Potential Marketing Material You’re Missing Out On

What comes to mind when you think of a cease-and-desist letter? A few paragraphs filled with legal verbiage, reprimanding and threatening a business or person for participating in some type of illegal activity? Usually, you’d be right. Most cease-and-desist letters follow a similar format and structure. However, Netflix stirred things up with latest recent cease-and-desist letter to an unauthorized bar themed around the company’s original series, Stranger Things.

Netflix made the letter casual and lighthearted–emulating the series and its characters’ overall mood and spirit. Ditching the typical formal greeting, the company started off the casually-written letter by addressing the owners of the bar by nickname, Danny and Doug. What followed was just as informal and playful, with references to the show’s notable use of walkie talkies, the Upside Down an even Dr. Brenner. However, despite the informal tone, the company made it very clear that if the owners didn’t shut the bar down, there would be serious consequences–like the Demogorgon or their mom getting involved (yikes!).

Showcasing Your Company’s Personality in an Unexpected Way

Although entertaining, the letter is much more profound as it showcases the company’s brilliant understanding of marketing. For years, companies have tried to showcase their personality to the public through different marketing materials. For companies with bigger budgets, these materials are usually in the form of commercials, provocative billboards  and a strong social media presence. For those with smaller budgets, a grassroots approach is more likely to be utilized. However, would you ever consider a legal document with potentially serious ramifications as a form of marketing? Netflix demonstrated clever marketing which was leveraged as  a solid public relations story that achieved their goal without tarnishing their reputation. Netflix enforced it copyrights while portraying itself as a fun and cool company, which is quite a feat.

In another unique example, McDonald’s flipped its iconic golden arches upside down across different outlets, including a branch’s outdoor sign, to celebrate International Women’s Day. The company could have simply sent out a tweet acknowledging the cause, but chose to make a serious statement and  flipping one of their restaurant’s outdoor signs. In doing so, the company sent a message and strategically placed itself as a serious advocate of women, which consequently strengthened the company’s image of being socially responsible.

Ultimately, companies like Netflix and McDonald’s prove there are countless–and frequently overlooked–opportunities to spotlight and heighten your brand’s image. Whatever image you wish to present to the public, whether it’s a creative and user-friendly personality like Netflix’s or a socially-conscious and thoughtful personality like McDonald’s, could be conveyed through all aspects of your company. So, the next time your PR department is constructing a press release or your HR department is sending a letter of warning to a fellow employee, conceptualize ways your brand’s personality could shine through and be reinforced.

Hire The Best For Your Dealership!

Dealers have embraced social media to sell more cars and generate more business in the service drive but most lag in using social media to hire the best employees. The very same things that drive customers to your site and “close” the deal can be used to bring in higher quality applicants for your open positions.

1) The average career page on dealer website is buried and if an applicant does manage to find it the content is less than compelling. Update that page with a video of real employees explaining why they love working at your dealership. List the benefits of working for your company. Have a unique page for each new job opening (and remember not to repost the same job over and over but instead update and improve content each time you repost). Don’t forget to use your company name and location in the page title. If you just use “Senior Service Tech” as the page title you are competing with and losing to with the job boards. Don’t forget a Meta tag. Nothing new here but usually forgotten when it comes to the “career page”.

2) Employee referrals are a great source of quality applicants and good employees- so do you encourage your employees to post job opening at your dealership on their Facebook page? If you don’t (and offer a referral bonus) then you are missing out. Encourage employees to tweet job opening too. If you don’t have a separate career Facebook page, get one.

3) Create a social media policy and have all employees sign it. Employees can be your best brand ambassadors and recruiting sources- but they need guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Given that 90% of hiring managers and recruiters say they use social media and 68% say they have not hired a person due to information they found on the internet it’s critical you have a policy. Most employees:

  • Don’t know that they owe you duty of loyalty when they’re off the clock.
  • Understand the nature of social media.
  • Realize that the Federal Trade Commission has a requirement regarding disclosure.

Social media is not just a tool for selling cars. It’s just as powerful in workforce management.

 

4 Social Media Legal Issues Dealers Can’t Afford to Ignore

This is an article originally writen by Jim Radogna. We thought it was an interesting read!

