Everyone at some point in their lives has made the mistake of accidentally hitting “reply all” on an e-mail. However, what is generally just a simple miscue can be exacerbated to something much worse when accidentally used in a professional setting. And in the case of a certain vice president, referred to as “Jose,” of BrandLink Communications, it can create everyone’s weekly PR disaster reminder on being careful with online social technology.
As the story goes: Jenny Lawson, better known as The Bloggess, who has a Twitter following of 168,000+ and was named by Nielsen as one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Mom Bloggers,” received a poorly-written pitch from the agency. As is her custom to pitches she finds pointless and irrelevant, she sent a reply e-mail with a picture of popular blogger Wil Wheaton collating paper.
Not a fan of Ms. Lawson’s brand of snark, “Jose” called her a “f**king b**ch,” and then proceeded to inadvertently send his opinion of her in what was meant to be a private e-mail to the agency rep who had sent the original pitch to Ms. Lawson.
And then the floodgates opened. When Lawson sent an e-mail back questioning Jose’s inappropriateness and explaining why she responds with snark to certain types of pitches,“Jose made the situation worse by saying she “should be flattered that you are even viewed relevant enough to be pitched at all.”
Naturally, that did not go over well. Lawson, and her thousands of followers, proceeded to tweet at the agency’s Twitter account, drawing attention to the lapse in judgment by one of their executives.
Lawson updated her post on the situation to say that the top-level executives at the agency “are aware [of the situation] and are handling it the best way they know how.”
Which brings us to the question, what is the best way to handle such a situation, if you are unfortunate enough to come across something like this as a PR professional?
When we asked Steve Cody, co-founder and managing partner of Peppercom, this question, his advice was to turn a negative into as much of a positive as possible.
“I’ve always viewed adversity as an opportunity for an individual or an organization to shine. So, I’d suggest the agency apologize for Jose’s behavior, but indicate that he—and the firm—has learned a valuable lesson in the process. As a matter of fact, they could announce that they’ve seized it as a learning opportunity," says Cody.
"They should invite three or four of the top bloggers in the country to join them for a working lunch to discuss the issue and how it can be avoided in the future (they could even open it up to members of the local PRSA chapter so it’s a win-win for the industry). I believe BrandLink would be applauded for such an empathetic, forward-looking response.”
This is most definitely not an enviable position BrandLink Communications finds itself in. However, there definitely is an opportunity to seize this situation and turn it around into a positive. What do you think?