Take that back!

All organisations – not just publishers – have to actively manage their content throughout its lifecycle.

But what are the implications, in this digital age, if you need to update, amend or even withdraw something that has been published but then repurposed and reused in a myriad different ways by a whole host of third parties?

Imagine it’s Friday morning and the head office of Wonderful Widgets Ltd is abuzz with the news that their new social media marketing campaign has been taken to task by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)…

Their claim to be the ‘Best Widget For Bringing About World Peace’ was disputed by a retired Colonel in Chichester and the complaint has been upheld by an ASA Adjudication.

Clumps of hair are being torn out by various members of the marketing team and at their social media agency, Wondiferous, as the claim is embedded in a rather smart video ad directed by someone who once shared a cab with Steven Spielberg, as well as featuring in an app that is proving a rather popular download.

There’s no choice by to take down the video and withdraw the app while changes are made. Somebody also remembers to take down the press release about the campaign.

(Nobody has remembered that a picture from the campaign and some accompanying text – including the offending statement – had been sent off to the team who were preparing the company’s annual report, which will go off to the printers in 40 minutes time.)

The claim has also been used in various articles and sound bits over the last few weeks but nobody is entirely sure where or who to contact next.

How do you take stuff back?

In today’s digital age trying to recant content is a bit like smashing a cafeteire full of coffee and trying to get all the spashes back in the jug.

What steps should an organisation take to recall content that has been appropriated, misappropriated, atomised, reused, abused, reedited, retweeted, shared, pinged and generally tossed upon the winds of social media and other forms of digital transmission or syndication and now resides in multiple locations around the virtual globe?

Chances are that, in the case above, reasonable effort will be enough. But what if the offending material is now deemed defamatory and the subject of litigation, or has been found to contain an inaccuracy that could be physically harmful – a decimal point missing on a data safety sheet, or in the appropriate dosage for a new drug? What efforts must you go to to get take that back?

The fact is we’re all publishers now. And as such corporate vulnerabilities are no different from those in magazine and newspaper organisations. As some of you know, I regard the successful Lord McAlpine pursuit of libel damages from high profile tweeters towards the end of last year as evidence of this paradigm shift.

Smart traditional publishers are reviewing their Ts & cs to put the emphasis on syndication partners being responsible for policing the content they purchase and reuse. Smart corporates may want to look at their own Ts & Cs in this light.

Google cached files

There is also the whole issue around Google cached files, that can linger long after the baseline content has been removed or updated. You can ask Google to remove pages from its cache. I certainly think being able to evidence that you have done this in a very timely fashion is good practice.

Best efforts

Organisations also need to demonstrate that the have made every effort to expunge or recall something. In my book the first way you evidence this is that you know where content has gone in the first place, or at least its departing point. So, for example, the press office in the scenario above really should have a shared written knowledge of the annual report usage. Relying on memory is not good governance.

And that, my friends is the tip of a pretty impressive iceberg.

Content Agility 2013 June 26-27, UK


I’ll be building on this blog post in my presentation at Congility this year, under the title: We’re all publishers now!
Find out more about Congility 2013