Sunday, June 2, 2013

Smart PR save from a high school yearbook mistake

High school yearbooks these days are massively creative homages to the school year. Yearbook editors are carefully selected and with the help of their staff piece together pages with the days in the lives of their peers. The vast majority of times yearbooks are published and distributed to classmates without problems.  

But sometimes there are problems, big problems, media-attention problems, problems having serious implications for teens. (Yikes.)

So naturally my heartbeat quickened when one of our high school's journalism/yearbook teachers called me last week asking if I had seen some of the negative reaction to their yearbook(Uh oh.)

Their crime: misspelling our school district's website address on one of the first few pages. (Whew!)

Yeah, that's supposed to read instead of Oops. Thankfully, the typo really isn't that big of a deal. According to the teacher, the editors and staff started to see some students at their school and from the out high schools in the district making fun of the typo and posting on social media.

Instead of tucking tail and hiding their faces in shame, the yearbook editors, staff, and teacher took a more proactive and creative response and turning the joke on the detractors. They bought the misspelled domain and set up a website to poke a little fun at themselves for the mistake.

From the 'About This Site' page:
Hey Bronco Nation, we at the Arena and the Rider Online realized that very often parents, teachers and even students misspell ‘Mansfield.’ Statistically, it’s bound to happen. In typing just those two sentences we hit the backspace button twelve times. Now, normally we would just suggest simply retyping the url and continuing on your way to, but we came to the realization that there was an entire untapped market of people who came to and were very saddened and confused when it led them to a giant 404 error. We felt this was a grave injustice, and we dedicate this page to those poor, lost souls. Welcome, friends, to Mansfiled ISD, home of the typographically challenged.
In addition to funny bits about yearbook mistakes, Photoshop disasters, headline errors and Funny Sloth Video, they included a downloadable page to print and place in yearbooks with the corrected web address. This page printing or in some cases, printed stickers to cover up offending mistakes has become the norm since reprints can often cost in the tens of thousands of dollars for many schools.

No harm, no foul.

I think the yearbook sponsor and his students learned a good PR lesson: How you react to mistakes determines your ability to recover and move on.