Social Media Fail: Let’s Make Fun Of Mental Illness!

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on September 21, 2014 – 4:40 pm

JOY—the fashion and lifestyle chain that has 26 locations throughout the United Kingdom—is the latest brand to create unnecessary controversy by tweeting something stupid.

The trouble started yesterday when a customer complained via Twitter about a greeting card that the store has for sale.

Joy The Store Greeting Card

At first glance, I didn’t find this card offensive. But that’s the thing about offense: I don’t get to decide what’s sincerely offensive to other people; they do. And if a customer makes their sincere objection to this greeting card known to JOY, the company—at the very least—should know better than to antagonize the person who complained.

Instead, JOY said this:

Joy The Store Problem Solved


The customer responded by tweeting: 

Joy The Store Retort


To which JOY responded with its biggest error of all:

Joy The Store Rude

Now that offends me. To dismiss a polite customer who raises a sincere concern about stigmatizing mental illness by mocking people with bipolar disorder is completely beyond reason.


But Then They Made It Worse…

As is predictable in these situations, JOY apologized earlier today, but with one of those insincere, completely inauthentic apologies:  

Joy The Store Apology


How, exactly, their tweets were intended to “create dialogue” about mental illness is beyond my comprehension. The company’s Facebook apology was even worse:

Joy Facebook Apology


As their Facebook comments section shows, their customers aren’t buying it:

Joy the Store Facebook Commentrs


Why JOY’s Customers Shouldn’t Be So Quick To Forgive…

There have been far too many social media fails by this point for a brand to be quickly forgiven for committing its own. By now, they should know better—and if they don’t, their ignorance is no longer an excuse. There are only three possibilities in this case:

1. This is a deliberate strategy: It’s entirely possible that JOY is intentionally using outrage to spark a “crisis,” get attention for the brand, and increase name recognition. Giving credence to this theory is that Kenneth Cole—who has admitted creating these “social media crises” on purpose—apologized with almost the same response, that he was trying to “provoke a dialogue.”

2. The social media team is poorly trained: It’s 2014. There is no shortage of great consultants and experts available to help brands get their social media right. If the brand failed to train its staff properly, this incident is very much its own fault.

3. The employee went rogue. I doubt this one. Since the apology—which should have involved executives—had the same unapologetic tone, this incident strikes me as far more reflective of the brand than an exception to the rule.

UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 22, 2014, 1:16 p.m. Eastern U.S. Time

JOY just issued its second apology in as many days. Unfortunately, this apology comes only after botching the first apology. As a result, its sincerity will immediately be called into question by many people—including me—who wonder why a heartfelt apology should take two takes to get right.

Even though this apology is better than the first, it’s still not great. The store is placing the blame onto a staffer, but not acknowledging that management itself bears responsibility for insufficiently training its staff or for making the wrong person responsible for its Twitter feed.

Joy The Store Apology Take Two

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Crisis Communications | 2 Comments »

Why You Should Engage With Your Critics

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on June 26, 2014 – 6:02 am

Back in April, Jimmy Fallon had an amusing segment on The Tonight Show that showed just how quickly fans could turn on a brand—and how quickly they could be won back. When I watched the segment again this week, I realized that it had parallels to our online interactions.

The segment starred Robinson Cano, a baseball star who had played with the New York Yankees for nine seasons until signing a $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners late last year. 

To diehard Yankees fans, Cano is a traitor who abandoned his team in order to chase a giant paycheck. So when he came back to New York as a Mariner to play against his former team, the locals weren’t exactly happy to see him.

Fallon’s team set up a life-size cardboard box featuring Cano’s image and encouraged Yankees fans to boo him—but the fans didn’t expect the real-life Cano to pop out of the box. Trust me: this is hilarious.

Why did that happen? Why did so many fans boo Cano until he popped out of that box, at which point they wanted to shake his hand and hug him? And more to the point: Doesn’t the same thing happen on social media all the time?

I’ve often found that when people use harsh language to criticize something I’ve written, their tone softens when I engage with them. It’s easy to boo a cardboard box (to post a rant onto my Twitter feed or the comments section of my blog), but it’s harder to boo an actual person (me, when I offer a polite response to their criticism).

