Hi, Katie here. Social Marketing Manager for Billboard by day (and night), wannabe chef (and yoga instructor) by night.
Katie again. I missed the debate. Oops.
I did, however, arrive RIGHT in time to see the aftermath… and continue to see it this morning as I sit in an office right next to my AdWeek colleagues (they’re a sister company of Billboard’s).
Lauren and I were Tweeting each other last night watching this all unfold, and continued chatting this morning about the various points being discussed (or not) around this gaffe.
Here’s a summary of the main responses so far:
- Never hire someone young to manage your social media
- See? This is why you need agencies to manage your social media!
- Always use separate tools to manage your work/personal social media accounts
- I would never make the same mistake! How horrible! They should be fired!
- Fire the person who did this, immediately!
- The world is ending
OK, so that last one wasn’t really a serious response… but you get the point.
We’ve been watching this unfold over the night and into the morning and both Lauren and I agree that there’s been an utter lack of real discussion taking place about this. Yes, it’s a big public mistake. Yes, judging by this Tweet, someone did get fired.
It was carelessly sent in error by a member of our Twitter team who, needless to say, won’t be tweeting for us anymore.
— KitchenAid (@KitchenAidUSA) October 4, 2012
But, at the heart of the matter, this was a mistake that shouldn’t have happened and it’s a mistake that hasn’t been handled in the best way possible since it was made. Why not? Here’s why…
Media Relations/Crisis Communications
Acknowledgement of a situation, assessment and solution are three distinct, and different components of a crisis communications plan.
Acknowledge a situation within 10 minutes of it occurring and you are made aware of the situation. Acknowledge that you are apologetic, you are looking into it and will provide information as you are able.
Do not, under any circumstance, start rapid-fire tweeting media that you would like to go on record to talk until you have all facts and are prepared to discuss.
This happens on an internal level. Your crisis communications team should be put in place as follows: CEO, HR, Legal, Marketing and PR, if appropriate. For us, our social team falls under marketing.
Take a deep breath, as you’re going to be running on adrenaline for a few hours. Each person on the team should have a role: The CEO should work with Marketing to craft a statement, then run it past Legal and PR. HR should be checking the corporate social media policy to see if any rules were broken and how to handle.
PR at this point should be fielding media calls with a, “We are aware of the situation, and as soon as we have more information we will be more than happy to discuss with you about what happened.
Once the statement is crafted and approved, get it up on your website. One tweet should be sent linking to the statement, and RT it out every 15-20 minutes. Post it on your brand Facebook page and pin it to the top so people see it. Only respond to persons/customers if inaccurate information or questions are asked.
A few things that KitchenAid can improve on:
- Do not double tweet the same exact tweet to multiple media outlets, or in this case, the same tweet to the same outlet twice
- Field media calls and inquiries offline if at all possible – the frantic tweeting can make the situation look worse
- Don’t move to DM immediately – if this started in public, continue it in public until it’s absolutely necessary to move to DM.
- Include customer comments and response planning in your crisis communication plan. In this case, KitchenAid could have decided that no customer should receive a response, or they could have left this tactic out of their plan. Either way, they’ve received hundreds of replies and haven’t responded to a single one outside of people who work for media outlets offering interviews
The difference in this situation vs. other similar embarrassing brand situations (Red Cross, Chrysler – to name a few), is that the person who sent the erroneous Tweet was fired. Publicly. Over Twitter. In real-time. Even assuming that KitchenAid followed their own termination procedures to the letter, that is not the proper way to announce someone’s terminated employment to the world. Even announcing it as a response to a question in an interview would have been better, instead of a Tweet right in the thick of the moment.
How many companies out there have “how to publicly announce employee departures” built into their crisis comms plan? Our bet. Not many. Chime in if you do.
Companies also need to think about how they positioned the tweet about the assumed public firing, because it is seen by a ton of eyes. People then went and investigated who could have tweeted it, speculate what happened and why, and it continues to impact the brand in a negative manner.
As an HR person, laws are different in each state and every company has their own policy. However, unless you’re willing to make said policy public, all handlings of this nature should be taken offline.
Even beyond the scope of what KitchenAid did right or wrong, we’re both astounded at the absolute lack of real discussion taking place inside the “social media fishbowl”. The focus seems to be entirely on the tools used, or the age of the person Tweeting, rather than the real issue at hand…
How much should social media professionals reveal about themselves publicly and what responsibilities do they have to the companies they (we) work for in that regard?
It’s a complicated issue, and there’s no doubt that it differs based on your personal brand and the company you work for. Some people were hired because of their “edgy” or “opinionated” personality, or work in diverse industries where personal comments and opinions are regularly shared publicly. Other people or brands are more conservative, and social media/marketing professional need to understand what is expected from them on the brand side.
So sound off in the comments: What do you think? Let’s get a discussion going.