Let me just start by saying that conflict is neutral. It doesn’t pick sides. Sure, there is good conflict and there is bad conflict, but ultimately conflict is neutral. What determines its outcome is not the conflict in and of itself, but rather how we react to it. If we react to the situation well, it will likely turn out well, and, of course, if we don’t react well, it will not turn out so well.
Social media has taken these decision processes to a new level. When social media rears its ugly head, companies still have those same two options, but they are now on a grander scale with a bigger audience. Back in the day (relax…only a few years ago) companies could commercial and advertise their way out of a situation. They would take their time, consult their PR firms, lawyers, board, executive staff and then put out TV commercials, billboards, and radio ads to market their way out of the situation. Now companies no longer have a few weeks to do this, now they must figure out what they are going to do in a matter of days and hours.
Let’s look at a quick example. Sure it’s an older one, but it perfectly illustrates my point.
We have a mis-tweet. We have a conflict. Chrysler (well…the company they hired) messed up. Before this tweet, as I’m sure you can imagine, the company was building their brand. They were talking in a human voice, connecting to their audience and building their community. Then they screwed up, pissed off their community (and many others) and retreated with their tail between their legs. They quickly consulted with their PR firms, lawyers, and whomever else they could get a hold of and put out this response:
So what happened here? Here’s a mistake that many, many businesses are making. They went from humanizing their brand, developing their voice and their community, to slapping their community in the face and poking them in the eye with a “press release” response. They don’t take responsibility, don’t give a further explanation, and it looks like their legal team wrote the tweet. Except it didn’t stop there! They wrote a blog post to continue the assault on their community by stomping on their feet and kneeing them in the groin.
Why Press Release Responses Are No Longer Acceptable
In a world where brands are desperately trying to find their voice online, interact with and build a community to sell more products, the second they see a potential issue or conflict they revert into their old ways. The press release. “Let’s lawyer the shit out of this so we can protect ourselves from any potential lawsuits”, is what that says to me and people aren’t buying it anymore. Here’s the thing with humanization; If you want to be a brand that interacts with people and have a personality, you can’t just ditch it at the first sight of conflict. It hurts your community, it hurts your reputation, it hurts your brand. This Chrysler situation happened roughly a year ago, and many people can still remember the incident vividly. This past year I bought a car, you know what dealership I didn’t even bother visiting? That’s right! It left the taste of blood in my mouth and I lost a lot of respect for them.
Think of any one of your relationships…what would happen if you screwed something up? Would you go and apologize? Maybe take responsibility? Talk with them to see how you could fix it? Or would you talk to a lawyer and read them a wonderfully put together press release?
To me it’s a no brainer, what do you think?