Damage Control for Your Brand and How to Deal With Negative Responses
The recent tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado, didn’t just take over all U.S. media coverage. The incident also quickly spawned a trending topic hashtag on Twitter. But someone working for online retailer Celeb Boutique didn’t make the connection; they sent out a funny tweet tying #Aurora and the rise of the hashtag to a certain style of dress it sells.
Nobody laughed. But a lot of people did bring down their wrath upon Celeb Boutique via blistering comments on Twitter and Facebook. And the offending tweet was also the subject of much mainstream media and blogosphere coverage.
It’s simply the latest example of self-inflicted brand damage amplified by social media. If these new media platforms give more power than ever to current and potential customers—hey, look who’s now a publisher/broadcaster/critic: everybody—then it has also changed the game for companies regarding how they handle damage control.
Marketing and public relations professionals who may wake up to such worst-case scenarios need to have an action plan ready to implement as soon as the first email from a news organization asking for comment reaches their inbox:
- Training/Policy – Celeb Boutique blamed its tasteless tweet on an external social media firm handling its Twitter account from overseas; we’ll let you debate whether someone with the company in the U.S. should have been the last pair of eyes vetting the tweet before publication. In any case, all customer-facing employees handling social media should be trained on best practices during orientation, and those practices should be readily accessible in a policy manual. Set up a chain-of-command response team.
- Transparency – Make sure every response to the damage is handled out in the open for all to see. Sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant. Also, do not delete any negative comments except for those using profanity or other offensive language.
- Apologies, Not Excuses – If the blame is squarely on a company’s shoulders, then it should carry that load and own up to the mistake.
- Be Human – All communications following the snafu should be presented as if an actual person had written them; no canned robo-responses or legalese, please.
When brand damage does occur, the mainstream media/tech blogosphere stands ready to pounce; maybe it’s schadenfreude or that “there but for the grace of God” feeling. Yet there are tools and tactics available to make sure brands can avoid being a teaching opportunity for everyone.
CI-Group, a New Jersey advertising agency, provides digital marketing and advertising consulting to Fortune 2000 companies in a wide range of industries. Founded nearly 30 years ago and based in Whitehouse, N.J., CI-Group is recognized as a top advertising agency specializing in marketing strategies, event marketing, promotions, direct marketing, digital printing, warehousing and fulfillment. Companies seeking an award-winning interactive agency that merges creative strategies with effective tactics should call 908-534-6100 or visit www.ci-group.com.
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