#30 – Why “trust” is changing, a magical apology, and PETA shoots itself in the foot

#30 – Why “trust” is changing, a magical apology, and PETA shoots itself in the foot


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Is it time to change our standards for “trust?” 

Each week, Erin Jones and I take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:

  • A new Pew study suggests we’ll “trust” the internet more, so long as we redefine our understanding of the word.
  • Penn Jillette’s badly delivered joke results in a quick apology.
  • Did PETA just shoot itself in the reputation foot by targeting hunters?
  • The UK’s National Lottery proves why you should never automate social engagement.

If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.

Transcript (forgive us for any typos):

Andy Beal:                  Welcome back to another episode, and we’re gonna jump straight into it with a new study from the Pew Research Center. It’s about trust, so lots of useful information in there. We’ll put a link on the blog post. But what really stood out is that over, let’s see, 48% of respondents said that in the next 10 years, our trust in the internet will be strengthened. But then if you kind of read through the study and the comments, it’s kind of hard to determine whether or not that is gonna come from improvements to technology … So are we gonna see new technology that’s gonna increase that trust, that’s gonna make it more secure online? Or whether it’s just that we’re going to redefine our definition of trust, and basically lower that benchmark, that threshold, because the internet becomes so entrenched, so intrinsic to our lives that we are willing to overlook a lot of loopholes, and to lower our standards for trust, so that we can get on and do the things that are really cool, and we have a lot of fun.

What stood out to you, Erin? I mean, did you get that same vibe?

Erin Jones:                  I did. What really stood out to me is something that we’ve been talking about, gosh I feel like for the last several months, is that we continue to lower our standards to deal with either necessary evils or convenient fixes. So you know, kind of the whole, “Well, my credit card got compromised on Amazon, but I’m not gonna stop using Amazon, because I love the convenience factor.” Or, “I’m not setting up two-factor authentication on my phone, because it’s faster to not use it, and I’ll take the risk.” So I think that people are getting more complacent because it’s more normal now. And I definitely agree with that standpoint, but as a business owner, I don’t want to be a necessary evil. So I’m hoping that that increase in trust can also reflect on brands that are doing a good job, and have increased buy-in and increased trust from people who see that there are changes being made. So I feel like the scales are kind of being tipped in both directions.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, you make some interesting points, because there are some tools and services that we use that are so important to us, or play such a major role in our everyday lives, that if we see a breach of trust, we’re not gonna stop using them. So if my credit card gets compromised, and there’s charges racked up, I’m not gonna stop using that credit card company because I need my credit card, and it’s gonna happen to a lot of places. If a particular store, though, where I have a lot of choices … If Target gets, you know, and it has had, a credit card situation where everything was hacked and numbers were stolen … I’ve not shopped at Target since then, because I have other choices.

But then you get to something like Amazon. I mean, heaven forbid Amazon ever have some kind of breach of trust. I would be lost without Amazon Prime. I mean, what am I likely to overlook with Amazon, in terms of trust, privacy, security, because it’s so darn convenient to order and get stuff within a day or two. I mean, I’m willing to turn a blind eye to a lot of things with Amazon, because it’s such an important part of my life. But if it was a service that I only use once a year, and I’ve got other options, then the moment they blow their trust, they’ve blown it with me, and I’m gonna move on.

So I think there is this … I don’t know, there’s two sides to this. Because Amazon is clearly investing a lot in technology, in customer service, and systems to protect their trust that customers have built up. It’s not like they’re just kind of winging it. They’ve clearly, you know, you hardly ever hear about any kind of data breach or credit card fraud with Amazon. So it’s kind of … You know, they’ve built that up, and I kind of trust them. So they’re … It’s probably, I don’t know, chicken and the egg. I trust them because they’re invested in trust.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly, and I was just gonna say, you know … Do they get more of a pass because we see that effort from them? You know, I feel like I’m gonna let them get away with a little bit more, because I know that they’re probably gonna work pretty hard to make things right if they do make a mistake.

Andy Beal:                  Right. And then that ties back to reputation. So you’ve got trust and reputation pretty much go hand in hand, and so do we risk that we start lowering the bar, in terms of what’s a good reputation? And you start looking around at your competitors and saying, “Well, they do this or they do that. They don’t get back to their customers within 24 hours like we do, so why are we putting in the effort with customer service to get back to a customer so quickly, when we could let that slip to 48 hours or 3 days, and still be ahead of our competition?” And now, just like a rising tide lifts all boats, now we all kind of fall back to the lowest common denominator of just barely getting by.

