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February 22nd, 2013

Twitter hack Monday: Hacktivists hit well-known company pages

Twitter hack Monday: Hacktivists hit well-known company pages

April Fool’s Day got an early start Monday morning when hackers took to Twitter for some high-tech pranking. The first to fall victim to the scheme was fast food giant Burger King, whose company page was transformed to appear as that of its number one competitor, McDonald’s.

Twitter tweeting birds

Along with a change of logo and background, Burger King’s faux bio stated, “Just got sold to McDonalds because the whopper flopped =[.” The tweets that followed were vulgar as well as degrading to the corporation, including allegations that employees spent their working time doing Percocet’s in the bathroom.

The hack began around 11am and by 12:15pm, it was over. But, not unlike dog years, one hour in the social media world can last for days, if not longer. Once a post is published, no amount of deletion, social media shortcuts or even magic tricks can take it back.

The stunt was admittedly pulled off by a ‘hacktivist’ group sarcastically named Anonymous. The group’s Twitter account has since disappeared. Surprisingly, Burger King gained nearly 30,000 new Twitter followers and over 73,421 retweets as a result of the prank hack.

Burger King smartly embraced its new audience in the fast food chain’s first official tweet since the hack, “Interesting day here at Burger King, but we’re back! Welcome to our new followers. Hope you all stick around!”

Burger King tweet

But Burger King wasn’t alone. Just moments after Jeep took to Twitter to comment on the hacking scandal, its company page appeared to be that of rival car maker Cadillac, complete with a similar acquisition rumor. Both campaigns were highly branded with the tag #OpMadCow, leaving the world to believe that Anonymous had struck again.

Impressed with the priceless exposure these scandals had garnered for Burger King and Jeep, MTV and BET quickly hatched their own plan.  For about one hour, the two music stations switched places, hoping to create the illusion of yet another hack, only to admit shortly after that it was their own hands behind the hacking.

The attempt to mimic the hacks backfired for the two music networks, resulting in a plunge of followers and a substantial amount of negative feedback. “We totally Catfish-ed you guys. Thanks for playing!” was sent out by MTV to end the hack, but many angry replies ensued shortly after.  “@MTV @bet I wish I had followed you previously so I could unfollow you now,” read one.

While it’s true that you can’t put a price on free publicity, you also can’t fake it either. Prompt’s advice in this situation – keep it simple on social media. Don’t attempt any faux hacks, and respond to potentially damaging posts in a smart, sharp and timely manner (well done, Burger King).

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Posted in Communications consultancy opinion, PR Practices, Social Media, Twitter | Comments Off on Twitter hack Monday: Hacktivists hit well-known company pages



February 20th, 2013

Maker’s Mark: Social media turns up the volume (of alcohol)

Maker’s Mark: Social media turns up the volume (of alcohol)

If you’ve never seen or drank it, Maker’s Mark is a classic American whisky. But last week the company announced it would be dropping its alcohol content from 45% to 42%. The reason? The logic of supply and demand, and the need to meet demands in new markets such as India. In short the company planned to water down its alcoholic content to stretch it further.

Maker's Mark alcohol social mediaA number of customers were outraged, and vented their thoughts over social media. There was a sharp increase in tweets, Facebook posts, and blog posts.  One fan stated: “Maker’s Mark is going to destroy itself. Bad move.”

By Sunday Maker’s Mark had retracted its statement, assuring customers that their favorite bourbon would remain at 90 proof, or 45% alcohol by volume.  Yes, the company will still face shortage problems – and will probably need to scramble for new ways to get its product on the shelf. After all, three months of research and design were put into the ‘new proof’ solution – and as a high-tech PR consultancy, believe us when we say that’s an investment no company wants to scrap.

While Marker’s Mark is back at the drawing board, where does this leave business responses to social media?  After all, we each have opinions, but in the new world of social media, we are all equipped with a voice. Should businesses should simply resign their plans in the face of popular demands?

The alcohol industry is no stranger to this type of mayhem. Just last year the college favorite, Four Loko, was forced to remove a key ingredient: caffeine. There was a resulting social media frenzy, but ultimately sales began to return to normal – without the company changing policy.

Time will tell whether Maker’s Mark should have caved to popular opinion. To paraphrase a saying, the proof is in the whisky.

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February 18th, 2013

Prompt’s content marketing Monday tip #6: Bring (the right level of) enthusiasm

Prompt’s content marketing Monday tip #6: Bring (the right level of) enthusiasm

The premise of marketing is to engage people. To do that requires enthusiasm – enthusiasm for your product or service, your team and company, your customers, your business partners and route to market. Without enthusiasm, your marketing efforts and your marketing content can seem flat. After all, no one wants to buy or try a product or service that a company cannot enthuse about, and having the right level of enthusiasm will increase the energy and engagement of both your employees and potential customers. When it comes to marketing, information is like a sundae and enthusiasm is the cherry on top.

