Any PR is Good PR… Except When it’s Not

There is a popular saying that “any PR is good PR”. Well THAT theory has just been blown out of the water by a company called Ocean Marketing. Ocean Marketing was responsible for one of the biggest PR follies that we’ve seen in a while. And you may have missed it while you were sipping your eggnog. What happened you ask?

It begins with Dave, a customer who contacted a company called Ocean Marketing, responsible for the public relations for N-Control, to find out the status of his order to see if he would receive it before Christmas. Unfortunately for Dave, and for N-Control, Paul Christoforo, owner of Ocean Marketing, receives Dave’s email and is having, what he later describes as, a “bad day”. Emails get exchanged with Dave politely asking for information and Christoforo providing inadequate two to three word responses. As the exchange continues, Christoforo becomes increasingly rude and belligerent explaining to Dave that delays happen and, my favourite part,  that Dave should put on his “big boy hat” and stop complaining or he’ll take his order and sell it on e-bay.  (Are you cringing yet? It gets better.)

Well, the unfortunately for Christoforo, Dave did put on his “big boy hat” and forward this email exchange to a number of news outlets and to a guy named Mike Krahulik, one of the creators of a popular game-centered website called Penny Arcade and organizer of PAX  gaming expo.

Christoforo then attacks and insults Krahulik, brags of his own importance and basically tells both Krahilk and Dave to f**k themselves.  Krahulik at this point has reached his insult limit and posts the entire email correspondence between Christoforo and Dave on his website. With 3.5 million readers, Penny Arcade fuels the rage against Christoforo, spreading this exchange to major sites and blogs. After a few days, Ocean Marketing is dropped by N-Control who begun to do damage control as seen in a recent press release. I think it’s safe to say that Paul Christoforo will never work in PR again. In a recent interview with MSN it is apparent that he is not sorry, just sorry he got busted. Classy to the end…  

You don’t need to be a PR professional to see the many ways Ocean Marketing spiralled into an #EpicFail.  But here are my three takeaways:

Quality Customer Service Matters – Every. Single. Time.
The biggest takeaway from this entire fiasco is the reminder that good customer service is the backbone of any successful business. Regardless of size, it is critical that employees, and anyone representing your business, understand that customers will make or break your company.  Had Christoforo been upfront with Dave and explained in a professional and respectful manner that there was a delay and apologized, this entire situation could have been avoided. Christoforo failed to demonstrate professionalism and retains that he is in fact the victim, being crucified for having a bad day.

Tip: No one cares that you, as a professional communicator, are having a bad day. Suck it up and slap on a smile. You can cry about it when you’re off the clock.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Internet
Given the immediacy of the Internet, any bad publicity has the potential to quickly turn viral. It didn’t take long for major news sites and blogs to pick up on the story; or for Ocean Marketing to get bombarded with angry comments on their Twitter account – which has changed names at least twice since this all started. And it didn’t take long for a parody video to be created and posted. Funny thing about the Internet, it’s unforgiving and it never forgets.  Is this case, the anger against Ocean Marketing is another point of proof that the Internet can make or break the perception of your company.  

I think Dave said it best:  “Welcome to the Internet, bitch.”

Bad Publicity Does Exist
And we’re back at the saying “any PR is good PR”. After reading this, would you agree? The fallout from bad publicity can be dire and have fatal consequences for you and your company’s reputation. If your company experiences bad publicity, carefully manage social media channels, customer satisfaction and the flow of your message. In the height of the anger against Ocean Marketing, N-Control quickly fired Christoforo and hired a new public relations manager who quickly started damage control. If your company has the misfortune of experiencing public relations mismanagement, it is important to realize that damage control can help to restore faith in the company again.

Tip: Maintaining customer satisfaction and good public relations can ensure that your company’s reputation stays intact.   

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