A real world exercise in online PR: can Hello Digital say “mea culpa”?

I am currently following the online debate about real world accessibility at the Hello Digital conference, initiated by Alison Smith.  In summary: an otherwise excellent conference failed to provide a sign language interpreter as promised and a profoundly deaf attendee felt unnecessarily excluded.

Now: the question is – will the Hello Digital organisers actually put their hands up, admit that they got it wrong and pledge to do better next time?  This is the heart of effective online PR: nothing you do goes unnoticed by the online crowd: all your faults and cock-ups will always be dragged into the cold, unforgiving stare of the Twiterati.

So: don’t hide or evade – don’t even try.  Put your hands up straight away and admit you fouled up.  Then – if you really know what you are doing – enlist your harshest critic to keep an eye on what you do, and tell you where you could do better.

Now: acheiving this requires a certain number of pre-requisites that I am not yet aware if Hello Digital have in place:

  • they need to be monitoring the online discussion and participating in it even after the conference has closed;
  • they need to have the power and authority to get online and join in the discussion;
  • they need to know that they need to put their hands up and admit to the one thing that went wrong in an otherwise well-run, well-delivered day;
  • they need to understand that this is how PR works in the hyper-connected world.

I cannot wait to see how this all turns out…

Edit: yes they can! within a couple of hours, Digital Birmingham had not only been on the ball enough to notice all of this kicking off, but had gone to the original blog posting and posted a full-blown apology.  You have got to give them credit for this:allow me to voice a “well done”.  The only possible way for them to do any better is to illustrate how they would handle the same situation differently in future – but that can legitimately be worked out over time.  The important thing was the apology, and they have done that, and done it handsomely too.

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