Jumping the gun

By Jerry Brown, APR

New York Times building facadeOne of my great frustrations over the years has been watching clients wait too long to respond to crisis situations or take advantage of stories in the news they could use to help tell their own story. Waiting too long to tell your story can mean a missed opportunity or, in some cases, a damaged reputation.

But there’s a flip side: Speaking before you’re ready. That’s also dangerous.

I stumbled across two examples of speaking too soon last week. One involved a promotional email sent out by the New York Times. The other involved a Denver city councilman a little too eager to claim credit for bringing California’s famous IN-N-OUT Burger chain to Colorado.

The Times sent out an email on Wednesday encouraging readers who had canceled their home subscriptions to change their minds and offering them a 50 percent discount for renewing. The email, which was supposed to have gone to 300 people, went to 8.6 million people, including me.

After a flurry of Twitter comments and phone calls to the Times from puzzled readers who hadn’t canceled their subscriptions, the Times put out a message on Twitter that said: “If you received an e-mail today about canceling your New York Times subscription, ignore it. It’s not from us.” Except, of course, it was.

So, the Times had to follow up with another message acknowledging and apologizing for two mistakes instead of one.

A minor miscue? Sure. No one died or got hurt. But the incident generated several negative stories and some embarrassment for the Times. And under different circumstances — a serious crisis, for example — it could have meant a serious loss in credibility.

The lesson for the rest of us: Make sure you know all the facts before you issue a public comment.

The other incident involves a Facebook comment by Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks claiming he had a “great conversation” over the holidays with a relative who has  “close ties” to IN-N-OUT’s CFO and that attracting the popular California burger chain to Denver “will be on my agenda heading into 2012.”

That, in turn, led to a story in the Denver Post speculating about the potential for IN-N-OUT coming to Denver.

Is IN-N-OUT coming to Denver? Maybe. But Brooks’ Facebook comment looks to me like a case of someone speaking out way too soon about something that’s far from certain — or about a conversation with a relative that was nothing more than idle chatter.

Brooks could still have claimed credit by waiting the deal — if there is one — was done. By jumping the gun, there’s a good chance he embarrassed IN-N-OUT’s CFO and his relative with “close ties” to the burger exec. And, if serious discussions for bringing IN-N-OUT to Denver really were in the works, he may have made a successful outcome more difficult. In short, Brooks made a mistake by speaking too soon.

One thing both of these incidents have in common: Comments made on social media. Facebook, Twitter and other social media make it very easy to say things that shouldn’t be said in public. So, beware.

And a personal footnote: If IN-N-OUT does make it to Denver, make mine a double-double, animal style.

That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?

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One Response to “Jumping the gun”

  1. Brad Fisher Says:

    Also at the Times recently, the announcment that NYT had sold its regional chain was posted on the Halifax Holdings site, then removed. The news hung in the air unconfirmed for a few days, although it was already out because so many had seen it during the time it was up. Another clumsy error. Are they all distracted because their boss resigned so suddenly?

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