Social Media PR disasters

PR disasters on social media have always been the worst nightmares for PR professionals. One wrong move on this medium can turn into a catastrophe in seconds and cause huge damage to your online reputation. The internet is filled with case studies and examples that can prove this. In this post I will list few such PR disasters on social media so that you can learn from their mistakes and will also give tips to help you handle them.

1.       #McDStories backfired
McDonalds had launched a twitter campaign with #McDstories hoping that its fans would share all good stories and experiences using this hashtag. But it horribly got backfired at them when people started tweeting all bad stories and talking trash using the hashtag # McDstories.  All sorts of stories ranging from people vomiting, getting stomach aches, discovering fingernails in McD’s food to stories of unemployment were tweeted. The screenshot below shows some of those tweets.

Credits: Twitter, Mcdonalds
Credits: Twitter, McDonalds

Where did it go wrong?

  • This campaign failed firstly because it never mentioned what was the hashtag actually meant for and the context in which it should be used.
  • Secondly, they used a hashtag with a brand name in it. This opened up the brand for negative exploitation.
  • Lastly, all that McDonald’s did in response to this exploitation was tried to close the issue by pulling down the campaign.

What you should do in such a case?

  • Don’t go dark. Instead face the situation by responding to such people in such a way that you bring about a change in their attitude.
  • Stay engaged and ask your fans to tweet positive stories about you and then retweet them.
  • Taking down a tweet won’t help because people will continue to use it even when you take it down.  So, try to make the best of it.

2.      Carnival’s break during crisis
Carnival, owner of Costa Cruise ship that sank last year, after the incident put up a post saying, “going to take a bit of a break from posting on our social channels.” This resulted into thousands of disappointed people commenting about this decision on Facebook. Carnival came back on social media only after having taken a break for a week that followed the disaster.

Costa Cruise ship
Costa Cruise ship

Where did it go wrong?

  • The one week’s time during which it should have actually stayed engaged with customers, it took a break.

What you should do in such a case?

  • During times of crisis increase your engagement with customers, since that is what they will expect the most.
  • When such crisis occurs social media will be full of discussion about your company. It would be your biggest mistake if you stay out of such discussions.

3.      KFC’s viral video
The whole world came to know that one of KFC restaurant was over-run by rats when someone uploaded its video on YouTube that went viral. It decided to deal with this through a press release stating that this was an “isolated incident” and “the restaurant has been closed and will not be reopened until it has been sanitized”.  Take a look at this video that went viral:

Where did it go wrong?

  • It failed to give a proper response and chose to go the typical press release way in order to battle a viral YouTube video.

What you should do in such a case?

  • Since a video has been put up, the best you should do is fight back with a video.
  • One single press release would hardly succeed in stopping something as huge as a viral video.

4.       Dell’s delayed response
Similar to what happened with KFC, a tech blog- Gizmodo published an image of an exploding Dell laptop. People immediately started blogging about it and it spread all over the social media like a wildfire. Over four million laptop batteries were then recalled by Dell. It severely hampered Dell’s reputation. Dell did respond to the blogs, but it was too late then.

Image of Dell battery exploding Credits: theinquirer.net
Image of Dell battery exploding
Credits: theinquirer.net

Where did it go wrong?

  • A delayed response.

What you should do in such a case?

  • Don’t ever ignore the power of a single image on social media.
  • Respond as quickly as you can.

So, to sum up I would say that when you are using social media for PR make sure that you take it very seriously and avoid messing up. As a preventive measure try to anticipate crisis that might take place and keep support channels ready to deal with them. Once a mistake is made, be all set to put up an apology via all the social media channels in order to spread the word quickly. Instead of using a press release make use of these channels to engage with your audience. While you do this don’t forget to communicate with those who are disappointed. When you will do this it will portray you as a company that listens and truly cares for its customers.

Did I miss out any major disaster? Kindly share it with me in the comments box below.

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3 thoughts on “Social Media PR disasters

  1. Pingback: When Social Media Campaigns go Belly Up! | caitrionanimhaidindotcom

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