What if Tom Brady had Just Followed the Process?

In my Know More! Reputations program, I teach a simple process for responding to a negative review or criticism of any kind. While my training focuses on the impact to a person’s online brand and reputation when responding inappropriately via a digital medium where all comments could become digitally permanent, the process also works in any format. Whether you’re responding to critics online, on paper, over the phone, or face-to-face, here’s a simple five-step process that will keep the story from getting out of hand and potentially damaging your personal brand:

  1. Apologize.
  2. State the facts.
  3. Apologize again.
  4. Let the person know what you’re going to about the situation.
  5. Take personal responsibility for ensuring it happens.

This process has helped me transform temporarily angry customers into long-term advocates. It’s helped me in relationships with bosses, colleagues, and suppliers. Heck…it’s probably saved my marriage.

footballWe all make mistakes. We all do dumb things. Some mistakes are an accident, and some dumb things are done intentionally. Don’t try and gloss-over or excuse your misdeed because the cover-up is almost always worse than the crime. Take accountability for your actions, be honest and sincere in your response, and outside of heinous crimes, just about everyone will give you a second chance.

Thus, I’ve watched with fascination as a multi-billion dollar organization with multimillionaire brand representatives — all counseled by expert advisers and image consultants — keep screwing this up. While individuals within this organization have given us many examples of personal brand/reputation destruction during the past year, there was one truly non-story that quickly became THE story because no one followed the process.

Imagine what “Deflategate” could have been…

Tom Brady Press Conference – Monday, January 20, 2014,
The Day Following the AFC Championship Game:

STEP 1 – APOLOGIZE:
“As you know, the NFL League Office is investigating allegations that the footballs we used in yesterday’s game had been tampered with, specifically that the footballs were under-inflated, or had less air than mandated by league rules. First off, let me apologize, to my teammates, coaches, front office, owners, New England Patriots fans, and football fans everywhere. This is a completely unnecessary distraction and it takes away from my teammates’ exceptional performance in yesterday’s game.”

STEP 2 – STATE THE FACTS:
“I, just like most quarterbacks in the NFL, prefer that a football has a certain feel to it. Prior to each game, we have the opportunity to review the footballs that our offense will use. During yesterday’s pre-game, the footballs felt a bit over-inflated to me and so I asked the equipment managers to see if they could check and then get the footballs to the level I like at the bottom end of what is permissible. Like probably most of you, I just learned that NFL rules state that footballs needs to be inflated in the 12.5 to 13.5 PSI range. I have no clue what the PSI is of the footballs that I like to throw, I can just tell by the touch if they are comfortable or not and I assume that officials check the footballs and that whatever we use is within the range. I’ve heard theories that the cold weather yesterday may have also played a role. I suppose it’s possible that after our guys let some of the air out of the footballs, that the cold pushed the PSI below the 12.5 range. I have no idea if this is possible or not. I do know this, however. We won the game 45 to 7 and I guess in the second half, the footballs were at full inflation on the high end of the range so it really didn’t make a difference either way.”

STEP 3 – APOLOGIZE AGAIN:
“Now, I want to be clear, what I just stated is an explanation, and not an excuse. I am the quarterback of this team and ultimately no one does anything with the footballs without me knowing. I asked the guys to remove a bit of air from the footballs and if somehow that got the footballs below the PSI limit, I truly apologize. I feel horrible for the equipment guys because they were doing what I asked. And I again want to really apologize to my teammates and coaches as they should be answering questions related to playing in the Super Bowl, not questions related to football air pressure.”

STEP 4 – WHAT I’M GOING TO DO ABOUT IT:
“Bottom line, a rule is a rule and I am the leader of this team. Even if I didn’t know the rule, it is still my responsibility to ensure that the rule is followed. I’m assuming that the NFL is going to conduct an investigation, and I want everyone to know that I will fully participate.”

STEP 5 – TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY:
“And if the NFL decides that I did something wrong and deserve punishment, I will abide by their decision. I sincerely hope this does not interfere with the excitement my team and our fans have about playing in the Super Bowl, and I will do everything in my power to make sure whatever the NFL wishes to do is done quickly so we all can get on with more important items related to the upcoming game.”

If the above scenario would have occurred, how long would the story have remained in the public conscience? And how serious a punishment would the NFL really have implemented? There is zero chance they would have done anything to impact the Super Bowl, for example suspend their marquis player. There probably would have been a fine, a stern warning, and the story would have been a non-story within a week, and Brady would have been celebrated for being so forthcoming and for being a true leader and accepting responsibility.

Of course the above hypothetical scenario assumes that what I wrote in Step 2 is accurate — that Brady did not knowingly cheat. However, my hunch tells me he did not as he would have way too much to lose, and very little to gain.

