Brody PR, a 20-year old public relations firm, recently made a small mistake. In a few seconds, someone clicked the wrong box and may have destroyed the reputation of the entire company.
As reported by local tech blogger Douglas Karr, as well as on the Social Times, the ZDNet blog, and 25+ other blogs around the web, this is a story of a single email. It was an unsolicited, commercial message sent to a few hundred people, which makes the message “spam.” Brody PR sent the advertisement to some highly-influential members of the online community. Unfortunately, they included all the email addresses on the CC line in the message.
That’s an error of only 26 pixels which managed to anger hundreds of important people. Douglas Karr writes on his blog:
It wasn’t bad enough that it was SPAM, it also openly provided the list of recipients with everyone else’s name and email address. Ever heard of BCC?
I don’t know Beth and I don’t know Brody PR, but I’m going to let them know, as well as all their prospects and clients, that they deserve the huge backlash that they are currently getting.
In the immediate aftermath of the mistake, the firm got slammed by plenty involved, including one writer from the Social Times:
If you’ve never heard of Brody PR before, it’s not surprising. Check out the company’s website which includes a collection of animated GIFs that are reminiscent of the year 1995. Typically I don’t hang a PR firm out to dry when they slip up as everyone makes errors but this one was bad. Honestly, the majority of the people on the email list could have just ignored the emails rather than continuing to reply to the list, knowing that everyone would see it.
I was personally laughing throughout the whole experience but at a certain point it became annoying. Beth Brody could have stepped in to resolve the problem but as of now she is still missing in action and her company has just been put on the spam lists of a large number of industry influencers. Lesson learned: don’t create an open email list where anyone can reply when sending out press releases. Other lesson learned: don’t hire Brody PR.
Although Brody PR has tried to issue a few individual apologies, it’s clear that serious damage has been done. The social media community was actively discussing the outcome of this case, but at AccelaWork we are more interested in the process which lead to this issue in the first place. How could a 20-year old PR firm have made such a rookie mistake?
Although we don’t have access to the internal workings of Brody PR, it’s easy enough to guess at the likely culprit: Brody PR probably has no established process for distributing information by email. This problem is not unique to the PR world. Earlier this year, we reported that 29,000 college applicants were accidentally sent acceptance letters via email. This is better than the Muncie Fire Department, who realized that email was the best business process transformation to avoid continuing to deliver reports by driving them across town via fire truck. Workflow issues are a challenge for every organization. The story of Brody PR is likely another case where a lack of defined process lead to disastrous results.
Once you define a process, then you’re able to see holes that may arise. Without a process in place, there’s really no way to properly foresee problems that your organization may face. But not being able to easily predict these problems is no excuse for not having a plan in place. And that’s where we can help!
AccelaWork helps organizations before they have a crisis by helping to establish great workflow. We teach individuals and teams how to design business processes to ensure that procedures are robust and reliable. Don’t let a 26-pixel error destroy your reputation. Contact our our business consulting firm today!