AS MORE companies add blogs and other social media tools to their online communications, knowing how to handle errors in posts has become an important practice point.
Business Wire (BW) is one company that hasn’t yet learned how to do this properly. And that’s a problem because part of BW’s business is advising companies and providing tools for them to use the web as an interaction medium.
|Business Wire deleted its erroneous blog post and my comment.|
Yesterday, for example, Tom Becktold, SVP Marketing at Business Wire posted a short piece on his company’s blog that contained a rather substantial error:
We came across this interesting blog post by Rice University student John Palizza who was prepping for his investor relations class. His post provides a summary of various research findings related to investor relations and disclosure practices.
The mistake here is that John Palizza is not a student. He is a lecturer at Rice University and a very experienced IRO.
I saw the mistake and immediately left a comment on Business Wire’s blog that simply pointed out the error. My comment, as with several I’ve made over the past year on Business Wire’s blog, never appeared.
I suspect Business Wire has blackballed me from commenting on their blog because they don’t like what I have to say about wire services in general, BW in particular, and its parent Berkshire Hathaway’s frugal earnings release practices.
Of course, my comment was still caught in their moderation queue, and they saw that they had goofed. The correct thing to do next would have been to approve my comment, then correct their post by striking out the word
student and replacing it with the word instructor. They could then have apologized to John and thanked me for pointing out the error.
That’s the transparent and established way to handle errors on blogs.
But Business Wire didn’t do that. Instead, they deleted the original blog post — and my comment — and published a new one, with the only change being to replace the word student with instructor. At the end of the new post, Becktold added “(apologies for errors in the original post – TB).”
The problem with this approach is that readers cannot see what the “errors” in the original post were. Of course, if they did know that Becktold called Palizza a student rather than a lecturer, then readers would realize that Becktold didn’t do his homework before writing the post.
Indeed, Becktold was very sloppy when you consider that the following text appears prominently on the right side of every page of John Palizza’s blog, Investor Relations Musings:
“John Palizza is the founding partner of Palizza Partners, a firm devoted to consulting with companies on how to deal intelligently with Wall Street. He has practiced investor relations for over twenty years at SYSCO and Walgreens, as well as having been on the buy side at W. P. Stewart, a money management firm. He has an MBA from the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, a law degree from Loyola University of Chicago and a B. A. in History from Coe College in beautiful Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In addition to his consulting, John also teaches investor relations at the Jones Graduate School of Management at Rice University. For more information, visit www.palizzapartners.com.”
Pretty hard to call a guy like that a student, especially when it actually says that he “teaches investor relations.”
Of course, if readers knew what the “errors” were, they would also realize that Becktold isn’t really up to speed on what is happening in the IR community. John Palizza is one of the more prominent names in the IR community. He has recently written columns for IR Magazine and several other IR publications, been a speaker at industry events, and has a long and illustrious career.
Becktold, as his firm’s marketing SVP, really should know of him.
(added after original post: I think it’s clear that Becktold had a strong incentive not to explain his mistake or allow my comment to appear. It would have made him look bad. However, by reposting instead of just correcting the post and allowing my comment to run, he made a bad situation worse by opening the door for me, a blackballed commenter, to turn the incident into a full-blown post on my own blog.)
My point with this post is to highlight how important it is that companies understand how to use social media before they jump in. Know the protocols and user expectations. This is especially important, as I’ve already pointed out, if you’re selling social media tools.
And finally, don’t blackball people from commenting just because you don’t agree with their views. All that does is motivate them more and provides them with more fodder to use against you.
Just like I’ve done here.