Thursday, January 13, 2011

DNA killed Shashi Kapoor…well almost!


Isn’t it interesting that the communication progression worldwide has never brought out so many stories of faux pas that it does today? What seems jarring though isn’t the rate of the miscommunication but the high-profile participants who fall for such indelible mistakes.

The cases of damaged brand reputations across the world continue to aggregate as a result of adopting social media with an unplanned strategy or underestimating the power of social media. An addition to the ‘honorary’ list is DNA, an Indian daily English newspaper.

Like other news mediums DNA too owns a Twitter handle that updates the latest news stories. Sadly, for its lack of journalistic standards it tweeted on 10th January 2011 afternoon that Actor Shashi Kapoor is dead. This piece of news spread like fire in the ‘Twitterverse’ and while people were expressing their grief over the erstwhile superstar actor’s death, DNA sent an apology tweet which said, “Apologies. Shashi Kapoor is alive. Confirmed.”

Not to forget that the trending hashtag during the day was #chormedia! This incident gave the tweeples an opportunity to bombard DNA with abuses and poke fun at its nonchalant news reporting. In a few minutes the top tweet that followed was, “No One Killed Jessica but DNA Killed Shashi Kapoor!”

Herein lay DNA’s two mistakes.

First Mistake- it did not rely to the universal journalist code by failing to cross confirm the news of the demise with the hospital which led to the loss of credibility. DNA later clarified that the news came from a trusted source.

Learning: Hear it from the horse’s mouth! In this case the hospital or the Kapoor family.

Second Mistake- Underestimating Twitter. While on Facebook the sharing is limited to the ‘friends’ on Twitter anyone from the ‘Twitterverse’ can retweet a message irrespective of the followership. Twitter is the most preferred medium for brands due its combustible attribute and its real-time WoM dissemination capability. The demise of the actor was significant news and thus it took hardly a minute for it to be retweeted by hundreds on twitter. By the time the apology came, it was late and DNA could not bring the situation under control.

Learning- Know the strengths and weaknesses of your medium well before you start.

Brands that operate on social media live on the thin line between backfire and appreciation. Most brands which we see on social media exist to contest for followers, likes, etc. It won’t be wrong to say that a few brands also operate in an immature manner hinting that social media is seen as ‘Any Man’s Job’.

Yet there are brands like Dell, JetBlue, NakedPizza, etc that make social media proud by their innovative strategies of engagement with their audiences. Whether DNA has learnt from the incident I do not know, but I am as glad as everyone that Shashi Kapoor is alive!

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