But there’s a caveat here about having the right amount of enthusiasm. You don’t want to be shouting: ‘YOU NEED TO BUY THIS RIGHT NOW AND YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE BEYOND RECOGNITION!!!’, make spurious claims; act like a preachy know-it-all or use an unhealthy amount of exclamation marks (in many cases, one can be too many). You need to have an authentic and genuine excitement for your product, its features and its positive effects on your customers.

So ask yourself the following questions, and write down simple and honest answers – and then consider how you can use these within your content strategy. Remember, skip the marketing overdrive.

Q: Why do you think you have a great product or service?

Q: What do you genuinely like about it and the benefit it brings to users?

Q: When you speak to your customers about their experience with your product or service, what do they say — in their own words?

Q: What are the proudest moments you have had working with your company? What created these moments?

Q: [Money, fame and fortune aside…], why do you do what you do?

Got questions? Feel free to contact us!

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February 11th, 2013

Prompt’s content marketing Monday tip #5: Find your best voice

Prompt’s content marketing Monday tip #5: Find your best voice

Planning your content strategy is an essential process. But actually creating that content, quickly throws up a host of fresh challenges. One of the first creative hurdles to overcome is finding the best voice with which to communicate your key messages.

A creative voice – the one that readers, viewers, listeners and visitors will hear in their heads when digesting your marketing messages across their favoured channels – is something that can be refined over time until adopting it becomes second nature. However there are a few qualities that this voice should always reflect from the very outset, and which will serve as foundations for later tuning. These basic characteristics are: relevance, accuracy, authority and consistency.

Image by Sarah Klockars - http://sarabbit.openphoto.net

Image: Sarah Klockars-Clauser

A relevant voice is one that is appropriate, applicable, and ‘right’ for the industry, audience and messages being marketed. Understanding this setting means winning half the battle, and many content creators will automatically grasp how to adapt accordingly. Different tones and styles are required, for example, to speak with a youth audience attending a gaming exhibition about gadgets, than to a group of financial directors assembled in a civic hall to debate fiscal policies. So if your audience is actually a group of business professionals at a telecoms conference interested in mobile applications, then it’s your job to find a voice that is relevant to that industry, audience and message.

Accuracy is the easiest quality to explain, but one of the hardest to get right every time. It should go without saying, but regardless of your marketing situation, your content must be focused, succinct, grammatically correct, truthful, well researched, defendable and simple to understand.

Authority is a less tangible quality, but a very important one. It’s very easy to talk, but far harder to be heard. In order for your audience to pay attention to your marketing messages, they must first believe that you’re worth listening to. Reinforce your experience and position in your market, speak with balanced empathy of industry issues and pain-points rather than hyperbolic sales pitches, and demonstrate your understanding with proof points, references, research data or success stories.

Consistency in messaging will buy and build long-term trust with your audiences, and reinforce the other qualities already mentioned. Flip-flopping around an issue will confuse your messaging, so it’s important to spend a lot of time in the content planning stages really thinking about values and missions that you can stand by. However, consistency does not equate to rigidity. Should market conditions change radically, the flexibility to change stance supported with a thorough explanation is also an admirable and desirable characteristic.

These qualities are by no means the only values to consider when trying to find your best voice, but they’ll certainly start you off on a solid footing. For more information about marketing, please browse the rest of our blog and website: http://www.prompt-the-crowd.com/marketing/

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February 4th, 2013

Prompt’s content marketing Monday tip #4: Involve people

Prompt’s content marketing Monday tip #4: Involve people

When you’re ready to start planning your content strategy, it can be tempting to assume the full burden yourself, and to try to retain personal control over the image of your business projects. This might feel like the professional thing to do, but is nearly always a mistake. Ultimately you’ll pile too much pressure on your own shoulders, force the business to be overly reliant on your presence, and most importantly, you’ll miss out on the breadth of fresh ideas that other people would bring to your strategy.

Bring in your team to helpDon’t be afraid to bring in your team. While a committed and responsible figurehead is always useful to get things moving and to ensure continued momentum, it’s also important to recognise that it takes more than just one person to demonstrate the full scope, authenticity and unique nature of any business.

Involving a group of colleagues with a broad range of skills and personalities will breathe new life into your content strategy, as well as transforming the ways in which you approach the task yourself. Never underestimate the hidden and not-so hidden talents of your team – often it’s the most reluctant individuals who are hiding the most surprising and creative skills.

One of the successful and fun content programmes that we worked on at Prompt in 2012 was for a client that allowed us to involve 16 of its software engineers in its strategy. We worked directly and alongside the marketing department with this large sample of highly-skilled, but highly individual experts in their own fields, and gained excellent results. Not only did we produce some excellent content together, between us we also managed to accurately convey the multi-disciplined identity of a hard-working tech business.

So, try and think about who the experts could be within your company. Identify what they might know and share what would be of value to your audiences – whether that means customers, prospects, shareholders or business partners – and then involve them in your content planning. You may be surprised by the results you achieve with just a little openness and encouragement.

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