It was bound to happen. The tremendous growth of digital marketing and social media was an invitation for government regulation. For instance, the Federal Trade Commission recently updated its truth-in-advertising guidelines, which were last revised in 1980, to address the commercialism of the Web. Federal and state regulators are taking the position that social media is not a loophole for deceptive marketing practices and are actively enforcing and cracking down on social media deception. Proper social media ethics are now a matter of law, not just personal preference.

 

Faking Reviews

 

The FTC’s updated Endorsement and Advertising Guidelines require companies to ensure that their posts are completely accurate and not misleading, and planting or allowing fake reviews is a violation. The Guidelines are extremely broad and can apply to anyone writing reviews on rating sites, web sites or promoting products through social media sites, including blogs.

 

There are several companies out there that offer seemingly quick and easy ways to improve your ratings on review sites. Be careful! A Dealership in Texas suffered devastating reputation damage because of the review-posting practices of a company they hired. A customer discovered that suspicious “reviewers” were writing 5-star reviews about all kinds of businesses and dealerships across the nation on the same day. This debacle was uncovered in October of 2010, yet news stories continue to show up on the dealer’s page one search results.

 

While the above case may be an example of a dealer who unfortunately hired the wrong vendor, an area of real concern is the activity of a company’s own employees. The FTC recently charged a California marketing company with deceptive advertising after it found that the company’s employees were posing as ordinary consumers posting positive reviews online.

 

Dealers may face liability if employees use social media to comment on their employer’s services or products without disclosing the employment relationship. The FTC requires the disclosure of all “material connections” between a reviewer and the company that is being reviewed. These connections can be any relationship between a reviewer and the company that could affect the credibility a consumer gives to that reviewer’s statements, such as an employment or business relationship. So if employees, friends, family or vendors post reviews to prop up a dealership’s online reputation, they must clearly disclose any relationship they have with the company. In addition, all reviews must be an honest opinion based on a real experience. Reviewers must never endorse a product or service that they have not used personally or create any other form of false endorsement. It’s all about transparency and full disclosure.

 

Besides the obvious potential damage to a dealer’s reputation, failure to follow these regulations can result in substantial penalties. In recent actions, the New York Attorney General fined a cosmetic surgery company $300,000 for ordering its employees to write fake reviews of its face-lift procedure and the FTC ordered a company marketing instructional DVDs to pay $250,000 for fake reviews posted by the company’s affiliate marketers. The FTC has indicated that companies are fully responsible and liable for all inappropriate actions of their employees, their vendors, and any advocates they recruit. Reviewers may also be held personally liable for statements made in the course of their endorsements.

 

Paying For Reviews

 

The practice of offering a free oil change or gas card to a customer in exchange for a good survey has long been frowned upon by manufacturers. Because there are no factory gatekeepers when it comes to online ratings, it may seem tempting to offer customers an incentive to post a positive review.  The good news is that you can if you want to; the not-so-good news is that the regulations require that any reviewer provided with any form of compensation such as free services, rewards, incentives, promotional items, gifts, samples, or review items, must fully disclose the source and nature of any compensation received.

 

So, if you pay for reviews and the reviewers fail to disclose their compensation, you may face liability. This is an area where it’s easy to get caught and besides the legal danger, your reputation will likely take a big hit.

 

Advertising on Social Media Sites

 

The wisdom of trying to “sell” on social media sites by posting inventory, prices, or payments is an ongoing debate, but the fact remains that many dealers are engaged in this activity in some form. While I have no opinion on the relative merits of whether to “sell or not to sell” on social media, it’s important to note the potential implications of these types of activities.

 

Despite the fact that social media tends to be a low-keyed, casual type of communication, advertising regulations don’t go away. In fact, The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that it was updating its document Dot Com Disclosures: Information About Online Advertising. The primary focus of the document, which was first issued in 2000, is to inform advertisers that consumer protection laws and the requirement to provide clear and conspicuous disclosures applies to the online world in addition to the offline world.

 

So, in a nutshell, if inventory is posted or prices/payments are quoted on social media it’s likely that the posts will be deemed to be advertisements and will be subject to state and federal disclosure and truth in advertising regulations. Lack of space is no excuse either. Even if you’re advertising on Twitter and limited to 140 characters, you must include a clear link to any necessary disclosures. A good rule of thumb is to have any information that could possibly be construed as advertising reviewed by upper management or a qualified professional before it is posted.

