Archive for the ‘Brand protection’ Category.

‘Crisis’ is a dirty word - how Femfresh could have handled their social media backlash

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In the last few days you might have seen the word vagina bandied about a fair bit online, and not just in the murkier corners of the internet.

In the US, Representative Lisa Brown was banned from the House, ostensibly for ‘permissive’ language, after using the word ‘vagina’ in front of the Michigan legislature in a debate about abortion.

Hot on the heels of this came the Femfresh debacle. Femfresh is a ‘feminine hygiene’ brand which has a new marketing campaign. Its ‘expert care for down there’ campaign has been broadcast in traditional one-way media: radio and out-of-home advertising.

However when Femfresh brought it into social media – a conversational media – things took a different turn. Consumers could respond to the campaign, and respond they did.

Femfresh became the target for an unrelenting stream of criticism on Facebook for its ‘go woohoo for your frou-frou’ campaign that also seemed to suggest that vagina is an unacceptable word.

Whether or not it was infantilising women, or trying to break taboos is a moot point. Femfresh had a crisis on its hands.

Here’s three things Femfresh could have done:

1. Respond to each comment to explain and wait for it to die down.

Probable outcome: a long time-intensive process, likely to further inflame critics. With no firm closure to the incident it would have prolonged the resolution of the crisis. The issue could possibly just rumble on, ready to blow up again in the future.

2. Make a simple, human statement outlining the facts of the matter, taking appropriate responsibility, explaining what the outcome or change would be of this incident and saying sorry. Then push the story down their Facebook Timeline with positive stories and status updates.

Probable outcome: it would have inflamed some critics, but assertively dealt with the issue. Again fairly prolonged resolution but at least putting a credible position from which to recover.

3. Use it as a catalyst for business transformation. Use that rare opportunity of public scrutiny and turn the negative passion into positive. Take the backlash on the chin, engage directly with the critics and influencers, and as a result of their feedback, change the campaign or even the company. Wholefoods turned from crisis to case study in just this way.

Probable outcome: it would have fuelled more debate, but Femfresh would have a chance to turn some of its detractors into advocates. It would be a resource investment. But it could take that valuable feedback from its customers, change its marketing, improve its products and build a better business.

We’re yet to see what the long term impact of the Femfresh backlash will be. Unfortunately the company chose to take its Facebook page down – which is a missed opportunity.

The moral of this story has to be if you court consumer engagement, be prepared for what you get. And perhaps further, that if customers care enough to respond to you, recognise that for the gift it is: be grateful and use that feedback to build a better company.

Image credit: debaird on Flickr

The power of customer advocacy in a social media crisis

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Image by PhotoGraham via Flickr

Every brand with a Facebook page is at risk of a social media crisis. It could arise from any number of scenarios - from ostensibly innocuous customer complaints to a huge backlash against your perceived values. A brand’s Facebook wall is now often the first stop for anyone wanting to make their fury known, and if word of that fury spreads you may find yourself on the receiving-end of a seemingly endless barrage of complaints.

Knowing how and when to respond is essential and we would always recommend a detailed crisis management plan and escalation policy as a top priority to any company using social media. It is not always appropriate for you to respond to comments online and a good crisis management plan will clearly lay out when you should respond (and how) and when you shouldn’t.

However, in addition to what you do and how your brand responds, the best brands in social media often don’t have to respond at all. Their advocates do it for them. There are always some issues and queries that you will need to respond to (specific details of their account, complaints about your service) but in many cases having other customers to respond instead of you (or as well as you) can be even more powerful.

There can be a temptation to think that only the most lauded brands such as Apple or Gucci have strong advocates, but this is not true. Every brand has advocates, people who are loyal to your brand, products, people or services and will go out of their way to tell others about this. Identifying your advocates is one task, you then need to cultivate and build relationships with them online.

Here are three tips of how you can build relationships with advocates online:

1. Involve them in your product development processes

When we work with advocates for brands, the thing they most often discuss is ideas for the brand. Things they know don’t always work in the product. Ways the product could be improved. Things they have seen that competitors and substitutes do. Advocates are often the people who have the deepest knowledge of your product and want to talk to you about it. If you make it easy for them to do this and give them access to real decision makers at your brand you will build huge social credibility with them.

