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AOL Needs To Shine Its Shoes

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This article will be part tutorial, part sweating the small stuff. The tutorial is much, much shorter and more basic than the rest, so we’ll get to it first. AOL needs to hear it.

When you remove a webpage, or move it to a new domain, it’s nice for your visitors if you notify them and/or automatically redirect them to the new location. A quick Google search brings up lots of advice on 301 and 302 redirects.

While all of this technical code Web jargon mumbo jumbo may seem to have little to do with the polished rhetoric of public relations, it comes down, at it’s heart, to image. An image takes a lot of work to maintain, and it’s attention to detail that makes the difference.

An event planner, a good one, knows that before a big dinner, somebody needs to check the salt and pepper shakers to make sure not only that the lids are on tight, but also that the spices therein haven’t swelled too big for the holes overnight.

Maybe I’m cranky on Monday morning. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

But this is where AOL’s media relations page was. Now, it’s a sea of white with an island of Not Found in the corner. There’s no notice of where the page has gone, no redirection to Time Warner’s press release page, where it seems AOL announcements will be handled in the future.

It’s a small annoyance, hardly more than an itch on your tongue perhaps. But it does nothing for the image of an already turbulent company coming off an extraordinarily bad year.

Last year, when AOL’s 2006 PR nightmare reached its peak, when it appeared that the PR department, not because of their own faults but because of the faults of the company itself, was snapping under blunder after blunder, I poured salt in the wound.

The last quarter of the 2006 saw company shakeups and corporate communication heads roll. After the Christmas holiday, the aforementioned PR webpage just fell apart. Images stopped working, and appeared as those unsightly x’s.

New announcements, when they finally resumed after a week or two, showed up below an announcement that was dated December 22nd. That December press release wasn’t about anything super important, but it stayed put as datelines January 17, 22, and 31 popped up beneath it.

And I thought to myself then: has AOL really just let their media page go un-maintained? That’s like showing up to a job interview with a five o’clock shadow and a lit cigarette.

It’s the little things like a sharp pair of cufflinks, or shined shoes, or creased trousers, that convey a message – especially in times of trouble – that a person has it all together. A person in PR, even when his office is on fire, shows up outside looking sharp.

So what are we to think after AOL loses $140 billion in value, bleeds subscribers, has to overhaul their business model, has to tap dance all year around one crisis after another, if their public face appears out of the rubble dirty and broken?

We think that if AOL really has its act together, it should look like it has its act together by sweating the small stuff first – especially its appearance on the Web where its bread is buttered.     

Just my two cents, for what it’s worth.

AOL Needs To Shine Its Shoes
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  • reader

    Considering the domain you were using for media relations page was “aoltimewarner”… the corporate name that was dropped years ago when the ticker was changed back to TWX… this is not really suprising.

  • AnneBentley

    Thanks for pointing this out. You’re right, there wasn’t a redirect to our new press site, which is found at http://press.aol.com. We have fixed the redirection problem, but hope that everyone bookmarks the new page as well.

    Anne Bentley
    AOL Corporate Communications

    • DM3674

      Hi Anne,

      Have you done anything to make your “how to cancel AOL” page on aol.com more accessible? Seems this lady and many others were having a hard time finding it a while ago:

      http://anti-aol.livejournal.com/28861.html