Social media and PR. Can they work in tandem?

The barrier between you and the public has never been smaller, and the ability to speak to your consumers is an undoubted boon. But when something goes haywire, it’s tempting to bury your head in the sand. Here are a few observations we’ve made during our years handling reputation management for clients.


#1 Plan in advance.

A social media coordinator should always be stationed to deal with comments, queries and feedback - both good and bad.

Set up a protocol document that clearly states instances in which the coordinator should respond - and instances in which the matter should be escalated.

#2 Be proactive.

Show your customers that you are interested in their opinion and that their voice won’t remain unheard. Interact with them.

A good example is Elon Musk. Despite running two blue-chip businesses, he finds the time to respond to unhappy customers. Earlier this year, a Tesla driver complained that other drivers were blocking supercharger spots even when their cars were fully charged.

Musk not only replied - promising to “take action” - he actually did something about it. Within a week, Tesla had instituted a fine for cars idling around superchargers.

#3 See it as an opportunity

Just like Elon Musk before, you can learn from critics. Some of them may indeed be inappropriate and written by bored trolls. But don’t close your eyes to helpful suggestions. Companies have to constantly improve themselves to survive and to be successful. And who comes up with better suggestions than the people who actually use your services?


#1 Censor people’s comments.

Yes, you can block and delete comments. But it’s best you don’t. Concentrate instead on getting to the root of the problem and trying to solve it.

#2 Make rash decisions.

Reacting to harsh critics as fast as possible can be tempting. But resist that temptation. Stick to a pre-set protocol and try to steer the conversation to a less public forum as quickly as possible. Otherwise you might do something that you later regret.

#3 Lose your temper.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth? That’s one way to escalate things.

Nestlé famously lost their cool online when Greenpeace published a video in which they called attention to the use of palm oil in KitKat and how the rainforests are cleared, driving many animals out of their natural habitat. Nestlé obtained the video’s removal from YouTube, but many people had seen it already and shared it on other platforms. People changed their profile pictures, resembling the KitKat logo with the word “killer“. Nestlé asked the customers to stop that behaviour and replied to an angry comment: “It is our page, we set the rules.“ A few days and a storm of controversy later, Nestlé gave in and announced plans to collaborate with the Forest Stewardship Council to provide more sustainable products.

They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by doing that earlier.

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