One of my favorite business publications is Fast Company. I devoured the October 2010 issue and amassed various tear sheets for the to-blog-about pile one of which was “Not So Slick.” This story in the section “NEXT Social Media” is about the BP tweep imposter @BPGlobalPR who took the Twitterosphere for a ride poking fun at BP for its handling and mismanagement of the oil spill crisis.
Leroy Stick, a comedy writer, seized an opportunity to create an outlet for the public’s wrath, launched the faux BP Twitter account and off to the races. As of this writing, Leroy has 186,590 followers with only 493 tweets and 8,148 listed. In the scheme of tweeting, that’s not a ton of content delivery; but, listed on 8K+? That is amazing.
The real corporate account @bp_america, “languished at a tenth of that,” according to Fast Company.
So, what’s the lesson for the day?
Companies cannot control their brand in the age of social media i.e. word-of-mouth marketing, Facebook and Twitter et al.
When you think about the magnitude of that statement, it’s frightening. We’ve seen so many examples of corporations lost in the throes of a defensive game on social media that more often than not has failed.
I’ve written about these stories relating to Nestle, Pampers, Sun Chips, Gap, and BP. Soon after I began to engage on Twitter, Dominos debacle had just occurred (when two pizza makers jokingly blew their noses in the cheese pie captured on video). Watching the corporate giants struggle with word of mouth and social media may bring some laughs, but this hits close to home for any company attempting to promote brand awareness online.
When a brand touches millions of people, there’s no doubt the lightening speed of the Ethernet is uncontrollable. How can a company attempt to control its brand if a crisis erupts?
- First things first…prior to a crisis, marketing public relations needs to make everything tight – messaging, stories, training of spokespeople, collateral, websites, social networking sites, and regular engagement on social media, etc.
- In the can should be approved corporate messages that senior leadership can dust off and easily update in the event that social media is the impetus behind the storm.
- There needs to be a highly strategic social media team in place who can call the shots on the fly 24/7 across all time zones.
- A pre-approved team of spokespeople need to have the media training to address all types of media at any time of the day; this means bloggers, Twitter chats, Facebookers, LinkedIn groups, and traditional media, too.
- Accessibility is so critical during a crisis; the more the doors remain closed the more others win an offensive posture. So, be accessible to at least control the message and attempt to manage the brand at the same time.
I don’t have all the answers; apparently, no one does. Sustainability expert Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz.com said it well in Fast Company, “It really comes down to storytelling—if you don’t tell your story well, someone else will tell it for you.”