Pinterest – Passing the Buck

If you use Pinterest, a website where you can organize and share images you find online, you may have heard about its recent copyright infringement troubles. Content creators are concerned about their photos “being copied wholesale” to the site by Pinterest users, and their complaints seem to be falling into a vaccum.

Based on its lack of response, it seems Pinterest was unprepared for this issue. Like Pinterest, at some point, most organizations will encounter a situation they’re unprepared for. What is most important is how an organization reacts to that situation.

Pinterest, Amazon, This American Life, Apple, FoxconnUnfortunately, Pinterest has quickly earned the reputation of being impossible to reach and unresponsive. The site is hosted by Amazon’s Web Services, and due to Pinterest’s lack of response, Amazon has agreed to process DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notices concerning infringements by Pinterest members.

I credit Amazon for stepping up to the plate, but the company also runs the risk of harming its own image if it isn’t clear about the role it will play. Amazon has said that it will “process DMCA notices concerning infringements by Pinterest members,” but there seems to be some confusion around what that means. Amazon is willing to ensure Pinterest complies with the DMCA, but it has only agreed to ensure the company is following the appropriate process, not actually address the complaints.

This situation with Pinterest and Amazon is a bit like being in a meeting when no one wants to accept responsibility for an action item. This lack of clarity and response makes the companies seem unreliable, and like customer service isn’t a priority (which should never be the case). While quick, decisive action and communication would help enhance their reputations, the longer Amazon and Pinterest flounder and fail to communicate, the greater the negative effect on their reputations.

As an example of the right way to address an unexpected issue, consider the recent retraction by NPR’s This American Life of its popular story on Apple’s Foxconn factory. While many believe it leans to the left, NPR (and its programs) have a stellar reputation. And, in this instance, the organization reacted exactly as you would hope a well-respected organization would react: they accepted responsibility. David Carr, writer for The New York Times, commented, “The story came up bad, they found out about it…, and they amended it with an hour-long retraction that was very straightforward and very powerful.” Carr maintains that the program’s reputation is intact as it reacted responsibly.

Whether you’re prepared or unprepared for an incident, move as quickly as you can to communicate with your key audiences and remedy the situation. Admitting you’re wrong and apologizing goes a long way, as does thoughtful, honest, and direct communication.

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