So I think what this report … The message it should send is, I think consumers want to trust us more. They want to see greater trust in the internet going forward, and so even if everybody else is relinquishing that and lowering the standards, you could really set yourself apart, be it Amazon or whoever it may be, a particular bank, whatever industry, by having such a high degree of trust with your customers, which is gonna lend itself to reputation. You’re just gonna stand out from the crowd.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly. Could you imagine if an airline or an insurance company came out and started wowing people? If that whole, “With great power comes great responsibility,” thing, I would love to see more of that in multiple industries.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. I do think, though, with reputation … I talked about this a lot. We are gonna see, as we get more and more case studies of issues with students taking videos of each other getting drunk, whatever it may be, or CEOs saying an off the camera remark that was captured, we are gonna get a little desensitized to that. Right now it’s all shock value. But I think we will find a threshold where we’re just gonna say, “Look, it’s all very well that you have the occasional breach, data breach, whatever it may be, but we’re not just gonna let this slide down. We do want to have systems in place, where we can feel that we can trust your business, trust doing business with you, and that we’re not just gonna accept it that … Okay. Everything is connected now.”

Just because it’s my refrigerator that got hacked, that should still have the same levels of security as my phone. It’s not enough to say, “Well, it was your refrigerator, you know, what do you expect? What’s it gonna do? Order you an extra pint of milk? I mean, it’s not a lot that they can do here.” No. We want that same level of trust. So hopefully as we become more entrenched in using the technology that’s always connected, hopefully we don’t lose sight that everything needs to be held to that same level of trust.

Erin Jones:                  I sure hope so.

Andy Beal:                  Alright, we flogged that to death, so let’s move on. So Penn Jillette, from the magic duo Penn & Teller … Jillette is the one that actually speaks. Which actually, he may want to have taken a lesson from his partner on this one, because he was doing a TV interview, and apparently, he was trying to set up a joke, but people didn’t know that. He basically said that everybody from Newfoundland is stupid, and didn’t get to finish the setup. Because he’s from there. If he had finished, it would have made sense. But he didn’t. Nobody knew it was a setup for a joke.

He got a tremendous amount of backlash. And he also got a quick and a very steep learning curve on how to apologize. Because if you look at how he apologized on Twitter, he had two apologies within two minutes. The first one, he apologized, but at the same time, tried to plead the mitigating circumstances. That there was more to it. Then he thought better of it, and came out with a complete, non-mitigating circumstance apology. Shouldn’t have done it. I should have known better. Apologized to everybody from Newfoundland.

It was kind of interesting. He even went on to just actually … Later on, he did explain what happened. But he was really good about just coming out and apologizing, realizing that now’s not the time to say, “Hey, but there was stuff that you didn’t know.” He offended people. Which I really like that he kind of corrected himself within a couple minutes.

Erin Jones:                  I liked that, and I also liked scrolling through Twitter, and some of the responses he sent out. He didn’t create a canned apology and copy and paste it to everyone who sent him a message. He was very humbling, and he just came out and said, “I screwed up. I really, really screwed up, and I’m sorry.” You know, “You’re my people, and I love you.” You know, “I tried to make a joke, and it was bad, and this is my fault.” Full stop. Which was nice to see.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah, everything I’ve seen from him, outside of the magic shows … He’s very candid and he’s very real, kind of … struggling for the wording here. But authentic in that he doesn’t try to sugar coat anything. When he’s made a mistake, he’ll call himself out. When he thinks other people are BSing him, he’ll call them out, too. So I think it was part of his nature, which was good. But I think it’s a good lesson here. So you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh, this is all very good, Andy, but what’s the reputation lesson here?”

So aside from the quick apology, and as Erin said, customizing the apology. Don’t just do a cut and paste, because people see that. They go through and look at your Twitter account, and they see that you’re just cutting and pasting the same apology. It really doesn’t show that you care. So if you’ve really messed up, then having an individual apology, you don’t have to necessarily apologize to everybody. Not everybody is looking for an individual apology. They just want to vent to you. But for the most part, you’re gonna do an individual apology.

but I think the other lesson here is, consider that your words, your statements, that joke that you were gonna set up, could not only cut short, but could also be taken out of context, and when I used to do TV interviews, I used to get asked a lot about Google and the search engines, and back when I was doing more SEO, I got asked about black hat SEO and the nefarious side of search engine optimization, especially in the early days. And I knew what they were trying to do. I knew that they were trying to find that sound bite by which they could hang me with, and the industry along with it. And I refused to give it to them. I always thought to myself, the next thing that comes out of my mouth, if that is the only thing they quote me on, can it be taken out of context?

And I think that’s a lesson for anybody that’s out tweeting, doing a press release, press conference, going on TV, whatever it may be, ask yourself am I about to give somebody a sound bite where they can take that one snippet and make me look bad?

