Whoops! Cover Your Assets with Content Strategy

Emily Folstad

I’m remodeling my house. So, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Craigslist looking for materials, appliances, and furniture. A while back, I ran across this ad for a microwave:

You might notice the unfortunate photo included in the upper left. When I first saw it, I did a double-take, forgetting all about my task at hand (looking for a microwave). I immediately passed it along to as many people as I could via email, Twitter, and Facebook, wondering what the ad wasreally selling. Here’s what I imagine happened:

  1. Late one night, after knocking back a few beers and knocking down a few walls, guy decides to try and make a few bucks selling his old microwave.
  2. In his zeal to get back to renovation, guy quickly creates and publishes a Craigslist ad, accidently including a photo that was supposed to be, ahem, private.
  3. Lady friend’s derriere is available for all the world to see.

And what happened as a result? Best case scenario, dude receives many snarky emails in response to his “ad” and quickly takes it down, hopefully never letting lady friend in on the mistake. Worst case, lady friend gets word of her assets on display, which leads to a vicious argument over his general carelessness, which then leads to a messy break up and a half-finished kitchen.

When you’re selling more than microwaves

Now imagine this same scenario applied to a corporation’s website:

  1. XYZ product has changed and the website needs to be updated ASAP.
  2. The one person who knows how to update the website accidently uploads IMG_4055, the unfortunate photo shown above, instead of IMG_4505.
  3. This web publisher, who works on the website in her “spare” time, has a pressing emergency in her real job, and doesn’t check the photo after publishing.
  4. With no formal review and publishing process in place, the mistaken photo goes live, unnoticed by the corporation.

The result? By the time the corporation finally becomes aware of the situation and removes the photo, customers have posted the link on Facebook, Twitter, and online forums, along with snide commentary and jokes. The brand reputation is damaged. Sales for the product are down. The web publisher quits. And now no one knows how to update the website, so the company invests in a brand new CMS.

Avoid internet infamy

In both cases, just a little bit of extra thought could have protected someone’s blunder from worldwide exposure. Dude could have benefitted from asking his lady friend to review the ad before publishing. And the corporation could have benefitted from formalizing roles, responsibilities, and workflow processes to ensure that content is given the time and attention it deserves.

While this is a made-up scenario, examples like the above do, unfortunately, happen in real life. For example, one major retailer who shall remain nameless posted an illicit drug for sale for $25.25 plus shipping, available in 4–8 weeks. While the company eventually took it down, Google has a longer memory.

Let’s do ourselves, our organizations—and our significant others—a favor and cover our assets with content strategy.