Tinder’s Three Prong PR Problem

On Tuesday, August 11, someone in the Tinder company utilized the company Twitter account to go on a “Twitterstorm” in response to a Vanity Fair article that uncovered some pretty unsavory uses of mobile dating apps like Tinder, Happn, Hinge, OkCupid, and more by members of the Millennial group. Without making predictions of how well Tinder will perform in the next five years, I have noticed that they have a pretty serious problem; their public relations. At Chapman University, I took a course in public relations where I learned a simple perspective on who is served by a company or brand’s efforts in public relations. My professor, Allen Levy, taught us that to be successful in PR, you have to nurture your relationships with three groups: your workforce, your customers, and potential customers (aka the world community at large). So, for instance, when it comes to your labor force, if you make sure that they are trained and equipped to do a job that they are proud of they become a word of mouth ambassador for your brand (and the opposite being very much true as well). As for your customers, keeping them happy by being accessible and providing them with solutions for their problems is the most important thing you can do to keep their loyalty and business. Finally, by maintaining a reputation of quality and esteem with the world at large, over time you may gain their dollars, but more importantly they won’t have a reason to question your value.

In the wake of the Twitterstorm, early on  August 13, Tinder announced that CEO Chris Payne (hired in March, with experience at eBay, Microsoft, Amazon and many others) was being replaced. So, who is being placed at the helm in these uncertain times? Former CEO and founder, Sean Rad. I repeat, former CEO and founder, Sean Rad, is taking his job back from Chris Payne after being demoted to president in November 2014 on the heels of a sexual harassment lawsuit that ended his friend’s career as CMO at the company. So, this may seem like old school, reaction-based management (and it is) but it may be more indicative of a lack of genuine leadership that can poison a company. High levels of turnover are not unusual at tech companies (ahem, Amazon), but this type of hire-fire-hire environment has led to some volatile conditions that affect loyalty and brand sentiment in the top tiers of the labor force and can make it difficult to attract a replacement squad further down the line. Maybe it’s NBD for the majority shareholders at InterActiveCorp (IAC), who in June announced plans to take their Match Group (containing Match.com, Tinder and OkCupid) public with an IPO, because Tinder is only a little fragment of their total investments in internet services and is becoming a bit of a black sheep.

I don’t doubt that there is talent at Tinder and a future for their app; I doubt they have a strategy for approaching their public relations proactively. That might sound harsh, so I’ll back it up a little. Their off-the-cuff “Twitterstorm” (which you can read in its entirety) started with a brief tweet eerily similar to the hyper-sexual communications that those interviewed in the Vanity Fair article reported as typical in their experience:

Littleknown

The message changes about 13 tweets later, but not the inflammatory tone:

Itsabout

Then 20 posts later this melodramatic martyr remark surfaces:

Sowearegoing

Dealing with negative press is difficult, but a professional public relations department works on their reputation consistently to ensure that they keep their customers happy and to gain consumer trust. In order to do that in this case, they would be better served to follow up in a manner that would discover to what extent this environment may exist and then act on it if it is not in line with the environment that they want to provide to the Tinder community. Why didn’t they point out that their users are able to report members of the community that send “harassing or offensive messages” along with the other safety issues that they may be exposed to on the platform? Afterall, educating the consumer is the responsibility of the brand and this could have been seized as an opportunity to strengthen a perceived weakness. Why didn’t they ask people to reach out directly to them via a feedback link to show that they are listening? This would give them an opportunity to highlight positive feedback and control the narrative. What they did instead was demonstrate an attitude of arrogance and insouciance towards critics who believe their product to nurture unfulfilling social experiences.

This reaction may not be damaging to their current members, who will probably come and go naturally, but could be a turn off to the world at large. This is the third, and equally important demographic, that good PR practitioners address in their strategy to maintain a good reputation and strong presence in the market. If it is true, as GlobalWedIndex has reported, that “about 62% of all location-based dating app users are male” and Tinder wants to increase their female presence on the app to better serve and retain their male membership, it’s important to pay attention to what they can do to draw in the ladies. This could even present an opportunity for them to explore the possibility of horizontal growth. If they do their due diligence and discover that there is a group that is being underserved due to the environment that their users are creating on their app, they could begin targeting a whole new segment of users that need a solution to mobile dating with a different purpose in mind. Given their access to innovators in technological development, and the billions they could raise when they go public, they could truly be sitting on a goldmine. The emergence of dating sites that target people looking for a particular result in mobile dating (such as J Date, Christian Mingle, Farmers Only, heck even Ashley Madison) hints at how specific people are when it comes to their expectations from service providers. No matter what their findings, once they do the data collection and analysis, they will have a convincing argument for their investors and a clear path for their evolution that will attract new users.

Was Vanity Fair unfair? What would you have done differently if you were on the Tinder team? Does this sound like a publicity stunt to you? Do you second the reactions that fans of Nancy Jo Sales are putting out there on Twitter? What do you think the future holds for the mobile dating industry? There are a lot of different ways to interpret the leadership changes Tinder is going through, their approach to understanding the market, and their public reaction (labeled a meltdown on AdWeek online) to Vanity Fair. Our job, is to practice the type of PR that we are confident in and encourage other entrepreneurs to do the same.