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely. You know, I think you should, when you’re doing things like this, pretend that you’re in a room full of 13 year old girl, and they are vicious. You want to make sure that nobody’s gonna turn around and whisper something that you said in another way. You know, you see it all the time, and I know it happens a lot in our industry, and it definitely happens a lot in politics, and with celebrities. Anything you say can be spun to make you look either antagonistic or negative, or just like an all out jerk.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. It’s a good idea to think to yourself, “Okay. What I’m about to do … Could this be taken and twisted against me?” And that segues into our last story, which Erin has details on, because that’s exactly what happened to PETA.

Erin Jones:                  Oh, my goodness, PETA. Well, I think a lot of people hear the name PETA and kind of give it an eye roll right from the start, because they tend to be known for their very over the top animal rights activism antics. And this year, they’ve come out with a campaign at the front of hunting season that says, “Shoot selfies, not animals.” And they made a Facebook overlay, and did all these really nice things to try to get people to spread the word, and put this on top of their Facebook profile, and they’ve gotten a really great response. But unfortunately, it’s been from the wrong market.

Hunters all across social media are putting this overlay on pictures of them with their trophy hunts or with whatever they’ve managed to get recently, and so you’re seeing pictures all over Twitter, I know. I have two cousins, one with a beautiful elk hunting picture in Colorado, and he’s got that overlaid. And then another cousin of mine works for a farm bureau, and she’s got it on her picture as well. So people are taking this and turning it into a huge joke. I’m not really sure what PETA was thinking when they did this, because I can’t imagine that it went through however many processes that it would need to go through for approval, and nobody said, “Hey, do you think and will use this for bad?”

Andy Beal:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think also, what really stands out to me is how they could have probably had the same effect without this kind of risk. So I guess, it’s always a bad idea to have any kind of campaign that the premise of which is to attack your competitor, or another company, or a different mindset. So here, they could have had some kind of campaign where they encourage people to take selfies with themselves and their pet, or make it look like the pet had taken a selfie. You know, they could have done something to promote the well-being of animals, without also attacking those that hunt. Not everybody that hunts does so just for … you know, they want to have something up on the wall. They hunt because they stock their freezers with the food to get them through the winter.

So I can see both sides here. There’s nobody out there that wants us to be cruel and abusive to any kind of animal. Those people are just sick and twisted. But at the same time, God gave us dominion over animals, and we eat animals all the time. And those animals have to be killed. And I think hunting, the vast majority of hunters do so in a humane way, and have a good reason for doing so. So trying to separate them … Trying to attack your competition … In this case, your competition is those that are hunters. That’s gonna backfire, because you’re gonna ruffle their feathers. Pardon the pun. And you are going to get them to come out and figure out how to defend their stance.

For those of us looking in, this is gonna be a stalemate, right? PETA is not gonna hurt its reputation. Its reputation is that it basically is pretty loopy in terms of how far they’re willing to go to protect animals. I mean, just look up the lawsuit that’s going on with the gorilla that picked up a photographer’s camera, accidentally took a selfie of himself, and now PETA is trying to get the copyright of that photo for the gorilla. It’s like … So we know how loopy they are. Then you know, the hunters … Their reputation’s not gonna be hurt, because they’re not posting photos of them mutilating or abusing deer or pheasant or whatever it may be. It’s just trophy shots. Here’s what I’ve shot.

Now, if the hunters were posting images of them shooting Cecil the Lion and cuddly animals, and stuff like that, maybe it would have backfired, but that’s not what they’re doing. So I think that in terms of reputation, it’s pretty much a stalemate. Then so I think it’s gonna net out, as far as PETA’s concerned, where if they had gone with something more positive, they could’ve actually done something to improve their reputation.

Erin Jones:                  I agree, and you know, if they really want to throw people for a loop, why don’t they team up with ethical hunters, and support that industry, instead of trying … You know, I feel like this was not a great target to take on, because like you said, they’re not gonna be changing any minds here.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. Could have been worse. They could have completely automated their engagement, and we’ll put a link to the national lottery in the U.K. that had a Twitter bot that got basically … not hijacked … Well, I guess hijacked. People figured out that whatever their user name was, the national lottery would automatically send a tweet to them, thanking them for their support, and so people started using some very unsavory Twitter names, and this thing ran amok. So at least they didn’t go that far. We’ll put a link to that. So that was another kind of linked story.

But that’s all we got time for this week. We hope you enjoyed it. As always, if you have a question or would like to suggest a story, please head to our Facebook page, which is /andybealorm or just go to andybeal.com, find any of the blog posts, leave a comment there. It will set off a numerous amount of alarms and bells that you’ve commented, so I won’t miss it. And I’d be happy to answer your questions for another show.

As always, Erin, thank you for joining me. It’s always a pleasure to chat with you.

Erin Jones:                  Thank you, I love being here.

Andy Beal:                  And thank you all for listening. We hope you join us again next time. Until then, bye-bye.

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