Adam Fisher
1st October 2018 - 5 mins read
S

ome will be genuine complaints from customers, others may be from rivals and then, of course, there are the dreaded trolls.

I’m no stranger to online criticism, having previously managed social media accounts for public sector organisations.

People have also, on occasion, taken exception to blogs I have written in my current role, including an ITN newsreader who really didn’t take too well to something I wrote for our sister company Media First.

The key is to accept that you will face negativity at some point and focus on how best to respond.

Here’s what I have learned from my own experiences and the different ways some brands deal with negative comments. 


Keep calm

This is advice I constantly have to remind myself about.

Whenever someone criticises something I have put out, and I don’t think it is justified, my first reaction is to quickly put together a stinging instant response.

But then I think back to a training course I went on years ago where we were told not to send work emails when we were angry.

And I think the same applies here, whether you are responding to a blog comment, a Twitter post or any other form of audience interaction.

The reality is that responding emotionally when your blood is still boiling will typically make the situation much worse. And you really don’t want to get involved in some form of ongoing argument in a public domain.

It sounds obvious, but it is important to compose your thoughts, consider the criticism, and let any heat die away from the situation before responding – even on social media where speed is of the essence.


Avoid the copy and paste approach

One of my hates on social media is when a brand receives some criticism and it responds by continually copying and pasting the same couple of generic lines over and over again.

It is something I see regularly. 

When Nectar was widely criticised on social media for announcing a partnership with the Daily Mail, it stuck rigidly to pre-agreed corporate lines, which it copied and pasted relentlessly.

Here it is: “Hi (insert name), we’re sorry to hear you’re not keen on the partnership. The primary factor in any new partnership is our current customer base. From our data and research, we know that there is a large crossover between our customers and Mail readers. Hopefully, you can take part in other offers which you find more appealing. Thank you for the feedback anyway.”

It looks cold and robotic and only really serves to make the customer more frustrated. It also suggests the brand actually isn’t all that bothered about complaints from customers.

While it may feel a little risky, social media teams should be given the freedom to move away from pre-approved corporate lines when an organisation is being criticised and add a human touch to responses.

If you are facing a real social media storm and don’t feel you have the time or resources to personalise responses, it would be better to stick to regular updates rather than trying to reply to everyone with the same corporate line.


Humour

You need to tread carefully here, but humour can be a great way of turning a negative comment into something positive.

Not only can it diffuse potential issues, but it can also show a fun, lighter side to your brand.

But it is not going to be appropriate in all situations and each one needs to be judged independently.

Virgin Trains found itself in the middle of a social media storm earlier this year when it responded to a passenger complaining about being called ‘honey’ by a train manager with a poorly judged joke.  While Thameslink found itself threatened with legal action after comparing its poor service to ‘Poundland cooking chocolate’.  

My advice would be to run any humorous responses past a colleague just to check that they are actually funny, right for the audience and also tasteful before they are published.


Sometimes a private reply can be better

You are not going to keep everyone happy, even if you follow all of the above advice.

Some people will continue to post negatively, but it is important that you don’t get drawn into an ongoing conversation with them.

The best approach is to ask them to send their contact details to you through a direct message or your email address so you can arrange for someone to give them a call and discuss the issues they are experiencing.

This is something which worked well for me in previous roles and at times resulted in a dissenting voice later going on to post something positive about the organisation.

Even if they persist with their criticism, other customers will be able to see the effort you have made to try to help them.


Don’t delete

It can be tempting to delete negative comments and criticism, particularly if you feel they are unfair.

But this needs to be avoided.

Not only does it show a lack of transparency and suggest the organisation may have something to hide, but it is also likely to encourage the critic to post more negative comments.


You don’t always have to say sorry

Another one of my regular frustrations with the way brands respond to negative comments is they always apologise, even when they have nothing to be sorry for.

Take train companies for example. Any commuter will tell you that these guys have a lot to apologise for. But look at their Twitter accounts and it is one apology after another.

The website Sorry for the Inconvenience shows that rail operators have already issued more than 200,000 apologies this year alone. While many of those are completely justified, some are for really minor issues like plug sockets not working.

