I have a problem and I need your help. As the co-founder of Innovation Nights, a blogger and avid Twitterer (almost 5000 followers on just my personal account, almost 6000 on @MassInno and I manage several others), I frequently make the invite list for some very cool things. (“Where’s the problem?” You say.) Here’s the problem: sometimes, things go bad.
There are three ways things go wrong. Very wrong. Usually not the fault of the people in charge but we all know these things happen. The event that gets cancelled or worse, goes on, due to or despite a natural disaster. The main attraction that never materializes — traffic, illness, whatever. A truck crashes into a nearby post and takes out the power and Internet, and everything goes dark. No one to blame.
The second way that things can go wrong falls into the category of “possibility could have been avoided if I had access to a crystal ball or other future-telling device.” These are sometimes things that good professional event planners may be able to help you avoid or things that you spend all night rehashing in your head replaying and asking “What if?” What if I had asked about their network integrity? What if I had known that celebrity always runs 2 hours late? What if I had checked the history of the club’s liquor violations? (When the venue loses its liquor license.) Could I have known that the competition was also planning something that day? This is usually asked when the biggest competitor launches a new heretofore stealth product and upstages your launch party. Sometimes this category of problem could have been avoided but often, realistically, not.
The third category is the “Yup, it is their fault” problem or mistake. (I firmly believe that no one wants to cause a problem for their event but sometimes people make mistakes or faulty decisions, or, just run out of time to implement perfectly.) Some of them are head-slappers: “Let’s serve hamburgers on Friday…” during Lent. (Or worse, when the vegan convention is visiting.) “Of course our venue that regularly serves 50 people can handle an event with 200.” Or the breakfast server mixes up the orange juice and the clearly labeled pre-mixed screwdrivers (placed side-by-side in the walk-in freezer by the previous night’s bartender.) Or someone doesn’t order enough food and people are left hungry and no one fixes the problem.
As a transparent (your social media life is a pretty open book) social media person, how do you handle these incidents? I don’t want to hang people out to dry but I have had several occasions where I have been questioned closely by watchers about events that I suddenly stop tweeting or blogging about because I suddenly have nothing good to say. (Not to say that every event where I go silent is one with challenges — sometimes I am having too much fun, or get busy and get caught up in the swirl of things. Or maybe I max out on Twitter and it says “No more Tweets for you!” It happens — some kind of spam filter.)
I know the impact of bad reviews. They hurt. They hurt the business and the people involved. Poor comments and bad reviews can be like the locusts descending. First there is one and then there are many. And they can eat everything and lay waste to the business. (As a business — you need to actively manage poor reviews. Of course, try to prevent them from happening in the first place. If one happens, apologize. Then fix the problem.)
I generally adhere to the “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it” rule. I give constructive criticism and make suggestions for improving things. Everything can be improved and I would hope people are as open with me about the events I run. (And, understand that we sometimes can’t utilize all the suggestions or advice. I’ve had plenty of conflicting advice over the three years of running Mass Innovation Nights — none of it wrong, just a different approach. )
So, back to my social media influencer friends. What’s your policy? Do you communicate freely about events with natural disaster type problems — those totally not the organizer’s fault — and remain silent where your words could be an indictment? Do you Tell All? The Good, the Bad, the Ugly? Do you fudge or sugar coat? How do you handle disastrous events when you are a guest?