BRANDE : Social media PR disaster

May 28, 2013

Social Media PR Disasters: World Nutella Day

It’s not often that social media PR disasters have happy endings. The Kansas City Chiefs fired the person behind their insulting tweet. McDonald’s may never be able to use the Twitter hashtag #McDStories again. Songs about United Airlines’ obstinance are still racking up views on YouTube. But this time a brand finally backed down and listened to its critics – and avoided a much larger crisis.

The Brand

·      17.4 million Facebook likes
·      10,280 Twitter followers
The Incident
Since 2006, blogger Sara Rosso has been promoting World Nutella Day every February 5, encouraging people around the world to try the hazelnut chocolate spread. The “holiday” is completely unofficial and is simply a result of Rosso’s loyalty and love for the brand.
On May 16, seven years after the first World Nutella Day and three months after the most recent celebration, Nutella’s parent company Ferrero sent Rosso a cease-and-desist letter based on her unauthorized use of the brand’s name. She immediately posted the news on her blog and the World Nutella Day Facebook Page, saying she would shut down the relevant sites and stop promoting the holiday. Support from her fans quickly turned to anger at Ferrero.

The Problem Ferrero made no public statement and Rosso didn’t publish their cease-and-desist letter. So there was no official response from the brand to the mounting criticism. There was no explanation, no apology, and no mention of the negotiation which had quietly begun between the company and its biggest fan. The Response You can imagine what happened next. Nutella fans found the brand’s global Facebook Page and unleashed their fury.

And yet, for five days and 317 comments, Ferrero said nothing.

The Result
The story of a brand senselessly harassing one of its biggest fans – and her thousands of supporters worldwide – caught the attention of the Huffington Post, Social Media Today, and even Time magazine.

Finally, on May 22, two days before Rosso had to shut down her websites, Ferrero released a short statement on its Facebook Page. It read, in part:
“Ferrero would like to express to Sara Rosso its sincere gratitude for her passion for Nutella, gratitude which is extended to all fans of the World Nutella Day.
Ferrero is pleased to announce that today, after contacting Sara Rosso and finding together the appropriate solutions, it immediately stopped the previous action.
Ferrero considers itself fortunate to have such devoted and loyal fans of its Nutella spread, like Sara Rosso.”
Rosso posted the news on her blog as well, saying that “They were very gracious and supportive and we were able to have a productive discussion about World Nutella Day living on for the fans, which is the whole point.”
And World Nutella Day was saved.
The Takeaway
How can you avoid a similar PR disaster? It’s pretty simple:
– Respect the Superfans
Is something called “World Nutella Day” trademark infringement? I don’t think it matters. Sara Rosso loves Nutella so much that she created a special day of celebration to encourage people around the world to try it. There’s no downside to this. Ferrero should have rewarded Rosso, not punished her.
– Respond Quickly
All the public had to go on was Rosso’s blog post. No one heard Ferrero’s side of the story because it made no statements on its numerous websites or social channels. The company stayed silent even as the press picked up the story.  

– Don’t Let Legal Do the Steering
Ferrero’s legal team probably saw only a violation of trademark. The marketing department, I imagine, saw a wonderful grassroots celebration of its brand. If the two departments had discussed the matter before taking action, they might have come up with a compromise – perhaps asking Rosso to put “TM” after every mention of Nutella. Instead, the marketing and social teams were forced to deal with legal’s short-sightedness.

– Know When You’ve Made a Mistake
Ferrero expressed “gratitude” towards Rosso, but not towards her supporters, and it never apologized for its actions or its silence. Ferrero tried to excuse itself by referring to “misuse of the Nutella brand on the fan page,” whatever that means. The statement is vague and defensive, as if the company can’t quite figure out what it did wrong. But there are 317 Facebook comments telling it exactly that.

The eighth annual World Nutella Day will take place on February 5, 2014. I’ll be celebrating it. And I have a feeling Ferrero will be, too.
Need help navigating the new social media landscape? Brandemix specializes in social media for customer service, branding, and recruiting. If you’d like to reduce your risk of a PR disaster, we’d love to hear from you.
Are you using social media in your social recruiting? Your competitors are! Join Brandemix’s Director of Interactive Branding on June 5 for a free webinar on using social channels to find top talent. Register here for free

February 14, 2013

Bonus Reel: Applebee’s Biggest PR Mistake

Brandemix Director of Interactive Branding reveals Applebee’s biggest mistake of its fateful night.

Read the original post here.

