Once there was a company called Chrysler. And they decided to run a contest to promote their vehicles, getting a few bloggers to compete for votes. The winner would win a trip for four to NYC, plus an iPad 2 to give away to their readers. They hired a company called Ignite Social Media to run this contest.
There were five contestants, one of whom I know well:
The rules were this: Readers read the posts submitted by the contestants and voted. They were allowed one vote per person, per category, per day.
The language of the official rules states (see a screen cap of the full official rules in case they try to change them):
“Limit one (1) vote per person, per category, per day. Votes garnered by using multiple email addresses or any other device or artifice to vote multiple times will be disqualified.”
What the official rules do not define is what a “person” is, for the purposes of voting. In trying to get explanation, a representative from Ignite Social Media (also named Kristin, but not Kristin Ruiz, the contestant) modified the rules by explaining that you can vote once every 24 hours per computer. This would lead any reasonable person to assume that if one has different computers, one can vote multiple times. Here is the screen capture of this email:
This assumption was obviously communicated to all the contestants as a few of them mentioned that one could vote once per day, per IP address, computer, or browser:
(From Shannon Gosney’s blog)
From the comments of Kristin Ruiz’s blog, where she and Jennifer Regan, another contestant, discuss voting with different browsers.
So, where’s the failure, you may be asking yourself, except in having a poorly worded contest that doesn’t use a viable voting method for a prize that would obviously encourage severe competition?
On her humor blog, Wait In The Van, Kristine asked her readers to vote for her from as many computers as they can:
Apparently, in the comments of the post, a commenter was rude and made fun of Kristin Ruiz, calling her a skank. It may be true, it may not – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Kristine did not call her a skank, nor did she re-affirm the commenter’s opinion. Actually, that doesn’t even matter. She could have called Kristin Ruiz and her husband, Del, a couple of obnoxious entitled children who bully their ways into opportunities and take advantage of companies who want to avoid bad publicity while giving all bloggers, and human beings a bad name, and it would be okay. She still would not have violated any of the rules of the contest, as written on the site and also as explained by a representative from Ignite Social Media.
But Kristin Ruiz and her attack dog husband took umbrage with the comment, embarking on a campaign to call Kristine a cheater, and harass Ignite Social Media into making a very poor PR decision. They also opted to delete all of their tweets that they wrote in bullying Kristine. Why? Because they were ashamed? Because they’re pathetic people with no ability to be honest or forthright citizens? Because they’re worthless human beings? I don’t know – your guess is as good as mine.
Ignite Social Media disqualified Kristine from the contest with the following email, stating that she was in violation of the official rules because “votes garnered by using multiple email addresses or any other device or artifice to vote multiple times will be disqualified.”:
I’m assuming that you’re probably as flabbergasted as I am at the sheer incompetence of “Christian”, who, in earlier emails, explains that she’s “Kristin’s” boss, even though she’s emailing her from Kristin’s email address (once again, clarifying that this Kristin from Ignite Social Media, not Kristin Ruiz, the contestant).
- Kristine was told that voting once per computer per day was acceptable by an employee of Ignite Social Media.
- Even if multiple votes per person via different computers are considered violations of the official rules, which they don’t appear to be, the rules explicitly state that the votes will be disqualified, not the contestant.
- Anyone who is rational or reasonable will understand that a contestant cannot be responsible for the actions of his or her commenters, whether they violate rules or call another contestant a stupid skank with an idiot husband.
- Christian is blatantly and completely incorrect in stating that she had no choice but to disqualify her entry because of legal consequences, and, in fact, opened Ignite Social Media, and Chrysler, up for actual legal ramifications for taking arbitrary and capricious actions during this contest and wrongfully disqualifying a contestant.
- EVEN IF you are a moron and disagree with all of the above, the other three contestants who discussed voting via different IP addresses and different browsers should also be disqualified in order to be equitable. Yet no action was taken.
