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


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

So you’ve tweeted something you shouldn’t have…what next?


After drunken night at Chris' II_MMVI

Image by andronicusmax via Flickr

It’s happened to all of us. We think we’re logged into one account, when actually we’re logged into another. We think we’re sending a Direct Message, when actually we’re sending a a message to the world. Or maybe we just don’t think and regret saying something. Whether you’re an individual or a brand, Tweeting something you shouldn’t have can be a cause of concern, panic and, often, inertia. What should you do? Ignore it? Apologise? Do you risk making things worse?

Here are some simple thoughts to help you decide how you should act and what you should do when that mis-Tweet happens.

So you Tweeted from the wrong account

Maybe you have two accounts - one for a close group of friends and one that is public - or maybe you Tweet on behalf of a brand as well as in a personal capacity. Tweeting from the wrong account is a common occurrence for many people and is easily done. In many cases this won’t be a problem - okay maybe you just told your friends all about some special offer your company has on this week or pointed them to a blog post they probably aren’t interested in, but that doesn’t really matter. Nor does it necessarily matter if you tell your brand’s followers about a football match you are at or what you are watching on TV - as long as these Tweets aren’t hugely inappropriate they reinforce that there is a real person behind this branded account who does real stuff in their real life. In these cases, a simple (possibly humourous) acknowledgement that you sent the Tweet to the wrong place should suffice. And remember to not do it again!

Things become more difficult if you have said something inappropriate to the audience (or just inappropriate per se). If you’ve tweeted something to the world that you meant only for some close friends you need to make sure you delete the message, apologise and apologise to anybody who mentions it or complains to you. If you’re a brand and an employee has done the same then the same rules probably apply: delete the Tweet, apologise and apologise to everybody who mentions it. If you’re a brand you might also want to consider if the employee’s conduct required disciplinary action and it may be worth including this information in your apology Tweet.

So you sent a Direct Message to the world by mistake

A mistake many novice users make and that is also easy to do. Again, there may be no problem here - if the Tweet isn’t offensive to the audience that sees it (and isn’t confidential) then apologise and maybe just leave it. The problem comes when the Tweet isn’t appropriate for everybody to see, and if it was a DM in the first place this is highly likely to be the case. Once something is public others will be retweeting it and mentioning it so you cannot just pretend the Tweet didn’t happen. You can just follow the same process as above: delete the Tweet, apologise and explain to those that mentions it and be more careful in future. You may also choose, especially if you are new to Twitter, to show some humility (“Looks like I’m still getting used to Twitter, doesn’t it…”).

You should also consider what you are using DMs for and what you are saying - maybe what you said was better off Twitter completely.

So you regret something you said on Twitter

Finally, and the most common situation, you say something that you later regret. Maybe you Tweeting something late at night that you wouldn’t say in the cold light of day. Maybe you said something that sounds worse than you meant. Or maybe your conversation should never have been public in the first place. Just as with a mis-Tweet, if you say something you later regret then you can’t just pretend it never happened. People may be retweeting it and mentioning it already. One thing you should consider, however, is whether you making an issue of the regretted Tweet will actually make things worse. Some Tweets (especially those late at night) may go unread and as long as they are misjudged rather than offensive or libelous it may be that you just leave things.

However, in most cases you will need to act. If what you have said is offensive to some of your audience and you regret it you should probably apologise - be open and honest that it was a mistake and you regret it now, contact people directly with the same apology. And then think carefully about how and when you use Twitter.

We all make mistakes and people understand that. But we should think carefully about what we say on any public channel (our personal accounts or a branded account) and think if it would be better to just not say it at all in the first place.