Fido Casting Call Contest and communicationsIt started out as a great idea by cellphone company Fido. Hold a contest to select a dog to appear in its advertisements. But weeks after the contest began, Fido found itself literally buried in complaints one morning by barking entrants. And we don’t mean the dogs.

With less than a week before the contest deadline, Fido disqualified hundreds and hundreds of dogs without notice. “It was blatantly the case that some people were voting multiple times for the same dog” in violation of the contest rules which limits daily voting, a spokesperson told the Montreal Gazette.

Suddenly, dogs in the top 10 disappeared. New dogs took over top spots. Tens of thousands of owners got excited about moving up hundreds of spots in the rankings.

But nobody is saying ‘Good boy’ to Fido today. The contest has become a public relations mess. Here’s 5 ways Fido pooped on its own contest and put itself in the communications doghouse:

1. Having what appears to be no plan. Rather than eliminating entrants suspected of violating voting rules as each situation arose, Fido waited until one week before the deadline to remove hundreds of dogs from the contest. It should have been a no-brainer that this would lead to a communications nightmare. Then, after a massive outcry, Fido put hundreds of those disqualified dogs back into the contest with little explanation. Fido panicked.

2. Losing control. Fido, by its actions, allowed its contest to slip from being something cute to a venting platform about fairness. The communications agenda has now become hijacked by debates on social media about who’s cheating and who isn’t.

3. Failing to respond fast enough on social media. When more than 1000 dog owners discovered their dogs were missing from the contest one morning, the company’s Facebook page was swampd with angry owners. They were all posting comments that basically said the same thing: WTF? The comments continued to pile up. The company didn’t respond to Facebook comments for almost half a day. That’s a major #fail when dealing with social media. When you have 85000+ followers in a social media community, you’d better have a solid plan to manage the conversation.

4. Basic quality control. No, we’re not taking about cheaters. That’s a whole other bone. You have to wonder about quality control when a company holds a dog contest, but you see a pig registered, and a man registered, seeking votes. Fido appeared to have this contest set on auto-pilot. Who was managing it?

5. Forgetting that actions can embarrass partners. When you hold a contest, fundraiser or event, or do cause marketing, companies frequently engage partners. In Fido’s case it partnered with the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.  No organization likes to have its name drawn into a controversy by another party in a ‘partnership’. But there it is, appearing in posts on social media. That’s not good.