When Violet Blue reached out to me on Saturday, I thought a response on Monday was appropriate (I have two babies and busy weekends – I am “always on” but felt certain that a response on Monday would be fine). Apparently I was wrong, as the two days I took to respond created even more fervor over the situation. I find this unfortunate. I can say I will try to be quicker in the future, but there is value to being offline as well. I try to find that balance.
Respond via multiple channels. I’m still working on this one, but there is a lesson here somewhere: When Violet reached out to me via email (to the firstname.lastname@example.org email), I wrote a blog post (with the intention that this would be helpful to her as she could have my complete line of thinking and share as she felt necessary) and sent her the link via email in response. She took offense to this. I’m still putting my finger on why – perhaps it felt like I was brushing her off or not being direct? But I also believe I did a disservice to myself by not opening a two-way dialogue. In the future, I will do both.
Get a social media monitoring tool. There were conversations being had on Twitter and Flickr and blogs that we missed, plain and simple. I believe in responding, believe in opening the lines of communication, but if you don’t see it you can’t address it. I’m going back now and responding to folks, but it’s been several days and that’s just added fuel to the fire. We’ll do a better job on this for INK from here on out.
Those are the lessons learned for now. Perhaps more will pop up in the coming days. If you have one, feel free to share. Now back to regularly scheduled programming (aka work).