2. Let them try new products first

Advocates want to try your products and will tell others about them. Whilst giving out endless freebies is not a sustainable or sensible policy, giving samples of products (especially new products) to those who advocate your brand makes sense. They will give you instant and honest feedback, will feel rewarded by getting access to product before anybody else, and will help you to spread the message about your product before its launched.

3. Get to know them

Finally, but most importantly, you need to get to know your advocates. Spend time talking to them and getting to know them so that you can have a conversation with them on a human level. On a Facebook page that we run for pet owners we know the names of our advocates dogs, we chat to them about what their dogs have done at the weekend and know when it is their birthdays. Why? Because we’re genuinely interested in them as people and as dog owners and want to get to know them. If you are to make the most of your advocates you have to be genuinely interested in them and in their lives. This kind of honesty will be clear to them and will mean that you can have a real interaction with them on a human level.

5 examples where social media jeopardised online reputation

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CEO and shot elephant social media backlashAccording to Warren Buffet “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”. With the rise of social media it feels like it can take  less than five minutes to potentially damage your online reputation. Here are five cases where social media either created or amplified a potentially damaging situation for a brand:

1. Urban Outfitters - copied products exposed by a small “tribe”

A small producer of jewellery on Etsy.com discovered that fashion retailler Urban Outfitters had copied her work and was using similar language to market it.

The story spread widely on Twitter and Tumblr, starting from a knit of highly engaged craft enthusiasts. These users might not have had massive followings but the quality and unity of their social networks resulted rapid, heightened awareness, eventually even gaining celebrity support with a tweet from Miley Cyrus.

2. GoDaddy.com - CEO posts elephant hunting video

Bob Parsons, founder of the American domain registration and hosting company GoDaddy.com, blogged and tweeted a video of him shooting an elephant while on holiday in  Zimbabwe.

The graphic video featured Zimbabweans stripping the elephant for meat, while wearing GoDaddy baseball caps, with AC/DC’s Hells Bells as the soundtrack - it’s hardly a shining example of positive branding.

Parsons received an extremely negative backlash from social channels, especially from animal rights groups such as  PETA who closed their GoDaddy account and encouraged sympathizers to do the same. Parsons responded to the criticism on the grounds that the hunt was on humanitarian grounds to stop elephant-caused damage to crops.

While there may be legitimate reasons for keeping elephant numbers in check, it would probably have been more sensible to distance this kind of debate from the company’s brand, especially considering that Parsons is no stranger to blogging.

3. Amoy - ‘Asianate Yourself’ Facebook app

Unlike the other examples, this misguided use of social media featured an entire application which probably went through several stages of approval before being released.

Crude and offensive in both taste and execution, the Amoy ‘Asiante Yourself” Facebook app clearly wasn’t very well thought through and shows that you should always consider the global scale of the audience when implementing your social media strategy - what may be acceptable in one market can provoke strong, negative sentiment elsewhere.

4. Chrysler - personal tweet sent from corporate account

Unlike the GoDaddy situation, here an employee with access to Chrysler’s twitter account mistakenly sent a a tweet under the @ChryslerAutos account thinking that he was using his own. The fact that it was critical of Detroit drivers and also featured an expletive made the case much worse.

5. Paperchase - plagiarised artwork leads to twitter storm

Another case where social media amplified a message to reach a massive audience.  Once Twitter user Neil Gaiman, with 1.5million followers was made aware of Paperchase’s apparent plagarsim,  a single tweet was enough to launch this into a UK trending topic on Twitter. The sentiment even carried over onto Paperchase’s Amazon reviews, meaning that potential shoppers who may’ve otherwise been unaware of the discussion would be exposed to words like “boycott”, “stolen” and “plagiarised”.

Managing your reputation online – responding to criticism

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online_message_reaching_wider_audienceYou’ve probably heard how a Greenpeace attack on Nestle’s business ethics resulted in a social media encounter that damaged Nestle’s reputation worldwide.