Robinson Cano Jimmy Fallon

There are certainly times when this doesn’t work and a response will simply inflame your critics. But in The Media Training Bible, I mentioned a survey that contained some rather surprising results:

“According to a 2011 Harris Interactive study, unhappy customers quickly forgave companies that responded to them. Thirty-three percent of customers who left a negative review on a shopping website ended up posting a positive review after receiving a response, while another 34 percent deleted the original review.”

If you rarely interact with your critics, try it. You don’t have to engage people who are vulgar, who have engaged in name calling, or are clearly online trolls—but if the person seems reasonable enough, you might be happily surprised by your ability to turn them around as quickly as Robinson Cano did his naysayers.

Like the blog? Read the book! The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview is available in paperback, for Kindle, and iPad.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Social Media | 8 Comments »

This Comedian Refused To Apologize. I Agree With Her.

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 6, 2014 – 6:35 pm

On NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly, a comedian named Natasha Leggero cracked a joke that offended many people.

The joke was about the social media uproar caused last month when SpaghettiOs tweeted a promotional photo of a noodle celebrating Pearl Harbor Day.

Here’s the video, and her joke:

“I mean it sucks that the only survivors of Pearl Harbor are being mocked by the only food they can still chew.”

Many people whose opinions I respect thought that Leggero and/or NBC should apologize. I disagree.

No, her joke wasn’t tasteful. I wouldn’t make it, and I probably wouldn’t attend a comedy show if I knew the comic was going to use Pearl Harbor as fodder. But I don’t believe that Leggero’s intent was to diminish the tragedy of Pearl Harbor or its survivors (I would have been offended if it had been). Rather, her quip played to me like nothing more than a silly “old people gum their food” joke.

Still, many people voiced their displeasure on Facebook and Twitter, and Leggero decided to respond with a defiant statement. I thought she got the tone just right.

“I wish I could apologize, but do you really want another insincere apology that you know is just an attempt at damage control and not a real admission of guilt? Let me just try instead to be honest.

I’m not sorry. I don’t think the amazing courage of American veterans and specifically those who survived Pearl Harbor is in any way diminished by a comedian making a joke about dentures on television. Do we really believe that the people who fought and defended our freedom against Nazis and the Axis powers will find a joke about Spaghetti O’s too much to bear?”

“My own father lost his hearing in the Vietnam War so the issue is pretty close to me too. So rather than apologize, let me offer another perspective.

On the one hand you have me, making a joke about how old people can’t chew tough foods very well.

On the other hand you have Veterans who receive inadequate care upon their return from active duty, rampant sexual assault against female soldiers, staggering rates of suicide, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, substance abuse and depression among soldiers and political gridlock that prevents these problems from getting solved quickly.

Where do you think your outrage and action would be better served?”

At the end of her statement, she encouraged her fans to donate to the Disabled American Veterans.

Natasha Leggero

The reason I agree with Leggero’s refusal to apologize is simple.

She’s a comedian.

Leggero is not a corporate brand. Comedians are granted far more license than the typical corporate spokesperson, and thank goodness for that. 

Could you imagine how dull comedy would become if it was sanitized to the point that no one was offended, ever? Would we really want to live in a world in which Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Dennis Miller and Chris Rock were never allowed to appear on television for fear that they might [gasp] say something unpopular?

There are, of course, limits to how far comics can go. Michael Richards (Seinfeld’s Kramer) went way over the line in a disturbing rant full of racial epithets. And Tracy Morgan went too far when he suggested that he would stab his son to death if he was gay.

As for NBC, I think we have to ask ourselves whether it’s reasonable to expect NBC (or any other network) to apologize for every spontaneous, unpopular joke made on its air by an unscripted comedian. Sometimes, that answer may be yes. But I’m not sure negative social media activity is the only metric to use in determining whether an apology should be offered. In some cases, a combination of evaluating the perceived offense and monitoring the social media activity may be enough.

This “crisis” passed quickly. And as happens with many of today’s social media “crises,” NBC’s has already become a distant memory.

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons user 92YTribeca

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Social Media | 4 Comments »

Should You Delete Your Twitter Account After A Crisis?

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 5, 2014 – 5:02 am

During the holiday break, you probably saw the social media uproar sparked by a tweet sent by Justine Sacco, the communications chief for IAC, the company that owns, OKCupid, and The Daily Beast.

