Burson-Marsteller released a study that claims 76% of blogs were off message. They analyzed more than 150 messages sent out by companies listed  in the Financial Times Global 100 and discovered a large gap between the official brand messages and how they were reflected on blogs, in tweets, and on other social media posts.

The brand message problems stem from a number of deficiencies by corporate marketing operations including:

1) Having no clear plan or objectives for communications on the social Web. An example here: Ziploc: Boring Doesn’t Work as a Social Media Engagement Strategy

2) Failure to understand that how social media is used is as important as what is said. More detail here:  Social Media Brand Engagement Rules:  Toyota vs Chevrolet

3) Failing to have a social media policy. A great library of social media policy examples from companies large and small that you can freely access, download, and adapt can be found here.

4) Not providing communicators outside of the marketing department with writing guidelines to explain how to write freely, but still stay “on brand.” This example from Diebold explains the brand’s voice. Diebold’s Branded Voice Guidelines. At Merriam Associates, we also include example messages so that people can see guidelines come to life (and re-use pre-written, pre-approved content.)

5) Lack of adequate control–things get “published” without enough oversight or double-checking. Once something is “out” it can’t be pulled back “in”. This article Viral Marketing Making Your Brand Sick is one example as is this mistake from Target from Halloween.