Public relations professionals are tasked with understanding how and when to use social media to support their organization’s overall marketing and communications goals, but several execs fumbled on Twitter in 2013:
The banking giant’s public relations department announced a Twitter Q&A with Vice Chairman Jimmy Lee in November only to cancel it within 24 hours after the hashtag #AskJPM was flooded with negative sentiment and questions about the bank’s legal practices.
The public relations department, apparently oblivious to the organization’s monstrous reputation and the attitudes of millennials–who make up more than half of Twitter’s U.S. users–quickly realized it was setting up the company’s Vice Chairman for a beating.
The utility company arranged a Q&A to coincide with an announcement that it was increasing prices by 11%. The PR team mistakenly believed that British Gas could effectively respond to customer grievances over the indefensible price hike in a Twitter forum. Of the 16,000+ angry responses, 145 contained the word ‘death’ and 88 accused the company of being ‘greedy.’
The airline’s public relations execs thought a Twitter Q&A with Ryan Air CEO, Michael O’Leary, would soften O’Leary’s public image as arrogant and egotistical. The department failed to prep the CEO, and wrongly assumed that O’Leary had the common sense not to flirt with his customers.
O’Leary also forgot to use the branded hashtag and put dots in front of his responses so that they were visible to all of the company’s followers.
So what are the take away lessons for brands?
Corporate communicators must have a seat at the table. Their role should be to advise their leadership teams on the impact that business decisions will have on the reputation of the brand and counsel executives who are out of touch with how the brand is perceived in the marketplace.
Timing and specificity: Don’t use your corporate Twitter handle to conduct a Q&A with one of your most senior level executives on an undefined topic.
Empathy, authenticity and transparency require a commitment to active listening and putting the needs and concerns of your audiences ahead of your own.
If you can add something to the list or share your own Q&A success or disaster stories please do so in the comments!