What I do believe happened, however, is that Brady, the Patriots, and the entire NFL woefully underestimated the power of social media and the viral nature of this story. Whether it was ego or ignorance, I believe all parties thought the story would quickly go away (read/hear how Brady did initially respond and you decide). When the story did not go away, there seemed to be backtracking, the non-denial denial, and cover-ups galore. And as mentioned earlier, the cover-up is nearly always worse than the original crime. And so “Deflategate” went from a “who cares?” sort of story to front-page news.

You don’t have to be someone famous to have a personal brand and an online reputation. In a world where almost everyone is “Google-able,” it is imperative that when you respond to honest criticism or a critical comment in a digital format that you remember that anything you say can be shared, archived, and made searchable — forever. Don’t let what you say take on a life of its own. Be truthful, take responsibility, and you can control the message. Be less forthcoming and people can and will invent their own story, and then you are playing catch-up and are in damage-control mode. If the non-controlled message goes viral, there’s little or sometimes nothing you can do to reign it back in.

Follow the five-step process outlined above and you’ll hopefully put issues to rest quickly, and privately. There are things you can do to control your digital brand and reputation no matter how stressful the situation, now that you Know More!

 

Creative Commons deflated football image by Frankleleon

Posted in Personal Branding, Reputation | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on What if Tom Brady had Just Followed the Process?

Social Searching for Sales Intelligence

Searching social media is a great way to identify what’s going on inside a company, what an individual is up to, and what trends are shaping an industry. People often share “inside information” via their social media sites — for example, new products being developed, upcoming conferences, industry research, etc. — that a company would not normally post to its website.

As the majority of social media sites are on the “Invisible Web,” meaning, you need to register and sometimes “friend” an individual to access information, the best way to search social media is using the search tools available within each site. Unfortunately, this can be very time consuming.

There are, however, a number of social media search engines that allow you to simultaneously search publicly accessible posts from multiple sites. If you enjoy a Google-like interface and are familiar with using Boolean in your search queries, give the “Google Social Media” Search Engine a try.

Social SearchIn one simple search, you can access posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. You can choose any combination of sites or all of them if you prefer. The results are displayed in an easy-to-read column format so in a matter of seconds, you can find results for each social account (in each column, make sure to scroll down past the ads to see the what’s posted, and in the overall site, make sure to scroll down on the full page to see all of your chosen sites).

Try entering a person’s name, a company name, or a broad industry topic. Use Boolean to expand or narrow your search. For example, make sure to put proper nouns (names, company names, job titles, etc.) and even industry phrases within quotation marks (click for an example). Use the minus sign directly next to a word to remove that word from the results (click for an example). Use the OR to expand your search results (click here for an example). And build a complex Boolean query to really narrow your intelligence gathering (click here for an example).

Spend a few minutes on Google Social Search prior to any sales call and find an interesting piece of information about the other person that you can use as a conversation starter, and/or as fodder to ask more in-depth questions. REMEMBER…when the first words out of your mouth are about the person and/or something you know he or she passionately cares about, then you gain permission to ask the next question.

Side Note: Know More! fan Lee Levitan shared another great use for Google Social Search — when screening a job candidate. Prior to an interview, run a search on the individual. You’ll quickly get an understanding of the candidate’s likes/dislikes and more important, if he or she understands how to appropriately act and represent him or herself in a digital world.

Now you know how to find the information via social media quickly, now that you Know More!

Posted in Sales Intelligence, Search Engines, Social Media, Social Networks | Tagged | Comments Off on Social Searching for Sales Intelligence

Does Permanent Public Shaming fit the Cyber Idiocy Crime?

In my Know More! Reputations program, I have a section called “American Idiots” where I share stories of business executives who have done dumb things online that have cost them business or worse, their careers. It is one of my and my audiences’ favorite parts of the presentation as there are some pretty hilarious examples. Plus, it’s always more fun to laugh at others and their mistakes than to confront our own erroneous ways.

I must admit that I take some pleasure in publicly exposing people who are racist, sexist, and/or who participate in online bullying. In some way, I suppose, it is my passive-aggressive revenge against anyone who was ever cruel to me when I was young.

Scarlet Letter

It’s not only in my presentation where I have experienced joy by exposing stupid online actions. Numerous times during the past few years, when I have seen a rude, crude, and/or inappropriate online post, I have been quick to publicly share the other person’s foolishness. Unlike in my presentation where I sometimes do protect the guilty, because I cannot pixelate out another person’s Facebook page or Twitter profile, when I share someone’s online poor judgement via my social media accounts, I am also sharing that individual’s name, place of work, and oftentimes full contact information with potentially hundreds of thousands of people who might not otherwise have known about the individual’s poor behavior.