Don’t worry. That story’s already been covered to death, and I don’t intend to re-litigate it here. But in case you missed it, here’s the tweet she sent:

Justine Sacco Tweet

Unfortunately for Sacco, she sent the tweet immediately before boarding an 11-hour flight from London to South Africa—and since the plane didn’t have WiFi, she had no idea what an uproar she had caused until she landed. While in the air, thousands of people had retweeted her tweet, followed the progress of her flight, and created a custom hashtag, #HasJustineLandedYet.

One question has been nagging me for the past couple of weeks. Within minutes of landing, Sacco deleted her Twitter account. Was she right to do so?

At first, I thought she had made a mistake by doing so:

Justine Sacco My Tweet

As I pointed out in my tweet, Twitter could have been a great platform on which to apologize, engage humbly with a few critics, and share links to any longer statements she might have released.

But as I reflected on it, I wondered whether she was right to have deleted her account for the following five reasons (regardless of whether she made such a calculation in advance):

1. Her Twitter Network Was No Longer Hers

Sacco only had a few hundred Twitter followers before this incident but thousands afterward. If she had remained on Twitter, her tweets would have been seen by more people intrigued by the scandal than her core network. Twitter wasn’t a major platform for Sacco’s personal or professional brand. Even if it had been, big personalities such as John Mayer have deleted their accounts without much consequence. Larger brands, however, are a different story. 

2. She Starved The Story of Oxygen

The story seemed to lose its energy as soon as she deleted her account. Her account’s erasure seemed to provide a sense of closure to the incident; without being able to include @JustineSacco in tweets, Twitter’s zest for the story appeared to deflate.

3. Tweeters Got Blood, Moved On

While Sacco was still in the air, her company released a statement suggesting she might lose her job over the incident (she did). Once she paid that price, there was less need for further communication from Sacco over Twitter. Instead, she released an apology through a South African newspaper, which was promptly shared on the social network and served to further exhaust the story.

Justine Sacco Profile Photo

4. The Holidays Were Coming

This incident occurred on December 20 and was almost certain to die a quick death before Christmas Eve. Even if she had been criticized for deleting her Twitter account, that criticism was unlikely to have lasted more than three more days. 

5. She Got Sympathy

Overall, Sacco’s tweets were badly damaging. But many Twitter users, bloggers, and journalists raised concern about Twitter’s “vigilante justice,” believing that Sacco had been unfairly convicted without a trial or the ability to defend herself.

My Final Take

Deleting her account didn’t erase her words. Many news stories captured her earlier, incendiary tweets, which will remain “on the record” forever. But the raw record of her Twitter account is no longer “live” and thus cannot be combed through by curiosity seekers.

I usually advise against deleting social media accounts in crisis. But Sacco’s case feels different—and she probably made the right call.

What Do You Think? Should She Have Deleted Her Account?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Social Media | 3 Comments »

Five Ways To Avoid A SpaghettiOs Social Media Disaster

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on December 8, 2013 – 11:33 am

To acknowledge December 7th yesterday—Pearl Harbor Day here in the United States—the food brand SpaghettiOs sent out the following tweet:

spaghettios tweet

2,402 Americans were killed on December 7, 1941 when Japanese fighters launched a surprise attack on American military ships based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack directly led to the United States entering World War II, in which an additional 418,000 Americans died.

So how, exactly, does a smiling SpaghettiOs noodle holding a flag honor that sacrifice? It doesn’t, obviously, and the more than 5,000 people who retweeted the ridiculous tweet torched the brand for its casual commercialization of a national tragedy.

Worse, they didn’t learn from the mistakes of others. SpaghettiOs was the latest in a long line of brands using moments of commemoration to promote their brand. In August, for example, The Golf Channel “honored” Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by asking golfers to submit their golf dreams.

Golf Channel

And in April, immediately following the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and maimed many others—the food website Epicurious sent these tweets:

Epicurious Tweets

In the cases above, I don’t believe that the brands intentionally sent those tweets to manufacture a controversy. But there’s no denying that these social media hubbubs resulted in massive brand recognition, spread by angry tweeters who shared the brands’ names.

I’m no longer convinced that these instances hurt all brands in the long-term; there’s at least some evidence that they don’t. It’s entirely possible that SpaghettiOs, now back in the public consciousness, will experience a boost in sales. If that’s the case, we can expect to see more brands using this tactic intentionally.