February 12, 2013

Social Media PR Disasters: Applebee’s Wild Night

You probably know about the Applebee’s waitress who was fired for posting a customer’s receipt that had a derogatory statement on it. You may not be aware of the aftermath, which took place in the wee hours of Saturday, February 2. It’s virtually a textbook example of what not to do in a PR crisis.

The Brand
·      3.8 million Facebook likes
·      85,700 Twitter followers
·      279,000 YouTube views

The Incident
Around noon on Friday, Applebee’s issued an official statement about the firing on its Facebook page, explaining that posting a customer’s name was a violation of its policies. Defenders of the waitress rushed to Facebook to complain, noting that Applebee’s itself had posted a photo of a customer’s name on Facebook – though that customer’s note was positive. Rather than address the issue, Applebee’s deleted the photo. And the company remained silent as the negative comments mounted, surpassing 17,000 after midnight.
The Problem

At 2:53 a.m., whoever runs Applebee’s Facebook page suddenly began replying to the comments. Worse, instead of making a big, clear announcement with a new post, Applebee’s replied in the comments of its original post, where it was quickly buried under hundreds of new complaints. Even worse, Applebee’s committed a cardinal sin of social media by deleting some negative comments and blocking select people from commenting. This, of course, led to a new round of criticism and mockery.

Screen shot courtesy of R.L. Stollar

The Response
It was now after 3 a.m. Did Applebee’s issue an apology and call it a night? No, the restaurant began posting the same boilerplate reply over and over, tagging negative commenters’ names to make sure they would see it. The commenters then decried the repetitive posts. Applebee’s continued with the cut-and-paste replies, sometimes tagging individual commenters and pleading for understanding. One critic responded: “Stop insulting us by claiming we got our facts wrong…if there is some specific information we do not have that will correct the record, then either share it or continue to hide behind your lawyers.”

The Result

At almost 4:30 a.m., Applebee’s stopped making comments and finally posted an official status update – a bland non-apology for the “unfortunate situation.” 2,000 negative comments to that update followed. Applebee’s then hid its original post, taking the 20,000 comments with it. People then accused the restaurant of deleting criticism. The saga didn’t end until the following evening; one blogger estimated that Applebee’s three status updates had garnered more than 40,000 comments – almost all of them negative.

Screen shot courtesy of R.L. Stollar

The Takeaway
How can you avoid a similar PR disaster? Let me count the ways…
– Reply During Daylight Hours
There is no reason to post a major update at 3 o’clock in the morning. At best, you’re unlikely to reach your intended audience. At worst, you may find the late-night crowd a little more ornery then others.  
– Make Statements Clear
Facebook doesn’t make every comment visible, so Applebee’s replies were quickly bumped off the page. Instead, the company should have posted new status updates, which stand out and look official.

– Don’t Lose Your Cool
Another mistake was switching from “we” to “I”: “No one’s asking me to comment at 5 am. I am because I care, we care.” Was that Applebee’s speaking or just one of its employees? Or its PR firm? Statements like that only confuse the situation.

– Don’t Put Your Social Media in the Hands of an Intern

I doubt that Applebee’s official PR firm or marketing department was posting at 3 a.m. It’s tempting to let the summer intern handle your social channels, but disasters like this should make you reconsider who’s in charge of these very important public communications outlets.
At the same time, a similar debacle took place on Twitter, showing that Applebee’s truly needs to re-evaluate its social media strategy – and its personnel.
Is your social media in the best hands? Brandemix specializes in social media for customer service, branding, and recruiting. If you’d like to reduce your risk of a PR disaster, we’d love to hear from you.
For the latest on social media, online recruiting, mobile marketing, and other branding trends, please like Brandemix on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and join our LinkedIn group, Your Digital Brand

