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In Synch: Real & Virtual Worlds

In public relations, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there are two worlds in which we must practice our craft: the “real” and the “virtual.” Case in point, consider the issue of a brick and mortar company and its website.
Friend and fellow PR pro, Lisa Shenkle Schiappacasse, recently posted on Facebook about an experience she had with a local restaurant. While not having any problems with the “real,” i.e. the wait staff, the problem arose when what was promoted virtually – the online menu – failed to jive with what was actually coming out of the kitchen.
This struck home for me on multiple levels. One, I have had, more than once, this experience where a restaurant online offerings – from the 5-star, expect-to-pay-over-$200 dining establishment to the pizza-and-subs-shop – in no way compares to what’s actually being served on a given day. For me, this is a mild annoyance as being a man who formerly tipped the scales at 239 pounds, there isn’t much I don’t like to eat. However, if you have particular gastrointestinal issues and needs, this can be quite inconvenient if the gluten-free pasta advertised on the restaurant’s website doesn’t exist when you show up for your table, and you forgot to leave your Celiac Disease at home...and yes, I'm being sarcastic.
This was essentially Lisa’s experience, and as she notes in dealing with her waitress, "I wanted to give her a lecture to share with her owners about what lousy PR that is and that they are disrespecting their OWN voice when they put stuff up on the Internet that isn't even close to true. Why would someone, anyone, do that? It's a waste of their Internet space and of customers' time. When Rick (Lisa’s husband) and I celebrate special occasions any longer… I have to call in advance when I make my reservation and ASK if the menu online is the same as what they are serving.”
Lisa also noted that her waitress said it was the mysterious “they” who put the information online…and what’s the message there? That your organization has poor internal communication skills, where those who are maintaining the company website aren’t communicating with the “in the trenches” staff who are dealing with customers. And that’s the problem. There should never, ever be a “they” vs. “we” mentality between those working in the virtual world (the website, the company’s social media platforms, etc) and those slinging the hash and cleaning the tables.
The message becomes, “You, i.e. the company you represent (because we are ALL ambassadors for whatever company we work for, like it or not), doesn’t have its proverbial ‘bleep’ together,” and makes me much less inclined to do business with you in the future.
PR lesson for the day? Your web people better be in constant contact/communication with “those on the factory floor,” and vice versa. Customers, clients, all have a right to expect that what’s on your website can be found in your store, your restaurant, your car dealership, whatever your business is.
Lisa also noted to me directly, “When you opt to have a website, you have a responsibility to it, and to the people who refer to it, to maintain it. I think it (not updating your website) basically says ‘I don't care’ about you or what you think - you'll love my food (cars, computers) anyway. But what that really says to me is: hey, egomaniac, get it together. Make what you want at your restaurant, but the Internet is a pretty large megaphone - if you're going to shout it out to the world, make it count.”
Nicely said, Lisa. Thus endeth the lesson.