Ten marketing and pr lessons from FailBlog (and why it’s my favorite blog)

I know this is going to sound strange. Believe me, I do, but my favorite blog for marketing and public relations is: FailBlog. Of all the great marketing and pr blogs to choose from, it seems like an odd pick at first blush, but hang with me as I explain and it might just turn into your favorite as well.

I’m a huge fan of Mike Levine’s book, Broken Windows, Broken Business and, in general, taking a look at signals that a business is sending to a customer that is killing the business’ marketing effectiveness. In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of a presentation on marketing effectiveness lately that talks about this subject at length. During those talks, I recommend that the members of the audience become regular subscribers of FailBlog so that they can train their mind to look for ways that their businesses are sending the wrong signals to customers. Basically the concept is, you learn from your mistakes, but you can also learn from the mistakes of others. Besides, most of them are just plain funny and will brighten your day.

So, to prove my point, here are the ten marketing and public relations lessons from FailBlog this week:

1. Think dirty

Whether you want them to or not, if there is a way to take your marketing message in a dirty or perverted way, someone will. So, before anything is finalized, ask yourself (or someone you know who has this kind of mind) if there is any way that your message could be considered dirty. If so, start over.

epic fail photos - Truck Design FAIL

epic fail photos - Things That Are Doing It: It's a Choking Hazard

2. Source carefully

Double check your sources, including photos and videos, carefully to make sure you are showing the correct thing. You don’t want to post the wrong Statue of Liberty on a stamp or something similar because it’s embarrassing and hurts your credibility.

epic fail photos - Fox News FAIL

3. Think big picture

Think about all aspects of your business and how they are put together. Incorrect combinations of products or services may be disastrous. So, take a step back, and look at the overall picture.

epic fail photos - Product Placement FAIL

4. Check displays, boards, online forums often

Pranksters are everywhere and some people may not understand that you weren’t the one that put the hangers next to the pregnancy tests, so it’s important that you check any areas that customers have access to often for signs of tampering or anything that may offend your other customers (and land you on FailBlog).

epic fail photos - Snack FAIL

5. Humanize your processes

I know this is contrary to popular thought right now, but full automation is not always the answer. Computers may not catch errors that humans can, so it might be worthwhile to add a human set of eyes back into your business’ processes.

epic fail photos - Probably Bad News: Accountability FAIL

epic fail photos - Drug Policy Answer Fail

6. Think functionality

It never fails that 2-3 times per week on FailBlog, there’s going to be some rendition of the vehicle or door or something else with moving parts that sends a different message than intended. So, double check placement and how things will look when the door to your shiny new van is opened before you finish your design.

epic fail photos - Church Van FAIL

7. Make checklists

If you are getting ready to launch a major promotion, it might be a good idea to keep detailed notes and checklists on what you did and what you need to do, so you don’t slip up and, say, let ads run congratulating a team that didn’t win.

epic fail photos - NBA Champions FAIL

8. Check on your employees

I’m in no way an advocate for micro-managing, but I do think it’s a good idea to get up, walk around a bit, and see what your employees are up to. Imagine how it would look to your business if people were waiting in line for help and they could see an employee in another room reading a book. Or, you may see and employee committing (hopefully unintentionally) something that is illegal. Knowing now and stopping it will save you from a lawsuit and some bad pr later.

epic fail photos - CLASSIC: Nap Location FAIL

9. Check your claims

So often, consumers are bombarded with claims like “world’s first” or “dependable” or “unbreakable.” It’s wonderful if they are true, but you need to make sure your claims are true EVERY TIME or you will immediately have a broken windows, marketing, and public relations issue.

epic fail photos - Unbreakable FAIL

10. Look at photos carefully

From now on, every time you take photos that you plan to publish in some way, take a few extra seconds and really look over them. What is everyone doing in them? Is there anything in the background of photos that could be embarrassing? The one photo you forget to check just might be the one that has an issue in it.

epic fail photos - Probably Bad News: Yearbook Picture Fail

So the next time your boss catches you laughing hysterically in your office while looking at FailBlog, you can now give definitive reasons why it’s a great tool to help you sharpen your marketing and public relations skills, and, ultimately, protect your business’ reputation.

Post originally published on my MSU Journalism blog, Fit To Type.

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