December 10, 2012

The Most Popular Blog Posts of 2012

As the year comes to a close, I’m looking back at this year’s most popular blog posts. The topics range from examples of the best social media to some of the worst, and from internal branding to external. In case you missed them, here are the BrandeBlog’s five most-read posts of 2012.
Employer Branding Numbers Everyone Should Know
2012 brought us a number of recruiting studies that turned conventional wisdom upside-down. How many employers said they had an employer branding strategy? How many employees leave a company for reasons other than money? How many companies plan to increase their investment in employer branding? The answers may surprise you.
Social Media PR Disasters: #McDStories
Sometimes you can learn more from a failure than a success. That was certainly true of our story on McDonald’s Twitter debacle, in which an innocent hashtag was taken over by critics and pranksters in a matter of hours. See how McDonald’s reacted and learn what to do (and not to do) when your brand encounters a similar social media crisis.
What’s Foursquare Really For?
The best social sites have stated goals: Facebook is for friends, LinkedIn is for business, Instagram is for photos. But what about Foursquare? Is it for sharing local finds with your friends? Posting reviews for strangers? Competing for discounts with other customers? Discover Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley’s answers to these and other tough questions in this post.
Social Media Marketing Simplified
Ever come out of a social media planning session with your head spinning? New forms of marketing have created new buzzwords like optimize, reciprocity, and engagement. But you don’t have to learn all the jargon to have a successful social media campaign; you only need to answer three basic questions.
Why State Farm is a Social Media Superstar
The most popular post of the year was an exploration of State Farm’s social media recruiting. The insurance company has a dedicated Facebook Page and answers questions and comments within 24 hours. The State Farm careers site features videos testimonials from interns, a rarely seen part of a company’s workforce. Finally, State Farm’s interactive website takes online recruiting to a whole other level. See how your brand can attain “Superstar” status here.
What do these posts’ popularity tell us? That there a lot of people with an interest in  and a need for  social media trends, marketing, and branding. As it so happens, they are also specialties of ours! 
Put Brandemix on your to-do list for 2013; we want to be popular, too. 

October 1, 2012

Social Media PR Disasters: The Kansas City Chiefs Get Tackled For A Loss

I’ve showed you some pretty big mistakes in the past, but this one is a doozy. It breaks so many commonsense social media rules that it almost seems like an urban legend. But it really happened, to an NFL franchise — which proves it can happen to anyone.
The Brand
Kansas City Chiefs
·      643,000 likes on Facebook
·      101,500 followers on Twitter
·      3,381 +1’s on Google Plus
The Incident

Travis Wright, a social media manager and self-described “eternal smart ass”, tweeted the following about his beloved Kansas City Chiefs:

Crude? Yes. Rude? Sure. But this is football, and every team, from the Super Bowl champion Giants down to the…well, the Chiefs, has experienced vitriol like this. But rarely do teams actually respond.
The Problem
The Chiefs responded. Wright got this direct message on Twitter and took a screenshot with his phone: 

Then, for good measure, the Chiefs blocked Wright’s Twitter profile, so that their tweets would no longer show up in his feed. A very odd thing to do to someone the franchise called a “fan.” Wright shared their insulting message with his 125,000 followers (which is more than the Chiefs have) and posted it on Reddit. The incident quickly went viral.
The Response
Wright’s tweet was retweeted dozens of times, while his Reddit post drew 500 comments and 1,200 upvotes, bringing it to the front page.
The Result
The next day, the Chiefs apologized:

The Takeaway
The Chiefs botched this about as badly as possible. Here’s a step by step guide to ensure you don’t make the same mistake.
– Don’t Insult Anyone Publicly

I probably don’t have to say this, but you should never tell a fan, customer, employee, job-seeker, or donor to “get a clue.” That was first down.

– Don’t Insult Anyone Privately
I suppose the person running the Chiefs account thought it was safer to send something mean as a direct message, so no other followers would see it. But just about every device can take screenshots, so that strategy only delayed Wright’s retaliation for about 30 seconds. Second down.

– Don’t Block Anyone
When you block someone on Twitter, you prevent them from seeing your tweets. It’s such a silly punishment that it looks juvenile. And it’s ineffective, because your “victim” can just visit your public Twitter profile. And because the Chiefs didn’t unblock Wright when they issued the apology, he didn’t see it in his feed. That brings up third and long.
– Don’t Use The First Person Singular
That is, if you weren’t using it in the first place. Whoever runs the Chiefs’ Twitter (and that person[s?] has never been revealed) usually refers to the team as “we” or as “the Chiefs.” But the apology said “I apologize,” which conjures the image of one single guy at a computer. It also separated the Twitter manager from the organization; why weren’t the Chiefs the ones apologizing? “We’re sorry” looks a lot better than “I’m sorry” – especially since we don’t even know who the “I” is. Fourth down and time to punt.
– If You’re Going to Respond, Actually Respond
Lost in the profanity was that Wright was bringing up a valid point about how the Chiefs’ owner spends money on players. But the response was that Wright didn’t have his facts straight and should “get a clue.” So what are the facts? Why didn’t the Chiefs point Wright to the correct information? If you’re going to respond to such an angry post – and you don’t have to – at least take the conversation somewhere constructive. All the Chiefs did was make a fan mad. That’s horrible customer service. So I guess you could say the punt was blocked and returned for a touchdown.

This whole firestorm took place within 24 hours and involved only three tweets. But the damage done to the Chiefs’ brand will last a long time. This is another reason to let a trained communications, marketing, or HR professional run your social media profiles. If you don’t have one, we’d be happy to help.