The huge rate of apologies only adds to the reputational damage. The key for other companies is to be selective about when to say sorry.

Sometimes a better approach is to take control of the narrative and laugh about the issue, like Joe Dough’s Sandwich shop did in this brilliant example.




Finally

The final point is that a negative reaction doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing.

I want the content I produce to cause a reaction and even a negative reaction can get other people talking.

It’s far better than talking to a completely passive audience.

 

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

 

Marketing

7 campaigns that went viral for all the wrong reasons

Aimee Hudson 2nd October 2017 — 8 mins read
A

big budget helps, great ideas are critical, but as some of the below companies found out some elements are simply outside of your control and can sometimes cause campaigns to go viral for all the wrong reasons…

 

Walkers Wave

In this campaign, fans were asked to tweet their selfies so they could feature in a short video clip in which Gary Lineker held a picture of their selfie and said “Thanks for joining the Walkers Wave and celebrating the UEFA Champions League Final.”

However, this backfired and went viral in a way Walkers probably wished it hadn’t.

The crisp producer set up an automated tweet system meaning all images were automatically submitted to show in the picture frame.

But, there was seemingly no screening or filtration process.

This meant that when members of the public started to tweet in images of people who are famous for committing crimes, the campaign quickly started to go downhill.

 

 

The campaign’s failure soon spread like wildfire through the Twittersphere and other media platforms due to the ease of sharing posts.

You can tell Walkers had good intentions and hoped the campaign would be original, convey emotions, spark interest and be easy to share.

Like any great campaign it did do this, just not in the intended way.

 

Pepsi’s advert featuring Kendall Jenner

Pepsi faced huge backlash to an advert featuring Kendall Jenner where she was seen giving police a can of Pepsi on the front line of a protest.

The advert was meant to portray a message of peace, unity and understanding but instead was criticised for trivialising social justice demonstrations.

In the advert Kendall is seen giving a police officer a can of Pepsi, he then smiles at a fellow officer as protestors cheered. 

Backlash from the advert suggested that if protestors were kinder and gave police a drink, there would be no need for social justice demonstrations.

The public mocked the campaign with key influencers like Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter, tweeting a picture of her father with the caption:

 

 

Pepsi’s hope of creating a campaign relating to current political events obviously fell flat. It initially defended the advert saying it “reflects people from all walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony”.

However, the backlash continued to grow, and Jenner also faced criticisms with Eric Thomas, senior partner of Saga marketing posting on LinkedIn that “A Caucasian, blonde, classically beautiful, affluent, kid born into celebrity probably isn’t the person you need to represent struggle and civil unrest”.

Pepsi finally withdrew the advert and apologised with the following statement:

 

 

Southern Rail – Let’s Strike Back

It’s not just food and drink based campaigns that can go wrong as Southern Rail found out when its Twitter campaign was derailed.

The company’s campaign asked its customers to challenge a Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) strike on Twitter.

With the headline ‘Let’s Strike Back’, the company’s initial tweet asked customers to tell the union how the rail strikes make them feel with the hashtag #SouthernBackOnTrack

 

 

But perhaps not surprisingly given the operators reputation for late, cancelled and over-crowded trains, customers used the hashtag to lambast its service.

 

 

Quickly, Southern Rail lost control of the campaign with the public creating their own, more popular hashtags including #SouthernFail.

Soon, national media picked up on the Twitter storm generating more unfavourable headlines and comments for the company.

The company initially refused to apologise for the campaign or the poor services customers had received, saying its ‘aim was to get the debate going’.

However, a month later the deputy chief operating officer of Govia Thamesline Railway, the parent company of Southern Rail, said the tweets were a “mistake.”

It’s clear to see there was little debate around the topic but more a way of customers to vent their disappointment and even anger at the brand.

 

Amazon: The Man in the High Castle

Back in 2015, Amazon’s new show ‘The Man in the High Castle’ depicted a dystopian life in which Nazi Germany and Japan have control over the US after winning World War Two.

