Introducing On Responding– our People’s Insights monthly briefs for October

Being present on social media, listening to people’s conversations and feedback, and engaging stakeholders in two-way communications…. these are the new norms for organizations, brands and public figures today. In this issue of the People’s Insights monthly briefs, we look at different ways brands, corporate communicators and public have chosen to respond to criticism on social media. The forms of criticism vary from stray comments, detailed blog posts, and op-eds in the New York Times to angry voices on social media. The motivation to respond, though, seems consistent: silence would do more harm. Here’s an overview of the examples featured in this report:

Responding to… Maintain Decorum

When you have a social media page or community, it’s sometimes a smart idea to ignore unconstructive, irrelevant comments. Other times, it’s necessary to respond to take control and maintain healthy environment.

  • Frederike den Ottelander, MSLGROUP’s Head of Digital and Social in the Netherlands, shares the example of how Frans Timmermans, the First Vice-President of the EU Committee, manages his base of over 200,000 followers on Facebook like a ‘social media rockstar.’

Responding to… End Speculation

A silent firm is defined by others, as MSLGROUP’s Pascal Beucler says in The Reputation Complex.

  • Adobe, Intel, Mercedes-Benz and prominent members of the gaming community learned this the hard way, when proponents of Gamergate cited their silence as support for the Gamergate movement. The speculation that followed prompted Adobe and Intel to release statements on the issue, and artists behind the comics Giant Bomb, Oglaf and Nedroid made their stance explicitly clear on their social media pages.
  • Actress Renée Zellweger too felt pressured to release a statement, after her new look became a central point of discussion in the news and on social media. Her motive? To let people know she was happy with her look, and end the floods of conversation.

Responding to… Correct Inaccuracies 

Once it’s online, it’s there forever. Even if it’s not necessarily accurate. In two separate incidents earlier this year, senior executives at Walmart and Coca-Cola strongly countered online criticism that they felt was inaccurate, with lengthy comments and blog posts. This approach was effective in giving the alternative point of view exposure online. But, as you’ll see in the two examples, it can oscillate between promoting a fixed view and engaging in a constructive dialog.

  • Walmart’s former VP of corporate comms David Tovar lashed back at criticism in a New York Times op-ed, by ‘correcting’ the original piece with a handwritten comments in red ink and posting it to the Walmart blog. A bold move that brought his argument to the limelight.
  • Coca-Cola’s former director of digital comms and social media Ashley Brown responded to criticism in a Sparksheet blog post, sparking a deep and insightful conversation with the author and other content marketers over the course of four months.

Responding to… Change Perceptions

For brands that have poor reputations in certain areas, the best defense can be an offense.

  • With its “Our Food. Your Questions.” program, McDonald’s is tackling criticism, rumors and questions about their food head-on. The program launched in Canada in 2012, in Australia in 2013 and was just launched in the United States in October 2014.
  • The NFL too will have to take a long term approach to fix its brand image. After months of criticism about the way it investigated the domestic violence by footballer Ray Rice, the league has recently announced several new initiatives to prevent and manage violence/abuse within the league.

Bonus: Responding to… Set the Tone

In times of crisis, the first response can set the tone for the company’s subsequent activity – and people’s reactions.

  • The Drum has a great analysis on Richard Branson’s immediate response to the Virgin Galactic crash that took place on October 31st, check it out here.

We’d love to hear your take on these approaches. Do share your thoughts with us at @PeoplesLab on Twitter.

Nidhi Chimnani

Nidhi Chimnani

Nidhi is Director of Research and Insights at MSLGROUP. She tracks digital consumer trends for People’s Insights and is community manager of MSLGROUP’s insights community SPRINT. Tweet her at @nidhichimnani

3 Responses to “Introducing On Responding– our People’s Insights monthly briefs for October”

  1. Nidhi Makhija (@NidhiMakhija)

    RT @PeoplesLab: Introducing “On Responding” our latest monthly brief on how brands/public figures respond to criticism online…

  2. scottbeaudoin (@scottbeaudoin)

    Introducing On Responding– our People’s Insights monthly briefs for October

  3. parveez modak (@parveezmodak)

    Introducing On Responding– our People’s Insights monthly briefs for October


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