Companies used to be banned from admitting error. In the 80s and 90s, admitting you didn’t know something was cause to be publicly slimed on television. People and brands were expected to know all and to appear infallible as a way of scooping up street cred. But, times have changed.
Oh boy, have they changed.
In the world of social media, it’s now the opposite that is true. Today we look at a brand’s ability to admit wrongdoing and to ask for forgiveness as a sign of strength, character and proof that they’re “just like us”. In the era of engagement and 24-hour Internet firestorms, owning your goofs has become a brand’s best line of defense in protecting itself from becoming publicly slimed. By admitting error and being transparent in your attempts to clean it up, brands can actually come away from public gaffes better than they came in. Unfortunately, many brands still refuse to accept this. They drag their feet hopping on the forgiveness wagon and instead get dragged over the coals in the court of public opinion. But it doesn’t have to go down like that!
Let’s take a look at three brands that were recently slimed in social media and how they could have lessened the damage if they only said “we’re sorry”.
Judith Griggs & The Copyright Follies
Our friend Rebecca Kelley did a great job breaking down all the ways that Cooks Source is doing it wrong in social media, recounting a story that’s quickly grown legs longer than Yao Ming’s. In her post, Rebecca illustrates how Cook Source continues to stab itself in the face instead of just saying “We’re sorry” and finding a way to make right and move on. Maybe they think admitting error will make them lose face or maybe they just don’t care – either way, by NOT admitting they royally messed up, Cooks Source magazine has earned itself:
- Negative coverage in the Washington Post, Consumerist, LA Times Food Blog, MSNBC, Gawker and elsewhere. Not to mention a never-ending series of blog posts “evaluating” the situation. [Holla!]
- A fake @CrooksSource Twitter account
- Thousands of angry tweets
- An insult-flooded Facebook Page they ultimately closed down.
- A brand new Facebook page dedicated to all the other articles the magazine has stolen over the years.
- And a hoard of other BS the brand simply doesn’t need.
All that because they can’t say they’re sorry and stop adding fuel to the fire. Forking over $130 to the Columbia School of Journalism and offering a mea culpa would have been WAY cheaper than the online reputation management specialist they’re now going to have to hire to clean up their SERPs. Cooks Source could have turned the situation around to champion for online content writers – instead they keep insulting people on their new Facebook page. Smooth.
Price Chopper’s Attempt To Hide The Body
If you live in the year 2010, you probably didn’t know that November 4th is National Men Make Dinner Day. You missed it because you live in an era where it’s common for men and women to share household chores. However, Price Chopper, a semi-popular grocery chain on the East Coast, seemingly does not. They live in the Donna Reid-era where it makes sense to tweet things like this:
@PriceChopperNY Ladies, don’t feel like cooking tonight? You’re in luck! Today is National Men Make Dinner Day!
Okay, so it’s not like told women to get off their asses and into the kitchen, but the tweet still offended plenty of people with its wording. Women cried it was sexist and men got loud wanting some recognition for actually pulling their weight around the house. All Price Chopper had to do was apologize for a somewhat questionable tweet and everyone would have moved on. Instead, they poured gasoline all over the flame by deleting the tweet.
Oh yes. They did.
Price Chopper deleted the tweet to earn the ire of pretty much everyone watching the situation. To make matters worse, this was Price Choppers second social media fail in less than two months. Back in September, a Price Chopper representative made news after attempting to get a Twitter user fired for tweeting negative comments about the store, labeling the individual “destructive” and “negative”. As you can imagine, a media fire storm ensued when a corporate was picking on a private person. Now, Price Chopper was back for Round 2 and seemingly none the wiser. High fives, guys!
Had Price Chopper apologize from the beginning, the small flame would have been immediately squashed. But when you try and hide the body, it just makes it juicier when someone finds it. Apologize and move on.
Marie Claire Prods Customers Like Fat Cows
Marie Claire is a fashion magazine that cashes in by putting skinny people on its covers and airbrushing them to make them look even skinnier. In a world where many of us have (completely justified) weight issues, you’d think Marie Claire would be extra careful of offending and objectifying readers, right? Well, if you did you’d be wrong. Dead, fat wrong.
As we mentioned last month, Marie Claire’s Maura Kelly decided to abandon common sense and use the company blog to explain how “fatties” on TV royally disgust her.
That sound you hear? That’s the sound of a reputable fashion magazine being slimed after essentially calling its overweight readers disgusting. That really happened. The result was 28,000+ emails to the editor, thousands of tweets and Facebook messages, and a whole lot of Internet fury.
Marie Claire tried to make the situation right by justifying why Maura may have written the piece (she’s a recovering anorexic), stammering that she didn’t mean to offend anyone and, ultimately, offering up a lot of excuses. What Marie Claire didn’t do was apologize. And at the end of the day, that’s really what their readers were waiting for.
And it’s what YOUR customers and/or readers are waiting for, too.
We get it. If you enter into the world of social media, at some point, you’re going to fall on your face. And that’s fine. But when your brand goofs in full public view, you need to apologize to help get people back on your side. Before all the internal strategizing and the attempts at transparency, you need to say you’re sorry and change the tone of the conversation before things escalate any further. Because if you don’t apologize, they will escalate. And that’s something that none of the three brands remembered or took into consideration. Before you can go forward, you have to change the conversation. Just say you’re sorry. We’re all waiting.