 

Social Media Policy

 

Social media applications such as blogs, social networking, and video sharing have soared in popularity so it’s important that dealers control the information that’s coming out of their business. Policies and procedures should be put in place to spell out how employees are expected to conduct themselves within social media.  A social media policy can help take the guesswork out of what is appropriate for employees to post about a company to their social networks.

 

There are a number of potential legal issues with employees’ use of social media that should be addressed such as the danger of possible privacy, harassment, discrimination or defamation claims. Beyond legal risks, employees can harm a company’s reputation by disseminating controversial or inappropriate comments regarding the employer. However, employer restrictions on the use of social media can be tricky. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently issued a complaint against an Illinois dealership, alleging that the dealership unlawfully terminated an employee for making critical comments about the dealership on Facebook. While some unprofessional and inappropriate conduct may not be protected, the intersection of social media and the NLRA is an evolving area of the law.

 

The best way to protect your dealership from legal trouble is by establishing formal social media policies for your staff. Companies often get in the most trouble when they fail to train their employees about appropriate social media use and disclosure. To prevent this from happening, it’s a good idea to create a written social media policy and training program for your company and carefully monitor social media use.

The responsible Use of Social Media in Legal Defense

 

 

Here is a great post made by George Zimmerman that I thought would be useful.

There has been a lot of press today regarding the online presence we have put in place for the defense of George Zimmerman, and we are not surprised to discover that our decision is controversial. Some have called it unethical, and some have called it brilliant; however, we believe much of the controversy is about the medium, not the message.

Using social media in a high-profile lawsuit is new, and relatively unprecedented, but that is only because social media itself is relatively new. We repeat our contention that social media in this day and age cannot be ignored, and it would be, in fact, irresponsible to ignore the robust online conversation.

We find ourselves in a position to set a standard for a professional, responsible, and ethical approach to new media in the legal arena. In our blog post “Why Social Media For George Zimmerman?” we explained seven objectives for our online efforts; we essentially explained what we would be doing. It is also worth taking a moment to explain what we will not be doing.

WE WILL NOT COMMENT ON THE CHARACTER OF TRAYVON MARTIN, HIS FAMILY, OR HIS SUPPORTERS

Whatever the outcome of this case, and however it is framed by either party, what cannot be denied that a young man lost his life, his family is in mourning, and people around the country are showing their support — and they have our respect and sympathy. While certain details regarding Trayvon Martin may become part of trial, they will never be a part of our online discussion, and we will aggressively moderate comments on our page on Facebook, and discourage others from making disparaging comments.

WE WILL NOT USE OUR ONLINE PRESENCE AS A VEHICLE FOR DISSEMINATION OF, NOR WILL WE COMMENT ON ANY EVIDENCE REGARDING THIS CASE

One of our core objectives is to discourage speculation regarding the facts and evidence of the case. We commit to avoid even the appearance of any impropriety regarding information traveling through our website and social media profiles which could, in any way, affect the proper presentation of the case where it is to be tried — in a courtroom. An example of that commitment is our evolving rules regarding the moderation of comments posted. We intend to remain very proactive in limiting such conversations so as to avoid any possible negative impact on the criminal justice system.

Our online presence was created in response to the enormity of interest which has inundated the firm since our first day of involvement. Literally hundreds of emails and phone calls came in within hours of our announcement regarding our representation of Mr. Zimmerman. While they deserve a response, as they represent the public, the workload to do so is overpowering. It became readily apparent that an alternative forum was necessary to handle the high volume of interest we receive.

Social media is the obvious answer.

Having said that, we acknowledge the potential for misuse exists in any such forum. That is why we have established and published strict guidelines to which we will hold ourselves. Judging by the intense scrutiny our online presence is garnering, we expect many others will be watching to see that we adhere to our own guidelines. We believe that social media will inevitably become a standard part of the legal process, but we insist that while the evolution of our society’s ability to interact has enormous potential to benefit us as a whole, it must be moderated in a way which protects both an individual’s right to, and our system’s responsibility to provide a fair trial with an impartial jury.