How Skittles Crafted the Perfect Response to Donald Trump Jr.

This is a guest post by Brendon Shank, vp, account director, for public relations and social media at Domus, Inc.

This is a guest post by Brendon Shank, vp, account director, for public relations and social media at Domus, Inc.

Last night, Donald Trump Jr. supported his father’s presidential campaign by tweeting a graphic that compared Syrian refugees to Skittles (see right). Seconds after it was sent social media erupted with thousands of responses, many of which also included references to Skittles.

And just a few minutes after that, everyone who works in social media and PR came to the next logical conclusion: “Man, I’m glad I’m not in the Skittles social media department.” The empathy and dread was reasonable — nobody wants their national brand to be dragged into a xenophobic political debate.

But then, the Skittles communications department responded to journalists’ inquiries via email. And it was fantastic.

Let’s dissect this awesomeness, shall we? It was fantastic for three simple reasons:

  1. It was short.

At just 29 words, it was simple enough to be shared and didn’t risk being misinterpreted. Plus, even the sentences were short. The first two sentences were just three words apiece, which was brilliant.

I’m sure that, internally, there was a very strong temptation to add more words to “really tell their story,” but that gives everyone in the social media world the opportunity to take different parts of the response, piece them together as they see fit and cloud the original message. Sticking to a short message requires discipline and leadership and strong counsel; adding words to pacify multiple internal audiences only confuses the external ones. Because remember: Brevity is consistency. Brevity is clarity.

    2. It was human.

We’ve all been there. Going straight into corporate-speak is a way to hedge your bets. But it jeopardizes the opportunity to resonate with audiences. The reason that the Skittles response was shared so widely was because it resonated enough that people instinctively felt compelled to share it.

The Skittles response brought us back to reality. It showed that the Skittles brand team doesn’t take itself so seriously; simply by saying “Skittles is candy” it showed that the company isn’t suffering delusions that their product is something bigger than it is. And kudos for taking the opportunity to underscore the fact that some may have forgotten: “Refugees are people.”

    3. It was fast.

Logistics matter. A speedy response, via email or social media, keeps the brand out ahead of speculation or more “What will Skittles do?” questions.

Props to the Skittles social media and communications teams for overcoming what must have been a panic moment and getting a message together quickly. It’s not easy, and doing so is often a product of good teamwork and trust.

By not waiting until the next morning, they quelled the tidal wave quickly and helped keep themselves above the fray.

brendonBrendon Shank is vp, account director, for public relations and social media at Domus, Inc., an industry-leading marketing, communications services and solutions agency. He is also the chair-elect of the Public Relations Society of America’s Health Academy. He prefers the strawberry Skittles.

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