The Perfect Response to Social Media Crisis
The DiGiorno pizza brand was recently applauded by industry media for the way its team handled the aftermath of its #WhyIStayed social media screw up. Less remarked upon was the official apology issued by the parent brand, Nestle USA.
The community manager responded on Twitter to each and every person who complained or commented. Judging by positive responses on Twitter, this approach undid a lot of the damage. Then Nestle USA effectively closed the issue by weighing in as well with this message, which was then distributed by all the media weighing in on the fracas:
This tweet was a mistake, quickly realized as such and deleted seconds later.
Our community manager - and the entire DiGiorno team - is truly sorry. The tweet does not reflect our values and we've been personally responding to everyone who has engaged with us on social media.
Weighing in at the brand level, not just in tweets, was the right thing to do. While Nestle's response isn't quite perfect, it does embody a few best practices that I'd suggest all brands consider when making an official response.
1. Respond to the Issue Directly
Don't dance around it. Fans and customers respond much better to the "we blew it" approach than to the "we're sorry if you felt bad" approach. It's OK to explain what happened, but only after clearly acknowledging what went wrong.
2. Be Transparent and Forthcoming
Have you ever heard children try to explain why they misbehaved? That's how many brands sound to customers when they try to explain why they screwed up. Unless there are critical facts in error, don't start with the explanation, just apologize. Nestle's statement started with the explanation, it's true—but to its credit, the brand didn't ignore the issue, and dozens of apologies had already been made on Twitter. Own it, take responsibility, and take the appropriate next step.
3. Be Humble
You (or whoever signs or speaks the apology) are not the all-powerful Oz in that moment, no matter how influential your brand. You are a human being standing in front of another human being to apologize—which is exactly how the person writing the DiGiorno tweets came across. Nestle's response is more formal "PR" style, yet it clearly and humbly conveys that real people are taking responsibility, and it specifies how.
4. Be Conversational, Not Robotic
Select a voice and tone for the responses that will ease tensions, not add to them. Don't sound robotic or overly corporate. Be human.
All of these best practices, of course, apply for direct responses in social. But they deserve special attention from PR and legal teams, which tend to adopt more formalized language in the attempt to manage risk and speak to all audiences. In a world where social is the primary means of communication with customers, any brand messaging needs to be scrutinized with that audience and medium in mind. Companies that seem to have two voices risk losing the most important thing of all—customers' trust.
Nestle exhibited one other best practice worth mentioning: It hasn't fired (at least not publicly) the otherwise successful Tweeter. Earlier this year, U.S. Airways set a similar precedent when it decided not to fire an employee who accidentally shared a pornographic link. "It was an honest mistake and it was done while capturing the tweet and flagging it as inappropriate, our standard procedure," as a company spokesman told CNN Money.
In both cases, the furor died down quickly because the brands successfully communicated that a human being had made a sloppy but unintentional—and very human—error. Customers understand that, and they'll like you even more by sticking by a loyal employee who otherwise has done a great job engaging customers in the social space.
Adapted from The CMO's Social Media Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide for Leading Marketing Teams in the Social Media World, by Peter Friedman, CEO and Chairman of San Jose, Cal.-based social content marketing company LiveWorld. Reach him on Twitter @PeterFriedman.