Or, more recently, how BP has been facing daily attacks from a fake BP Twitter account about the oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico. Both situations highlight the importance of online reputation management.

A recent article about social media and online reputation management, published by Director magazine, suggests that businesses are weary of using social media for fear that it’s like “giant focus groups” but with two crucial differences - ”the questions can’t be controlled and the debate takes place in public.”

That’s not to say that businesses should avoid using social media. Quite the opposite in fact, given that the benefits of using social media far outweigh the concerns that organisations have about safeguarding their online reputation. After all, even if your business chooses not to engage in the online conversation, people are talking about your products and services whether you like it or not. Surely it’s far better to acknowledge the presence of these conversations rather than ignoring them to the potential detriment of your business, especially given that any business would be adequtely prepared to enter the world of social media without fear with the right social media strategy and social media policy in place.

In fact, brands who take on board the criticisms they hear on Facebook, Twitter or through social media monitoring, and then try to improve on them, will be the ones who continue to grow and prosper. Every single piece of information that is picked up online, be it good or bad, is a valuable learning. As Twitter co-founder Evan Williams stated, businesses need to work on their “ability to embrace criticism as well as praise” when it comes to social media.

A good example of a brand that has taken Evan’s advice is Domino’s pizza. Instead of cowering in shame or responding angrily to negative online reviews and comments about their products, Dominos pizza met the criticism head on. They made a documentary describing the extent of their problems and the efforts they were making to improve their products and services. They posted the documentary on YouTube, including the fairly harsh responses from a focus group which deemed the pizza “devoid of any flavour”. The cameras then followed the chefs as they made improvements to the pizzas and then asked focus groups to re-test the new and improved version. They also added a completely un-moderated section to their website to allow people to say whatever the hell they liked about the new offering.

What’s refreshing about this reaction is that it’s completely transparent and wholly honest. Dominos acknowledged the shortcomings their customers highlighted and made every effort to address the issues.

Even more intelligent is the fact that Dominos clearly thought about their long-term business strategy rather than the immediate need to quell any negative comments. They openly addressed the issues that their customers were complaining about so that these same people would  spread word of their proactive response via the same fast-spreading medium. In other words, if you act on negative comments and turn them into positive experiences then the people who you’ve listened to are likely to become your biggest advocates and will start doing your marketing work on your behalf.

To find out more about manging your reputation online and responding to criticism come to B2B Marketing’s seminar about online reputation management.

Online PR and reputation management

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shutterstock_43532716In today’s world, online PR isn’t just about coverage from professional magazines and media sources. Brands also get coverage from the user-generated content that exists on blogs, forums, online communities and by using the other social media tools that are at their disposal.

This increase in online content can help with search engine rankings, website traffic and the spread of word-of-mouth. It can also help businesses get a better understanding about what their customers are saying, be it positive or negative. In fact, the online conversation should be monitored closely so that if any negativity occurs it can be detected,  qualified and responded to in the appropriate manner to ensure the reputation of a brand is not damaged.

But just how do you manage a brand when people are talking on multiple online platforms all around the world? And how do you use the social web to increase your visibility and coverage?

In June we’re sponsoring an Online PR seminar which will help you learn how to use social media as part of your online PR strategy.

Organised by B2B Marketing , the seminar will teach you how to:

  • Develop a ‘push’ strategy so you can better manage your brand’s reputation and influence market opinion.
  • Monitor online conversations so you can engage your audience and develop strategies to manage your reputation online.
  • Increase your visibility on search engines so you can drive more relevant and better quality traffic to your website.
  • Understand how to use social media monitoring monitoring tools to track media coverage and measure ROI.

One of our directors, Charlie Osmond, will cover how to develop a social media strategy to support PR activity. He’ll also cover how to use social media monitoring tools to track media coverage and help maintain your reputation online.

Other speakers at the seminar include Melanie Seasons and Charley Hayes from Online Fire and Sam Dorney from IAS B2B Marketing.

Book your place here or call +44 (0)20 7438 1379.