Connected: failures and excuses

At the time of writing this government is committed to dumping real jobs, real people and real services and replacing them with online services and social media. It's excuse? It says online services and social media will be more efficient.

Stephen Fry.jpgBy the time this is published it will be committed to dumping real jobs, real people and real services with a different excuse.

George Washington Carver once said “Ninety-nine per cent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”  Not sure where he got his stats from but his point is salient.

If the government wants to play in the social media space it’ll have to learn quickly that excuses and social media don’t mix.

In the US, McDonald’s launched an awareness campaign, about their organic potato farmers, on Twitter using the hashtag #McDStories.  It hoped tweeting facts about their potato farmers would reap them some of the kudos surrounding organic food producers. 

They couldn’t have been more wrong.  Consumers began using the #McDStories hashtag to tell negative stories, ranging from crappy service to food poisoning and much worse.

At first McDonald’s tried to continue with its campaign, then it rolled out the excuses, and in the end it just gave up.  The whole debacle became known as the #McFail.

Jay Osterholm, in a post on, says to avoid a #McFail, organisations should follow a simple A-Z list of Responding to Negative Feedback on Social Media.

Something that Nestle should have read when they experienced a similar situation last year.

It all started when Greenpeace campaigned against palm oil provider Sinar Mas, who had been repeatedly accused of illegal deforestation and peat land clearance.

Companies like Unilever and Kraft stopped working with Sinar Mas, immediately severing ties. Nestle didn’t and protestors and customers alike took their grievance to Nestle’s Facebook page.

What happened from there became known as the biggest social media #FAIL of 2010.  Nestle responded to people on its Facebook page in a hostile manner, first excusing its behaviour and relationship with Sinar Mas, then deleting comments, and finally threatening legal action. 

The result was a tarnished reputation and, more worryingly for their shareholders, a slump in their stocks.

Closer to home the whole telecommunications industry was recently left red-faced when Stephen Fry tweeted about the sorry state of internet in New Zealand. 

Excuses eventually followed from Telecom.

Yes, New Zealand does have good internet in patches but for the most part it can’t even hold its weight against developing countries in the Far East.  If the government wants to shift public services to the internet it’ll need to dig deep into its pockets for the type of money that will remedy the situation and give a consistent, constant service to all.  Which surely goes against its austerity plans?

Another small paragraph on this matter but probably the biggest point to be made.  There is a growing gap between the rich and the poor in New Zealand.  People at the poor end of the spectrum have a disadvantage.  They can’t afford computers, smartphones, internet connections and so on.

And even if they could, many have missed out on the education that enables their use.  Public services are vital to these people, how will moving them to an online delivery model help?

I feel a lot of complaints coming.  Let us hope that the government learns that excuses lead to failures, that a well thought-out e-government solution will require investment, and that not everyone currently residing in New Zealand is as tech savvy as Mr Fry.



# or Hashtag = a way of categorising topics, themes, trends on Twitter

ISP = internet service provider

George Washington Carver = Didn’t invent peanut butter, apparently.


This article is from the March 2012 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.