You, as a communications professional, are tasked with giving the right voice at the right time to your brand using the right channels. But with so many outlets in today’s media landscape, the potential for a communication mishap is alive and well – especially in social media. Take the recent KitchenAid Twitter mishap during this year’s first presidential debate. Similarly, remember the StubHub incident involving tweeted profanity? Both of these scenarios demonstrate something that every social media marketer should realize – cracks in these strategies can leave a brand teetering on the edge and how you respond can make a difference in surviving a public snafu.
During the first 2012 U.S. presidential debate, a KitchenAid employee mistakenly tweeted an offensive remark about President Obama’s grandmother from the company’s corporate account. Very shortly after, a media frenzy ensued. The comment was intensely retweeted and news outlets jumped on the faux pas overnight.
How did KitchenAid fare in protecting its squeaky-clean reputation amid the flurry of attention? It issued an immediate, direct response taking responsibility for what occurred rather than pooh-poohing the errant message. It also used Twitter to offer full disclosure while recognizing those affected in the process. The strategy worked and the brand escaped with only a small nick in its reputation.
As crises go, this was only a minor hiccup. As part of our job, communicators must be prepared to address situations with honesty and at times, empathy. Take ownership of any role your company has in a situation and be forthcoming with information. Also, honestly consider if and how others were affected. Social media can easily lead a brand to play the victim, but acknowledging who’s affected and why will help keep critics at bay.
Brand activity on social media is often shared by a team. When a StubHub employee wrongfully sent out a profanity-laced tweet, the brand found itself in a very common predicament. Its brand ambassador quickly turned into a brand basher. Today’s blurred line between professional and personal social media use requires marketers to closely protect brand representation on these platforms. Damage control can be minimized if policies are in place.
Social media communication can be either your friend or your foe. Especially on social media, it can build your brand up or, just as easily, keep it way down. For both KitchenAid and StubHub, their reactions for handling the blunders diffused a potentially unwieldy situation. Hopefully, it will help them fill the gaps for a blunder-free future.
Schubert b2b is Philadelphia’s B2B digital marketing agency that unites the lead-generating power of inbound marketing with the brand-building power of outbound marketing. Schubert b2b develops 100% strategic business-to-business marketing programs that generate leads and grow revenue. For 40 years, Schubert has been creating B2B brand leaders in technology-rich industries as diverse as biotech, chemicals and computer software using integrated marketing communications (IMC) programs. Schubert is a member of ICOM, a global network of marketing communications agencies.