The Long Night Latte

I’m going to take a rare break from craft beer to talk about one of my other favorite subjects: “Game of Thrones.” And before I’m accused of mindlessly feeding the pop culture giant, I want to state, for the record, that I read the books long before the show was ever made – so there.

If you, like me, chain yourself to a spot close to your favorite viewing device every Sunday evening at 9:00 p.m. EST, then you no doubt saw last Sunday’s episode of GoT, ‘Last of the Starks.’ If you also dedicate an hour of the following Monday morning reading opinion pieces and recaps about the previous night’s episode, you would have found it hard to miss a prevailing topic: no, I’m not talking about the death of one of your favorite characters.  

I’m referring to a seemingly-innocuous Starbucks cup, no doubt left behind by a weary set member (and overlooked by an equally-weary editor), on the table in front of Danaerys Targaryen during a scene in Winterfell and evidently in clear view of some keyboard-happy audience members. Admittedly, I didn’t see the cup on my first pass, but will look for it during my weekly second viewing tonight.  

Because we live in a world that is quick to point out gaffes, the story of the cup is almost overshadowing the actual content of the episode itself – some of which has been viewed with no small degree of controversy. In the end, who cares? It’s just a cup. However, we live in a world where immediate response is called for, and mistakes are difficult to admit.

In this case, I applaud HBO for providing the perfect response:

“According to Bernie Caulfield, an executive producer on the show, the offending cup was just a simple mistake. ‘We’re sorry!’ Caulfield said in an interview with WNYC radio today, before quipping that ‘Westeros was the first place to actually, you know, have Starbucks.’”

The formula, from a PR perspective, is really simple: admit your mistake (especially since it’s such a silly one), move on (and, as an added bonus, inject some humor). Not all scenarios are as easy to shrug off as a misplaced cup of coffee. No one is profoundly impacted by an editing error (except, perhaps, the editing team).  

Sliding back into the craft beer world for a minute (I couldn’t stay away), there has been some recent bad-buzz about the inaugural Untappd Beer Festival that was held at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte over the weekend. There were multiple complaints and, as is expected in today’s digital world, the Tweetstorm was instantaneous: from long lines to people being turned away during a weather delay to cheap plastic souvenir glasses that were easy to crack.

I think Untappd’s response was appropriate and timely. They owned the mistakes they could (line control and ordering cheap cups) and are looking into reparations as warranted. They also kept people updated via the app during the course of the actual festival. Might you accuse their founders of biting off more than they could chew at the onset? Should they have reconsidered some of the things that broke down during the day of the festival? Quite possibly. You live and learn.  

The underlying message in both cases is this: own your mistakes, and own them early. Delayed responses battle against what should be any organization’s desire to build full transparency. And sometimes, you run the risk of a bit more than just having people post coffee memes on your Twitter channel.