 

How Do I Handle Online Reputation Management?

How to handle online reputation management is a question that plagues both businesses and individuals alike.  A negative sentiment can cause a business loss of both revenue and trust.  Whereas the wrong perception of a person can strip them of job security or even bring retaliation from others.  About 5 years ago, many Facebook users were changing their real names to nicknames in an effort to keep any “negative activities” from potential employers.  The case of Lindsay Stone is a severe one, in which a single picture ruined her life.  What started as an inside joke between friends became a public controversy with many sensitive layers, finally resulting in a lost job and hate mail from veterans and their supporters.  Similar things have happened to huge companies, where the opinion of an individual created a PR nightmare for the corporation (ie. Chick-Fil-A scandal).  In addition, websites like Yelp are thriving and a common point of reference for consumers, a negative review can destroy a hard earned reputation.  The major takeaway is that if you do not monitor and maintain your brand’s image then it is at the mercy of the masses.  Here are some tips to keep you and your company in a truthful, positive light.

1. CLAIM IT – Gather all urls similar or even close to your name.  This tactic will hinder imposters from acting on the behalf of your company in an effort to ride your coat tails or simply damage your image.  Value and urgency of this process increases as you gain notoriety, also be sure to remember social media platforms, review sites, YouTube and other video sharing sites.  These efforts will keep your brand, customer loyalty and satisfaction in high ranking.

2. MANAGE IT – Make sure you have consistency in your voice, verbiage is key, and also be clear on the use of each platform.  Twitter is primarily to field client questions or concerns, while Facebook is used for reminder advertising, client interaction and company updates.  Set up canned responses so if there is any negative interaction, it gets resolved appropriately.  Also, make sure everything posted is of high quality.  This sets the tone of professionalism, giving current and future clients insight on how you run your company.

3. WATCH IT – At this point you cannot only pay attention to what you are putting out, you must be cognisant of your five W’s: Who, What, Where, Why and When.  Have you ever googled your own company?  You should, it will allow you to keep tabs on anything brewing online that isn’t in line with your brand.  You may find people complaining about you or your product/service and you will be able to rectify the situation, creating a better experience for that client and other potential clients.  Companies can also find knockoffs of their product just by looking up the hashtags they have created, so it is great practice to monitor those as well.  All of this will enable you to be proactive vs reactive to potential threats, which is essential in global business today.

Some people are unsure on how to do online reputation management, or just don’t have the time for it.  Drop us a line and we can help you out!

TravelHost’s Third Annual Party to Benefit the Long Beach Ronald McDonald House

TravelHost of Long Beach and South Bay held a fantastic reception benefiting the Long Beach Ronald McDonald House on Monday, April 6th.  The 3rd annual event brought out vendors and entrepreneurs in droves to the beautiful Hotel Maya.  TravelHost was started in the mid-1960 as the nation’s first in-room hotel magazine, and is a staple for travelers wanting quality information about the businesses and visitor attractions in the area. Featuring a raffle, live and silent auction, contributions from various local businesses, the event raised over  $8000 for the charity.

The highlight of the night would undoubtedly be the entertainment.  The band, Spectrum, rocked the night with oldies and new, popular sounds but an appearance by the one and only Ronald McDonald was the icing on the cake! Charity and giving back is of huge importance to our team and amaraREPS would like to send a big ‘Thank You’ to our friend Dan Lipton and TravelHost for supporting families fighting illness together! Even though the event is over, you can still support the charity by donating here, and keep up with the latest TravelHost news by liking them on Facebook!

Dave Bachinsky Joins the Darkstar Team!

Dave Bachinsky is a close friend of us and our client Manny Santiago.  We had a blast with him at the 2014 Prince of Puerto Rico contest and look forward to more adventures with him in the future.  amaraReps wanted to congratulate him on being added to the Darkstar skate team, as well as give props for this amazing part he just dropped.  Check it out!

Why Should You Be Celebrating IHOP’s National Pancake Day?

Today, March 3, 2015, is International House of Pancakes’ National Pancake Day.  The event started in 2006 as a way to support charities in the communities in which they operate.  To date, IHOP has raised over $16 million dollars – not a bad chunk of change.  This year marks the tenth anniversary of the event and to celebrate the “Decade of Giving,” guests will receive a free short stack of pancakes in return for their donation to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or another designated, local charity.

We’ve seen our fair share of “reward for spending” or cause related marketing efforts as of late.  In fact, the amaraReps team has done a few ourselves, we’ve put together campaigns with both Soles 4 Souls and People Water, which created amazing opportunities for the clients (and people) involved.  Tom’s has even taken it so far as to base their entire sales/marketing strategies around the concept.  The great benefit to companies that create these customer rewards campaigns is that they create customer loyalty and increase brand sentiment.  A good experience is likely to create a repeat customer, furthermore giving customers an incentive to choose your company over others will strengthen the bonds that already exist.  Essentially, the customer is asked to invest a dollar today and they can expect to get much more down the road which gives them a feeling that they chose wisely.

Personally, I find it is a great tactic for so many reasons.  In particular, IHOP’s approach of connecting their customer directly to a charitable cause increases their sales and gives them a PR boost at the same time.  Furthermore, any investment in your community is an investment in yourself.  Food for thought… pun intended.

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