Clothing designer Kenneth Cole appears to be doing so already. He sent these tweets in 2011 about Egypt and 2013 about Syria, respectively:

Kenneth Cole Egypt 

Kenneth Cole Syria

Despite receiving intense criticism for his crassness, he bragged to Details Magazine in October that:

“If you look at lists of the biggest Twitter gaffes ever, we’re always one through five. But our stock went up that day, our e-commerce business was better, the business at every one of our stores improved, and I picked up 3,000 new followers on Twitter. So on what criteria is this a gaffe?”

Assuming you don’t want your brand to be associated with those tactics, here are five tips that will help you honor a national holiday, day of commemoration, or news event the right way:

1. Don’t Be Clever

When honoring a holiday on which people died or fought for equal rights, don’t be clever or stretch to make the moment fit your brand (e.g. connecting scones with dead marathoners). If you’re so inclined, make a straightforward and genuine statement honoring the people affected or lost (“72 years ago today, thousands of Americans lost their lives in Pearl Harbor. We honor their sacrifice.”). Obviously, that statement shouldn’t be accompanied by an animated noodle.

2. Don’t Be Promotional 

Commemorative days don’t serve as moments to sell your brands. The only exception is if you’ve done something to help. For example, it would be okay to say, “In honor of those who died in Pearl Harbor, we have made a donation of $25,000 to the World War II National Memorial Fund.”

3. For Major News Events, Simpler Is Better

On and after September 11, 2001, most commercial websites understandably felt the need to acknowledge the tragedy. The websites that did it best made it completely about the event. As a positive example, here’s what had on its homepage on September 14, 2001:

Amazon Sept 14 2001 Homepage

4. Ask Whether You Should Say Anything At All

There seems to be an increasing tendency of unrelated brands to comment at every potential moment. A straightforward statement is generally an okay idea, but ask yourself whether you should be saying anything at all. Few brands are expected to comment on Pearl Harbor Day, for example. Ask yourself when your brand should be commenting on those dates—or news events—at all.

5. Train Your Staff

Print this post. Have a formal staff training. Have an informal discussion. However you choose to train your staff, make sure you train your staff! My belief is that most of these mistakes aren’t made by evil, mean, or otherwise horrible people. They’re made, most of the time, by oblivious but well-meaning and untrained people.

Like the blog? Read the book! The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview is available in paperback, for Kindle, and iPad.


Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Social Media | 7 Comments »

Don’t Be That Needy Social Media Stalker

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on October 4, 2013 – 6:02 am

I occasionally unfollow people on Twitter or Facebook.

There are a variety of reasons I unfollow people. Among them: they post too often; they never post; their posts aren’t relevant to me; they annoy me; they share views I find offensive.

Once in a while, I receive a note from someone asking me why I unfollowed them. Their message always feels invasive to me, and I don’t feel like I owe them an explanation. Their message also feels a little pathetic, akin to a host of a casual cocktail party begging a guest who’s decided to leave early to reconsider and stay a little longer.

In some cases, their message is communicated in a different way, through an automated, passive-aggressive service, that tweets out something like this:

Unfollow Twitter

That desperate-sounding message alone is enough to make me want to stop following someone.

Here’s my view: social media networks should allow people to come and go as they please. If someone wants to follow me, I hope they enjoy my content and remain connected with me. But if they don’t, they’re welcome to leave at any time, without explanation. I might allow a rare exception for cases in which I’ve had a long-term Twitter or Facebook friendship with someone and gotten to know them over time.

Of course, there is value in services that track how many people are following and unfollowing you. For example, it’s a good idea to determine trends that explain which types of tweets are retaining your followers and which ones are repelling them.

But leave the whiny “Why did you stop following me?” tweets behind. I promise nobody likes them.

Would you please, please, please follow me on Twitter? I’m begging. (I’m kidding, of course.) If you’d like to pop in and out of my network as you please, I’m at @MrMediaTraining.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Social Media | Please Comment »

A 19-Year-Old, A Racist Tweet And A Front-Page Shaming

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on September 7, 2013 – 9:05 pm

Penn State’s student newspaper, The Daily Collegian, ran a front-page story on Friday about a student who sent a racially incendiary tweet. 

