August 19, 2009

I would have appreciated an apology

Chris AbrahamThis morning at 8:42 AM Eastern, Beth Brody sent out an email titled, “[Digitalbrand] New Social Media Marketing for Small Business e-book.”

Don’t get me wrong, I receive — and send — so many of these email pitches as a blogger and the president of a digital PR firm — and this was like any other — except for three important mistakes:

1) Brody spammed a list of hundreds of social media, marketing, advertising, and PR A-list bloggers and journalists

2) she sent out the pitch as an open CC email, so every single recipient of the list could a) see each-other b) reply-all and

3) Beth Brody or someone from Brody PR has yet (at 1:52 PM Eastern) to apologize via the “Open CC” email list, via Twitter, via personal email, via a blog post, via post, or even phone!

Learn more by checking out Twitter search and the recent blog posts by Jennifer Leggio for ZDNet‘s Social Business, Public relations fail: A lesson and a rant, and Ken Wheaton’s ADAGES, PR, E-Mail, Social Media: FAIL.

Ok, to be honest, we will all make mistakes in this space. The real issue here is that Beth Brody and Brody PR completely missed an opportunity to throw herself into the conversation. This didn’t have to go nuclear — one of the most common comments is reflected in Jennifer Leggio’s opening, “I try to be supportive of the public relations industry.”

I guarantee you that if Ms. Brody, or one of her staff, were to jump in and beg forgiveness and really address all of the issues of each “reply all” recipient, then this would not have ended up in ZDNet and AdAge — in fact, there were many warnings early on in the Reply All fiasco when folks were begging and pleading for someone — anyone — to jump in and control air traffic!

There was too much time — hours — between the initial mess-up and the stove-piping from email to Twitter and then tothe blogs of the crème de la crème of marketing, PR, advertising, social media bloggers and — wait for it — journalists!

There is a very valuable lesson here for one and for all. On the surface, it seems like the A-lister email blast and the open CC were the kill shots, but they were just contributing factors. Beth Brody and Brody PR, your error was in the realm of crisis management and a failure to respond.

The message — and mistake — got away from you. It happens. But it is completely unacceptable not to cowboy up and throw yourself onto the grenade and practice a little mea maxima culpa marketing.

Update from Beth Brody — Via Email at 5:52PM:

Dear Chris,

I wanted to explain what happened today and apologize. I created a list of social media experts who might be interested in reviewing a new guide to social media for small biz. I inadvertently put the list name in the cc: box, rather than the bcc: box. A few folks must have hit the “reply all” button, rather than clicking on the “unsubscribe link” at the bottom, which started a stream of spam. Please accept my personal apology, albeit a little late in the day, since I was trying to remove everyone who wanted to be unsubscribed from the list immediately. I have deleted the offending list. Please let me know if you have any more questions about my mistake.

Regards,

Beth

Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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13 thoughts on “I would have appreciated an apology

  1. I enjoy the way that Chris is the pot calling the kettle black. I get spammy crap from him constantly. Sure, he hides the other names he's spamming his message to — but it's still spam.

  2. An apology from Brody PR – I created a list of social media experts who might be interested in reviewing a new guide to social media for small biz. I inadvertently put the list name in the cc: box, rather than the bcc: box. A few folks must have hit the “reply all” button, rather than clicking on the “unsubscribe link” at the bottom, which started a stream of spam. Please accept my personal apology, albeit a little late in the day, since I was trying to remove everyone who wanted to be unsubscribed from the list immediately.

  3. Are you kidding me? How has this issue gotten so out of control? I feel bad for you, Beth. Some people just love a skapegoat.

  4. I don't think the Cc or Bcc should be used at all for sending news to anyone. Send information only to relevant people, make it personal and a mass list isn't necessary. Amirite?

  5. Oh, please. Stop vilifying Beth Brody. She made a mistake with the CC vs. BCC field. OK, I get that. It wasn't intentional, obviously, since Beth would know the ramifications. That they are calling her press release “spam” is absurd. She's just promoting some book. She made up a mailing list, and sent the release. Come on, get real. That's what delete key is for. This wasn't a Nigerian 419 get-rich mailing scam. No sales of Viagra or Vailum or a master's degree for $100. Plus no one is faulting the recipients who are mistakenly hitting Reply All. And if auto-responders are doing this, fire the tech wizard who set up your email servers. Auto-responders should go back to the sender only, NOT the CC list. It amazes me how people still have this prima donna attitude about getting pitched, and worse, how they think their email addresses are sacred. The promoters offering acai berries, Rolex watches and security alert logins for your bank accounts are the ones to be vilified. Instead, we go after Brody, the low-hanging fruit. Trash her business and spam her clients with hate mail. Welcome to new media.

  6. Just to be clear, the names of people on the email list were NEVER revealed unless they chose to reply all, in which case it was obvious that they'd received the email (unless you've found some way to “hack” it?)

    The email address of the mailing list itself was all that was revealed, and whilst it should have been (a) hidden and (b) restricted, email addresses on the list weren't compromised if no action was taken by any individual.

    I'm not defending the action, but believe me it's very obvious when someone sends to everyone in the To: or Cc: fields — this wasn't the case here.

  7. Funny how Brody PR has done exactly what all the so-called A-listers and social media “experts” say they should do — cry “mea culpa!” and apologize — and yet are not getting any sort of “Good for them for apologizing” kind of messaging. I guess it's far easier to be snarky and cackle over someone's honest mistake instead of being a decent human being and saying, “Good for you for correcting the problem.”

    Remind me who is calling the pot and kettle black again?

    Disclaimer: I work for Empower MediaMarketing and this is my own opinion.

  8. Hey Chris:

    I think the real story was the obnoxious behavior of everyone else on the list. While Beth Brody made a mistake, everyone who hit Reply to All and wrote obnoxious blog posts (which yours is not) consciously knew what they were doing. It was very rude and mean spirited. I don't think many of these people would have done it to her face.

    You are right that she had an opportunity to stop the anger if she just came out publicly quickly to apologize which she did eventually.

    Read my take on the whole case:

    Social media “gurus” and bloggers are egotistical jerks
    http://www.sparkminute.com/?p=915

  9. I have to admit. I was on the list and yes Beth made a mistake however, who are these A list bloggers and journalists that can't figure out not to hit reply-all? Anyone who knows how to write an email knows how to reply and reply all. And after the many people replying-all to other people's pleas to stop replying all it because a mess.

  10. Sad that companies such brody pr even play in this space. Strikes me as someone in their kitchen, pc on top of PR for dummies books trying to figure out how to email those who didn’t request it.

    The bar is set way too low for PR firms. Most don’t have a clue.