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There’s no such thing as bad publicity…

At least that’s what they used to say. The assumption is that as long as people are talking about you, even if they are announcing that your brand/product/service/new novel is utter trash, it will only build your fame and increase your success.

If you look at the latest high-profile Social Media PR-disaster, it seems like bad publicity can certainly be a good thing… so long the brand responds in a smart way.

Take the example of British Feminine Hygiene brand Bodyform’s handling of a Facebook comment that made it the laughing stock of the Web.

This superbly ironic comment went massively viral, making Bodyform’s carefully-crafted marketing messages surrounding carefree, energetic and supposedly menstruating women having a blast while wearing white capri pants, look totally stupid.

And let’s be honest – it’s freakin’ ridiculous!

And yes, you are reading correctly – this one post got more than 87,000 likes. Considering Bodyform’s page had less than 3,000 likes total before this comment, this kind of mass sneering at its expense threatened to hijack its branding completely. And all this PR havoc was generated by a guy called Richard Neill, an ordinary Facebook citizen with just 313 friends (and a wicked sense of humor).

Thankfully, Bodyform got smart and responded with a hilarious video, that is now going viral. The video is doing a great job of restoring its Bodyform’s dignity, while positioning it as a brand that is in-touch with the irreverent atmosphere of Facebook. As a result, Bodyform more than doubled it’s page likes, while gaining exposure for its brand from a wide audience.

Other companies have faced PR crisis on social media with less success: GoDaddy was seriously slammed after it’s founder posted a video of himself killing an elephant and lost clients as a result; KitchenAid didn’t make much of the scandal after an employee accidentally posted an insensitive tweet about President Omaba’s dead grandma from the company account – firing the employee didn’t make its brand more loveable; and Dominos Pizza did only a ho-hum job of responding a viral video of its employees tainting the food in one of its restaurants.

Bodyform, on the other hand, recognized that the the magic words in these situations is simply:

“Sorry, Richard. We’re sorry.”

Get a dignified blonde lady with an deadpan British sense of humor to say that for you, and you can’t go wrong :).

If brands aim to make themselves more human, then it seems that its OK if they occasionally make mistakes, are inconsistent and are hypocritical. We’re all like that.

Most of us learned by high-school that a willingness to acknowledge your flaws, preferably with humor, wins us friends and helps us out of all sorts of embarrassing situations. Brands needs to apply the same social skills in order to navigate the stormy waters of online reputation in the Social era.

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