How a ‘send’ button can send one’s image and reputation to Hell

Once again, the digital world has enabled an unsuspecting PR player to unwittingly wreak havoc on him/herself and the organizations he/she represents.

Following on the heels of such embarrassing mistakes as the GCI Intern who took on Uber Blogger Jeff Jarvis’s unkind comments about Dell, the Weber AE who was labeled moron publicist of the month for incessantly pitching a KFC non-story to Gawker and, of course, Edelman’s infamous anything-but-transparent blogging work on behalf of Wal-Mart, we now have the Waggener Edstrom/Microsoft briefing book on Wired Magazine’s Fred Vogelstein.

As is customary before arranging any interview between a client and reporter, WagEd’s account team created a briefing book for their Microsoft client in which they describe what Vogelstein is like. Such information helps a client prepare for the interview and avoid any possible pitfalls.

Somehow, though, the briefing document fell into the wrong hands, Vogelstein’s. Amazingly, someone from WagEd actually e-mailed the Vogelstein briefing document to the editor himself. And, faster that one can type, ‘oh shit!’ Vogelstein had great material for a totally new and different type of story about Microsoft.

Naturally Vogelstein blogged about how the WagEd people described him as being, among other things, ‘tricky’ and someone who ‘digs for dirt.’

Mistakes happen, and we’re all human. But, as a result of someone’s mistake, deliberate or otherwise, WagEd has jeopardized a media relationship, gotten smashed from an image and reputation standpoint and, at the very least, not strengthened its long-standing relationship with Microsoft.

Having sent e-mails I later regretted, I now try my best to think through any potentially controversial correspondence before hitting the ‘send’ button. It’s a sad, but very real fact of the Web 2.0 world in which we live that a ‘send’ button can also send an individual’s or organization’s image straight to hell.

Thanks to Stephanie Chaney for the idea.

5 thoughts on “How a ‘send’ button can send one’s image and reputation to Hell

  1. I wonder if this is a conspiracy…make it seem personal between Wired and MSFT so the latter can cry that it’s feelings are being hurt. Of course the communicators are the ones getting the blame?
    Turkey and cheese on rye. Ballbark mustard “imported” from Cleveland, OH.

  2. SNAFU of the Week – PR briefing given to journalist

    Our craving for titillation is satisfied today by the coverage of a memo from Waggener Edstrom intended to prepare a Microsoft exec for an interview with a Wired Magazine writer but which found its way into the hands of the reporter.
    As I read the comm…

  3. Wag-Ed President Frank Shaw (who also leads the firm’s Microsoft team) blogs about this incident — sort of — in his blog. He begins by saying he’s not really going “to talk in detail about the Wired story itself.” Indeed not: He then tries to redirect by shifting to a memo on what makes a good interview — the point being that the interview discussion will show why the industry needs briefing books. Is anyone really questioning the need for briefing books? Wouldn’t most reasonable people agree that it’s a good idea for a professional-services firm to prep a client for an important upcoming event that specifically falls under that services firm’s remit? Even most journalists would agree with this. (Full disclosure: I was a journalist for 16 years.) I’d also point out here that most journalists would not be surprised to find out that PR professionals keep some notes on them. Doesn’t that just make sense?
    My humble opinion: Sometimes — often — the best way is the straight ahead: “Yes, we compile these reports and provide them to clients. Good reason for doing so. We sent this one out by mistake. Sorry.” Done.
    The lecture on interviews is noise at best, condescending at worst.

  4. rep- there is a much bigger error/message that is the problem here and im surprised that you or the reporter hasnt touched on this. The problem isn’t that the “send” button was hit. The problem is what was written. Here is a golden rule that we should all follow- if you don’t want the world to see it, don’t write it, don’t take a picture of it, don’t have a record of it.
    In today’s society, how many people have had really explicit pics of them all over the net. How many times have ex’s sent the world pics of their former flame in a compromising position? And that is the shame here- the briefing book- had it been professional, would have not been a problem if seen by the reporter. instead of saying he was “digs for dirt” how about saying he can be a “great investigative journalist.” instead of saying he takes a lot of time, they could have said he was very thorough.
    had mark gotten that, he would have thought-wow, this guy/gal really did their homework and knows me well. instead, this person likely ruined their career at waggEd- but from reading the briefing book- doesn’t seem like they- or anyone that approved it, should be in pr anyway.