This is not how to run a contest, Ignite Social Media. This is how to royally and completely fail at working with bloggers, at public relations, and at life. Chrysler, this is not how you hire a PR company. Just because the name of the company has “Social Media” in it, and just because their site is flashy, maybe having your legal team involved would be a good idea.
If you’re reading this, and you’re frustrated/annoyed/incensed/worried about being treated like this, here’s what you can do:
Send an email to Ignite Social Media by emailing Kristin Rawski (and apparently Christian Sullivan) : kristinr@ignitesocialmedia.
Send tweets to Christian, Kristin, Ignite Social Media, and Chrysler, using the following Twitter handles:
You can copy and paste this tweet:
Reinstate Kristine @waitinthevan in the Blogger Face-Off! #ChryslerFail bit.ly/wwiMwB cc: @ignitesma @chryslerautos @chrysler
You can tweet a link to this post, share it on Facebook, Stumble it, or otherwise spread the message. This is NOT okay. Companies and their PR organizations need to realize that this is not something to be done lightly and they need to take their jobs seriously. There are consequences to acting arbitrarily and capriciously and to caving into to bullying. Next time this happens, it could happen to you. Is that what you want?
Update: 11:08 PM 3/6/12
Please, also email Chrysler to tell them how displeased you are with the way that the contest is being run and how this situation is handled. Here are some contact names and email addresses:
Head of Corporate Leadership Support Communication
News Desk/Corporate Web Site Manager
Contact person for the Chief Marketing Officer
Contact person for the Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary
Update 2: 12:43 PM 3/7/12
Earlier today, Jenny the Bloggess posted a comment (copied and pasted so you don’t have to scroll down):
What a clusterfuck. This a great study in why voting contests are always a bad idea, especially with prizes that make people a bit crazy. My guess is that everyone involved probably wishes they’d never even heard of this and wishes they could have gone back and used their time in a better manner. Imagine if that same amount of effort had gone into a fundraising project for their favorite charity.
To Ignite Social Media: This will get worse before it gets better so bite the bullet and make this right so you can stop this before it becomes something more embarrassing. If you can’t afford to send all of the contestants to NY then at least give all of them a couple of i-pads each to compensate for that the fact that you created a flawed contest and maybe all of this will settle down and we can get back to more important things on the internet. Like videos of hedgehogs taking baths and kittens falling off of tables.
Jim Tobin, President of Ignite Social Media responded a few minutes ago:
Hi Jenny, thanks for the suggestion. We think we did the only thing we could do given the rules and the situation.
Having said that, it’s clear that our promotion, which was designed to be fun for all of the bloggers participating, has clearly not been fun for some of them.
As a result, I’d be happy to provide each of the 10 bloggers with either an iPad2 or with a $500 Donor’s Choose gift card to donate to the educational cause(s) of their choice.
Hopefully this will make up for some of the more unfortunate drama.
I’ll contact all 10 bloggers (the 5 mentioned here and 5 auto bloggers who are also participating) individually.
I think this is a step in the right direction. This isn’t about getting free products, though, and I think it’s important to realize that. This is about a company acknowledging that maybe they made a mistake and that there was a better way to resolve a situation that shouldn’t have occurred in the first place.
I just received confirmation from Kristine that she did indeed receive a call from Ignite SM offering an iPad 2 as an apology for the situation. I would like to take it one step further:
Jim, are you willing to post on your site that after consideration, the rules of the contest were vague and that the voting method used was not something you’ll be using in the future? That you’ll be more considerate and understanding of what’s involved in an endeavor like this next time? I think it’s the least that you could do, and it would go a long ways towards removing any stigma from Kristine being disqualified from the contest.
Update 3: 3/13/12 1:05 PM
Kristin Ruiz, wife of the obnoxious Del in the comments below, has just been caught plagiarizing posts about her pregnancy and using those posts to get paid by Babble, a major online publishing site.