Why shouldn’t I publicly call a racist out? Why not expose the sexist executive to the world? Why not embarrass the dunderhead so he never makes the same mistake again?

Yet, I wonder if my participating in “public shaming” is the right choice. For example:


About two years ago the marketing director for a very high-profile company sent an incredibly racist tweet just prior to boarding an international flight. As she was in the air with no Internet access, her tweet was noticed by the folks at Gawker.com, who shared her message with their hundreds of thousands of followers. Soon Ms. Marketing Director became one of the most popular topics on social media, with her story and contact information being re-tweeted and shared by millions around the globe. By the time her plane landed, there was a crowd gathered at the airport to see if she would be instantly fired from her job. Of course she was.

Fast forward a year and the New York Times Magazine ran a follow-up story about the incident. In the story she shares how – because the incident is the only thing that now appears when someone Googles her name – she cannot get a job, she can’t get a date, and that friends and even family members want nothing to do with her.

There is no excusing her tweet or the harmful words contained within it. She claims she is not a racist and that her message was sent as a joke. I don’t know if that’s true. But I do wonder, what good came from her public shaming? Was anything positive accomplished? How was the world better served by publicly exposing her idiotic behavior?

Would it have been better if someone had sent her a private message sharing how inappropriate her tweet was and asking her to remove it before it became a global phenomenon?


You may be familiar with Curt Schilling, the World Series winning pitcher and current ESPN baseball commentator. In late February his daughter announced that she would be playing college softball. Like many proud fathers would, Schilling tweeted the great news. What followed was some of the most crude, offensive, triple X-rated comments I have ever seen posted online, all about Schilling’s daughter.

Schilling did not stand idly by. Through a little research he discovered the names of some of the individuals posting the abhorrent words. Schilling then asked his followers to find out where the offenders worked and/or went to school. In no short order some of the individuals were publicly exposed and almost immediately fired from their jobs and kicked out of school.

As a father of a teenage daughter I celebrated Schilling’s actions. I am fairly certain I would have done the same thing in a similar situation. Yet I also wonder if Schilling’s actions were extreme.

People do dumb things. People do really, really, really dumb things in the name of getting a reaction or a laugh. There is zero defense to the poor behavior exhibited online by others related to Schilling’s daughter. The actions were beyond inexcusable.

Yet I also wonder what would have happened if Schilling had contacted each individual and given him the chance to delete his words and genuinely apologize to his daughter? Would there have been a greater lesson learned?


Two weeks ago Mo’ne Davis showed the sort of empathy and maturity that goes well beyond her years. You may remember Davis, the 13-year old Little League pitcher from Philadelphia who became the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series. Davis became an instant American hero, she was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and Disney recently announced that they were going to make a movie about her story.

In response to Disney’s announcement, a Bloomsburg University student and baseball player tweeted that Davis was a “joke” and in his tweet he called Davis a very offensive name. The University immediately kicked the player off of the team. Social media exploded with comments in support of the University’s decision.

Yet it was Davis herself that sent a letter to the school asking that the player be reinstated. In an interview about why she wrote the letter Davis explained, “I know right now he’s really hurt … everyone deserves a second chance.”


Maybe we should all learn from Mo’ne Davis in that, no matter how cruel and offensive a person’s words are, all of us make mistakes, and all of us may deserve a second chance.

There is no defense or excuse for any of the offenders in the previously mentioned stories. Again, the “father side” of my brain would want to do even more than what Schilling did. I felt a twinge of joy exposing the racist comments of a so-called communications expert. Yet in an age where virtually everything done online is archived and searchable forever, is it fair that one mistake – no matter how abhorrent – should temporarily alter a life and permanently damage a reputation?

The next time you see a photo, video, or someone’s comment online that you think is demeaning, cruel, or inappropriate, what will you do? Will you broadcast the information in an attempt to publicly shame the offender? Or will you privately reach out to the individual, educate him or her, and ask that the offensive message be removed and an apology offered?

I can honestly tell you that I do not know what I will do, especially if the victim of any online bullying or cruelty is someone I care deeply about. However, I do believe that with certainty, I will give pause prior to any action that I take and ask myself: “Does the punishment of possible lifetime and permanent shame fit the crime of temporary idiocy?”

Scarlet Letter image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scarlet_Letter_-_Illustration_Logo.png
Posted in Personal Branding, Reputation, Social Media, Social Networks | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Does Permanent Public Shaming fit the Cyber Idiocy Crime?

Sales Intelligence via Blog Searching

Content marketing has, to some degree, taken over search engine optimization as a way for companies to drive traffic to their websites. Write educational articles that provide real value – and that subtly mention the company’s products and services – and others will forward the information to their friends, all with hope that the holy grail of online marketing occurs and that the article goes viral.

