Bad PR: What the Hell’s Up with Marketers?

by PR Coach

Bad PR from marketers

Is it time to Occupy Bad Marketing?

To put it bluntly, when it comes to social media there’s bad PR… and then there’s marketing.

Every day there’s a new example of marketers gone wild. Of poor judgment leading to corporate embarrassment, a reputation body blow or a complete public relations power outage.  All caused increasingly by marketers who don’t seem to get social media.

A new generation of marketing “experts” is creating havoc for public relations and the public. Each time they screw up, reporters from The Economist and other media or badvocates like PR Watch label their mess as another “public relations failure.”

Are our universities failing to train MBA marketing students properly? Perhaps old-school marketers won’t learn how to use social media properly. Or maybe they’re just filled with hubris and damn the torpedos, consumers and the consequences? Ready to ignore the impact of new consumer clout or fail to respond to the real-time realities of social media.

Well, the public and public relations have both had enough of bad social marketing. We’re not going to take it any more. We’ve filed charges against Marketing before things get completely out of control.

So join us in the courtroom. You be the judge and jury here in the court of public opinion.

Opening Statement: Charged with Marketing Badly

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as the prosecution, I’m here to present incontrovertible evidence today of the biggest crimes by Marketing perpetrated against the two plaintiffs – Public Relations and the Public.

Who here has not suffered from the slings and arrows of bad Marketing? Need I remind you of those “As Seen on TV” products such as ShamWow, BarkOff, EZ Feet, Snazzy Napper, Pajama Jeans, Ginzu Knives, Grill Daddy Pro, Instant Zipper, Snuggies, Bust Up Cups, Bug Zappers, Slap Chop and EZ Moves?

It’s a $150 billion dollar a year industry and one in two of us will buy at least one product from TV marketers every year. In the past, the solution was simple. We could turn off the TV.

But with the explosive growth of social media, bad Marketing leading to bad PR has created a massive Excedrin headache for the plaintiffs. It’s everywhere in social media.

The defendant, Marketing, faces six serious social media charges:

  1. marketing with undue care and attention
  2. public relations endangerment
  3. wanton and reckless communication
  4. social media insensitivity and irresponsibility
  5. lying and misleading the public
  6. and finally, hubris and “chutzpah” (to quote Michelle Bachman).

By their actions, they have caused grievous pain and suffering to public relations and the consumer. I trust you will consider the evidence carefully and find Marketing guilty as charged.

The Evidence: What’s Wrong with Marketing in Social Media?

In support of each of the six charges, I present you with conclusive evidence of social media crimes committed by Marketing:

  1. Qantas recently launched an inept promotional campaign offering fliers small value prizes right in the middle of striking worker disruptions and seriously inconvenienced travelers. A perfect example of puffed up promotion, no PR strategy and marketing with undue care and attention.
  2. In an egregious example of reckless public relations endangerment, Netflix misjudged consumer response to its product changes, failed to manage the resulting PR crisis and saw its image, reputation and revenue suffer.
  3. Motrin misjudged mommy-blogger’s feelings about one of its ads and mishandled its response to the online crisis. And what about marketers riding on the coattails of Charlie Sheen’s misery? Wanton and reckless communication indeed.
  4. Looking for examples of social media insensitivity? Look no further than Etsy insisting on selling hateful greeting cards until social media sentiment exploded. Groupon learned a lesson when it called depression the “world’s greatest sleep aid.” Bing got into trouble for offering to donate $1 to Japan earthquake victims in exchange for retweets.
  5. When it comes to lying and misleading the public, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, News of the World and Sears come to mind. B&N claimed misleading info about its Nook tablet’s specs causing NY Times tech columnist David Pogue to say it was “lying.” News of the World‘s senior management and the Murdochs each pointed the finger of blame at each other in a scene straight from a Marx Brothers routine. All in the name of selling more tabloid newspapers. And Sears was caught trying to game Google’s search engine rankings in an effort to spur higher online sales.
  6. Kenneth Cole and GoDaddy’s CEO each tweeted their way to marketing mayhem. Cole twittered to try sell product during Egypt’s bloody revolution. GoDaddy’s Bob Parsons resorted to Twitter to try and defend his sport hunting and killing of endangered African elephants. Wrong choice. The result of this marketing hubris and chutzpah was global embarrassment for Cole and lost customers for GoDaddy.

84% left a website due to intrusive ads

These marketing menaces must be stopped!

They can no longer foist their products upon us on Facebook; torture us on Twitter until we cry uncle; FAQ us to death on Quora; lie to us on LinkedIn; exaggerate by e-mail about product specs; game Google; or badger us with bad products.

The mistakes of these marketing mavens will no longer be known as “bad PR.” They are what they are – bad marketing and inept social media practices!

In the future, justice for bad marketers will be swift, instantly served up in social media channels and preserved on the Internet for posterity.

Summation & Sentencing: Marketers Will Pay for Bad PR

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I trust you have heard enough?

The prosecution asks you to find Marketing guilty as charged. I ask you to award the plaintiffs – public relations and the public – $1 million for pain and suffering. In the public interest, the plaintiffs have asked that the award be donated to Adbusters so it can continue its consumer advocacy work.

The prosecution further asks that you require the defendant, Marketing, to undertake the following rehabilitation program immediately:

  • apologize publicly to the plaintiffs in a traditional mass media ad campaign in the New York Times, on national TV and syndicated radio
  • attend social media sensitivity training sessions to learn how to have real conversations with consumers
  • take anger management classes to prevent Marketing from yelling and screaming at the Public in social media channels
  • commit to learning how to use social media properly and seek the advice of Public Relations before embarking on any future new media campaigns that may result in #PRFails
  • utilize “content marketing” for better results, more informed consumers and reduced negative impact on the Public
  • sign a declaration to be honest in all product claims and specifications
  • cease-and-desist from creating “PR failures” and referring to them as a PR problem for public relations to solve.

We rest our case.

Seriously. There are not enough arms in a full house at Yankee Stadium to accommodate the long list of bad marketing mistakes in social media during the past two years. What the hell’s up with marketers when it comes to PR? If they’re not careful, this could be the start of an Occupy Marketing movement.

What do you think? Are marketers guilty as charged or simply inept when it comes to social media? Your comments are welcome below.

If you just can’t get enough Bad PR, we’ve got plenty more in the PR Library. If you’d like regular PR tips and insight, sign up for The PR Coach blog or get the RSS Feed in your favorite reader.

Photo Credits via Flickr: Andrew AliferisTMZWill Lion

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