To promote the show, Amazon decided to advertise across New York City.

The company wrapped the subway seats, walls and ceilings of one train in a version of the American flag, replacing the stars with a German eagle and iron cross. They even created a stylised flag for the ‘new Japan’.

The campaign also involved having 260 posters across the subway station.

The advertisements were due to run for 2-3 weeks until early December but were pulled hours after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called Amazon to do so.

Bill de Blasio stated that the advertisements were “irresponsible and offensive to Word War II and Holocaust survivors, their families, and countless other New Yorkers”.

The lesson learnt: Historical events are still sensitive even in a dystopian world.

 

Coca-Cola – GIF the Feeling

When Coca-Cola changed its tagline from ‘Open Happiness’ to ‘Taste the Feeling’, it decided to celebrate the launch with the campaign ‘GIF the Feeling’.

The idea was that the public would be able to superimpose their sentiments on a pre-created GIF.

Coca-Cola was smart and had thousands of words filtered so they couldn’t be included in the campaign including hell, fat, homosexuality, diabetes, all swear words, business, sex, drugs and more.

However the public, as menacing as they are, decided to get creative and create GIFs with the words which had not been filtered, including diarrhoea, capitalism, Benghazi and more.

It was soon clear to see Coca-Cola had lost control and the public had hijacked the campaign.

In a statement, Coca-Cola said: “Our intention was to invite consumers to share their feelings in a positive and uplifting way as they discover our new campaign. It is unfortunate that some people have chosen to use our campaign materials to do just the opposite” … “Their comments do not reflect the views of The Coca-Cola Company”.

 

Protein World - Beach Body Ready

The supplement company’s weight loss advert featured a model in a bikini with the phrase ‘Are you beach body ready?’

It was displayed all over the UK and faced huge backlash for ‘body shaming’.

Watchdog reported the campaign received almost 400 complaints. Additionally, a protest was held in London’s Hyde Park and a Change.org petition gained more than 70,000 signatures.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) stated it had received a range of complaints on issues including the ‘very slim, toned’ model which suggested that all other body shapes are inferior.

Protein World remained defensive and unapologetic during the backlash. It even invited the public to consider if they were in the shape they wanted to be and claimed that the campaign doesn’t imply everyone should look like the model.

After much debate over the wording the ASA initially deemed the advert did not breach any UK advertising rules relating to harm and offence or responsible advertising.

Many of the public were upset with this result and continued to campaign against the ‘beach body’ image.

However, after some further consideration ASA decided to ban the advert and ordered it to be removed.

Protein World continued to advertise with similar campaigns like ‘Think Small’.

 

Bud Light – Up For Whatever

In an effort to get everyone together for a good time, Budweiser launched its campaign ‘Up For Whatever’.

The beer company produced bottles with the following line printed on them, “The perfect beer for removing ‘No’ from your vocabulary for the night’.

This led to heavy criticism on social media with critics claiming it undermined the anti-rape “no means no” campaign in an effort to stop sexual assault.

It upset many consumers who claimed the beer’s messaging didn’t recognise that alcohol frequently plays a part in rape cases.

The initial release of the new bottles was supposedly designed to ‘inspire spontaneous fun’.

Soon after, Budweiser admitted it had ‘missed the mark’. It said: “We would never condone disrespectful or irresponsible behaviour”.

However, a longer statement was issued by owner Alexander Lambrecht who said: “The Bud Up For Whatever campaign, now in its second year, has inspired millions of consumers to engage with our brand in a positive and light-hearted way. In the spirit, we created more than 140 different scroll messages intended to encourage spontaneous fun. It’s clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it.”

 

 

While all these campaigns certainly succeeded in becoming part of the conversation, it came at the cost of damage to the reputation of the brands involved. And they show how a few simple errors, or a poorly thought out idea, can quickly turn something with good intentions into something hugely negative. Going viral is clearly not always a good thing.

At Thirty Seven, we offer content marketing services and ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures our content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement for all the right reasons.

Aimee Hudson
2nd October 2017 - 8 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.