Ashley Lytle, a 19-year-old student, tweeted:

Ashley Lytle Tweet

That’s obviously an inappropriate and offensive tweet—one that I have no intent of defending. She deserves to be criticized for sending it. 

But instead of focusing on my usual angle of media training, I’d rather focus on the sticky question of journalistic responsibility.

When writing about a 19-year-old college student who’s not a public figure (she’s not a student leader or high-profile college athlete), there must be some degree of proportionality. I have to imagine that many other Penn State students—there are more than 39,000 undergraduates at University Park—have also sent offensive tweets or said similarly offensive things. Is the new standard for the Collegian to shame everyone who does on its front page? And if not, is their cherry picking—which will mark Ms. Lytle as a racist for much of her college life—appropriate? 

In this case, the front page placement seems irresponsible given the thinness of the news story. (You can read the full article here, which doesn’t say much other than: Student sends bad tweet. Some people mad.) If there were mass protests on campus from offended students, I’d understand the front-page coverage. Same if the administration was considering kicking her out of the school or if the article served as more of an in-depth look at the ill effects of social media on campus. 

None of that was the case here.

Yes, this story may have been worthy of mention in the paper. But it would have been more responsible to cover the story on an inside page, which would have served the dual purpose of covering the story while giving it proportional coverage. 

Regardless, this story, like so many others, underscores the need for social media training. Some colleges and universities are offering that to students—particularly for student-athletes—but in a world in which a single tweet can destroy a person’s reputation, it makes sense to arm every student with the information they need to make smarter choices. (Chris Syme’s excellent book “Practice Safe Social” is a great place to start.)

For her part, Ms. Lytle has apologized.

UPDATE: September 8, 2013, 2:45 P.M.

I received an email from Brittany Horn, the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Collegian, explaining her paper’s decision to cover this story. Due to the length of her response, I’ve posted it, in its entirely, to the comments section below. I encourage you to read her letter in full. You’ll also find my response to her email beneath her comment.

What Do You Think?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

A grateful hat tip to @ProfNichols.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in Social Media | 35 Comments »

The Golf Channel’s Martin Luther King Newsjacking

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on August 28, 2013 – 12:38 pm

Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which is being marked by Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter (among others) at the Lincoln Memorial today.

In many communities across the United States, today is a day to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, discuss the state of race relations, and learn from his heroic example.

Unless, of course, you’re the Golf Channel, which decided to use Dr. King’s legacy to get its 218,000 Twitter followers to talk about….golf.

Golf Channel

That tweet certainly isn’t going to help golf’s reputation as a sport for rich white guys.

It minimizes the significance of today’s anniversary and represents the lowest form of newsjacking. Worse, their hashtag, #DreamDay, is being used by people who want to discuss the Martin Luther King anniversary, not be subjected to a meme created by an overambitious sports marketer.

Twitter responded to the Golf Channel’s tweet quickly, with some people suggesting that the Golf Channel take a mulligan for this tweet. (If only it were that easy for them.)

Golf Channel MLK Tweets

The Golf Channel quickly deleted its tweet, but hasn’t acknowledged or apologized for it as of this writing.

Brands, this really is pretty easy. Don’t tweet about scones after the Boston Marathon bombing, don’t sell your new spring clothing line with an international uprising as your hook, and don’t do tasteless marketing on important historical anniversaries.


Update 1: August 28, 2013, 2:40 P.M.

The Golf Channel apologized for its earlier tweet.

I’d like to hear more about what went wrong and the procedures the Golf Channel will put in place to make sure they don’t commit another social media gaffe. Also, a “we’re sorry” wouldn’t hurt.


Update 2: August 28, 2013, 5:00 P.M.

I guess Herr Foods didn’t get the memo.


Don’t miss a thing! Click here to instantly join our mailing list and receive our 21 most essential media training tips.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Crisis Communications | 2 Comments »

Join our email list to get our 21 most essential media training tips

An Amazon #1 PR Bestseller: The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need To Know Before Your Next Interview. Learn more.

  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

  • Comments or Tips?

  • Media Requests

    To book Brad Phillips for a media interview, please e-mail
  • In The News

    Click here to see media coverage of Brad Phillips and the Mr. Media Training Blog.
  • Media Training

    Click here for more information about our customized media training workshops. To book a media training workshop, e-mail