I am sure you are all aware that many say word of mouth is arguably, the most influential type of persuasion. When this is delivered through social media sites, the ability for negative criticism to go viral and attract more criticism and unwanted media coverage is now a reality that public relations practitioners face and may have to manage readily.
This is particularly true and prevalent on branded corporate Facebook pages. Negative comments left on business pages, particularly comments which are then championed by other Facebook users from an increasingly cynical public can be considered a social media crisis. Courtenay (2013) states, “social media has delivered a new army of critics and commentators, all of which have the ability to create and disseminate their version of what’s at the heart of any issue or matter”.
Good crisis management requires communication to tell the truth in a quick and consistent manner, and admit and apologise when required (Johnston & Zawawi, 2009). In 2012, Facebook user Richard Neill posted on the feminine sanitary brand Bodyform’s page, light-heartedly complaining that the brands advertising had lead him to believe that womens periods were a time of fun. He felt disillusioned having been confronted with the ‘reality’ that his girlfriend does not behave in the way the ads depict during her ‘time of the month’. The comment, which to date has attracted over 100’000 likes and 5’000 comments generated hype.
Comment to Bodyform’s Facebook page:
According to Baer (2009) “the best way to mitigate social media crises is to respond at the flashpoint, you must be prepared to make and launch content in a variety of formats and circumstances”. This is exactly what Bodyform did, promptly converting a potential crisis to a PR opportunity. The brand released a satirical YouTube video response with the (fake) CEO of Bodyform apologising to Richard, addressing the fact their advertising uses metaphors and the general truth about periods. This video in turn went viral and generated positive media coverage.
Bodyform’s Response: The Truth:
The Bodyform case clearly illustrates how social media crises can be managed, following key principles, while still enabling the company to maintain it’s public reputation.
Baer, J. (2009). 4 brand-saving recommendation for social media crisis management. Retrieved from http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-marketing/4-brand-saving-recommendations-for-social-media-crisis-management/
Courtenay, A. (2013, September 26). Australia’s biggest PR disasters. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/finance/australias-biggest-pr-disasters-20130926-2ugli.html
Johnston, J. & Zawawi, C. (2009). Public relations theory and practice. NSW: Allen & Unwin.