Because posting content online is so easy, consumers also write and post articles about products and companies. Sometimes these articles feature positive reviews. More often than not, consumers share their gripes online about a poor-performing product or inept customer support, hoping that an audience of thousands or even millions will convince a company to change its ways.

The vehicle that many companies and people use to post their information online is a blog. Blogs are real-time online Web logs, or “diaries,” on just about any topic imaginable. Content management platforms like WordPress make it easy for anyone to create a blog. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook make it easy for anyone to distribute their content worldwide.

It’s estimated that there are more than 150 million blogs, some updated infrequently, some adding new content daily. On WordPress alone, more than 400 million people view nearly 20 billion pages each month. To grab attention, blog posts must continually provide value with companies and individuals sharing inside information about future products, new ideas, industry research, and more.

YouGotBlogs.comBecause you’ll often find information in a blog post that you might not find on a company web site or in traditional media, searching blogs is a great source of sales intelligence and competitive research.

Google used to have a very powerful blog search engine, but in 2014, they discontinued the public service. The good news is YouGotBlogs.com came online in 2015, and it is designed to specifically search blogs and blog posts. In addition, because of its multi-field form, there is less of a need to use complex Boolean logic in your search than you might with a typical search engine.

Type in the name of a company, or even a person, that you’re interested in learning about and there’s a chance you might get lucky and find something valuable. If you get too many results, re-enter your search but this time add more keywords related to what you desire, e.g., marketing, sales, etc. Note that the default “All” tab will show results from across the Web. Click the “Blog Posts” tab to limit your results to blogs and/or blog posts that contain your search terms. Click the “Relevancy” tab to sort by relevancy to your terms, or by post date.

One note of caution: Remember that anybody can write about or comment on anything online, so what you read in a blog might not necessarily be true. Don’t assume the information you read in a blog post is factual. Verify it via other sources and when meeting with a prospect or client, don’t quote blog content as fact; rather, use it to ask better questions.

 

Posted in Company Information, Sales Intelligence | Comments Off on Sales Intelligence via Blog Searching

Are You Taking Advantage of the Most Powerful Emotion in Sales?

What is the essence of Sales Intelligence? Why is it a lead generating and deal closing machine like no other? It is not the inside secrets of effectively using search engines, mining the Invisible Web, or leveraging social media to find information. That is the “how.” Rather, the “why” is a mindset that differentiates one salesperson, and one organization, from all others. Following is a modified chapter from the best-selling book, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling about how making the other person feel important can make the difference in winning the complex sale.

If you’re over the age of 40, you remember the days before the Internet. Most firms didn’t have email, there was no such thing as video conferencing, and if you had a cell phone, you had to keep it in a briefcase because it was so cumbersome. Yes … the days before broadband and wireless technology (or said another way, the days when you could go home and have a life).

If you were in business and especially in sales, we did something else in those pre-Smart Phone, pre-Twitter, pre-webinar days — we took our prospects and clients out to lunch. We didn’t have the technology to easily communicate with our prospects and clients other than via telephone, so we made it a practice to take them out for two-hour lunches, four-hour golf outings, and three-hour sporting or theater events. Remember those good old days?

In the high-pressure, high-technology, “don’t-have-enough-time” world of today, how many of you take your prospects or clients out for two-hour lunches?

How many of you even take the time for lunch?

Why did we spend so much time with our prospects and clients? For one reason: We wanted to build a relationship. We wanted to learn about the other person, his or her values, and what he or she cared about in business and in life. We wanted that person to get to know us because we knew that if we could connect on a personal level, we could provide value, we could ensure relevancy, and we could establish loyalty. We wanted to show that we cared.

We wanted to make our prospect or client feel important.

Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsYou’re probably familiar with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In his 1954 book Motivation and Personality, Maslow outlined the five levels of human needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy is often portrayed as a pyramid, with the largest and most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom (e.g., food and air), and the need for self-actualization at the top.

Some people associate self-actualization with people such as Tony Robbins or the Dalai Lama — individuals who have maximized their potential and are at complete peace with themselves and the world. Whether that’s the true definition of self-actualization or not, it’s safe to say that most of us will probably not reach the pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid.

What I find fascinating is what’s directly below self-actualization. It’s the need to feel important. The need to feel appreciated. The need to feel recognized. The need to feel loved. In fact, the need to feel important and appreciated ranks much higher than the need to eat or breathe.

In study after study since Maslow came out with his theory, people report that they would rather die than not feel appreciated.

Think about that for a moment as it relates to your business and your sales efforts. Imagine if you could tap into that emotion?

What are you doing in every prospect and client interaction to make the other person feel important?

Posted in Sales Intelligence | Tagged , | Comments Off on Are You Taking Advantage of the Most Powerful Emotion in Sales?