The events in Ferguson, MO warrant the need for community leaders to activate their crisis communications plan, if they have one. But the power of Black Twitter, amid the protests, presents an amazing crisis communications and public relations case study.
Generally, protesters win the public relations battle against any establishment during a protest. Those on the offense present their case more passionately – sometimes with accuracy and often with a heavy dose of one side of the story. Those in government or in business generally hunker down behind lawyers, rules and restrictions, offering far less information to the media and the community. The lack of facts creates the impression that the establishment is hiding the truth.
Then there is the issue of the media and how they cover the story. Are the media fair to both sides?
A story by Laura Sydellon NPR’s All Things Considered examines the power of social media in a crisis. The hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown began trending on Twitter among blacks after the media showed a picture of shooting victim Michael Brown, which the black community felt misrepresented him. Using Twitter, the black online community pressured the media to select a new photo. According to Sydell’s report, Twitter is such a prolific communications tool in the black community that a huge segment of the Twitter audience is now known as Black Twitter.
Listen to Sydell’s report and study the Twitter hashtag. Consider how your company or government entity would manage their crisis communications in the future when they are faced with a protest that goes viral.
https://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.png00gbraudhttps://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.pnggbraud2014-08-14 08:25:052021-05-20 05:38:54Black Twitter, the Shooting of Michael Brown, and Crisis Communications In the Age of Social Media
Experts in crisis communication know social media in corporate communications is highly likely to lead to a crisis. I would say more brands are likely to be harmed than helped by a social media brand page.
Home Depot leaders acted swiftly to fire an outside agency and an employee who posted a picture on Twitter that depicted two black drummers and a third drummer with a monkey mask, with the tweet, “Which drummer is not like the others?”
Good job Home Depot for acting swiftly. Good job Home Depot for terminating the agency and personnel who clearly don’t understand the need to think before Tweeting.
Immediately there were cries of racism. The drummers were beating on Home Depot plastic buckets and sitting in front of a promotional banner for Home Depot’s sponsorship of College Game Day.
To their credit, Home Depot used the same offending brand Twitter page to post an apology that said, “We have zero tolerance for anything so stupid and offensive. Deeply sorry. We terminated agency and individual who posted it.”
I love that in a world where lawyers don’t let public relations employees say “sorry,” that Home Depot uses the word “sorry.” I love that they use the word “stupid.” The tweet apology is well written and conveys the anger the company feels toward the offending agency and employee.
Home Depot uses a Facebook and YouTube brand page, but nothing is posted there relating to the Tweet. The Home Depot home page and Media Center also have no news releases or apologies.
From a crisis communication perspective, in this case I think I agree with the Home Depot public relations and crisis communication strategy to confine the crisis to only the offending branch of social media and not bring it over to Facebook or YouTube. However, now that the story is making headlines in newspapers and morning television, I think an apology in the corporate Media Center newsroom on their primary website would be in order. In fact, I would have put up a news release apology in the corporate site newsroom within minutes of issuing the apology tweet. By the way, in the crisis communication plan system that I suggest you have, such an apology would be pre-written and pre-approved on a clear sunny day… written months ago and waiting in the addendum of your crisis communication plan.
In a crisis, it is important to tell the story from your perspective and to own the search engine optimization (SEO) for your brand and your story. Posting in your corporate newsroom helps with this. Failure to do so sends anyone searching for information to other pontifications, reports and blogs… like this one.
What should you do in your brand?
1) Review your social media policy and make it tough. The social media policies that we write at Braud Communications on behalf of our clients are brutally tough.
2) Terminate those who post recklessly.
3) Pre-determine whether a social media crisis requires response on all social media channels or only the offending channel.
4) Pre-determine if your home page newsroom will be used for an apology. I think it should be used.
5) Consider establishing a rule that two to three internal eyes need to review every social media post before anyone hits send. Make sure those 2 to 3 people represent the cultural and age diversity of your audience. In the case of Home Depot, it was clear that the age or cultural background of the person who posted this tweet was such that it likely never crossed their mind that this tweet might be considered racist.
https://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.png00gbraudhttps://braudcommunications.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Logo-white-01-300x138.pnggbraud2013-11-08 09:33:292021-05-20 23:52:34Experts in Crisis Communication Agree: Home Depot Tweet Gone Wrong: 5 Things Your Public Relations Team Should Do Right Now