The worst PR disasters companies can make

Posted on: 29/08/2014


Social media is crucial to any business and tweeting the wrong thing at the wrong time can have devastating effects.

“Going viral” refers to a message that has been shared so much it has spread like wild-fire. Whilst this is great if it’s a link to your all-singing, all-dancing new blog; but if it was an ill-judged tweet about your biggest client, then you’re in big trouble. Companies need to be very careful who they allow access to the Twitter account.

Who could forget the US Airways replying to a customer’s tweet with a picture of a sex act involving a toy plane? This moment of madness from an employee cost them a lot of money, and possibly caused several nervous breakdowns for their PR department. It was probably an annoyed worker who was about to hand in their resignation. This again drives home the message be careful who you give your Twitter log-in details to.

At Collaborative Media we work closely with a broad range of clients and are responsible for helping to improve their brand reach and enhance their PR. We’re also working with Gail Porter for our Career Focus TV site. However, in previous roles I have witnessed some customer service and PR disasters that should be avoided at all costs.

At a previous company a disgruntled worker was entrusted with responding to customers by email. A somewhat pedantic customer emailed to complain that a flag logo had been hung upside down at an event. My colleague replied stating that no company logos would ever be upside down again… He then rotated the company logo on his email signature so it was upside down. Whilst, I found this hysterically funny at the time, Management had made a huge error leaving their most inappropriate worker in charge of emails…In fact if memory serves correct, he also added “SOS I’m being held here against my will,” into the small-print disclaimer at the bottom.

This isn’t to say that your company’s social media should be robotic and utterly humourless. An irreverent, engaging and amusing tone of voice can really help introduce your brand in a fun way. I remember a very funny Twitter exchange between Tesco Mobile, Yorkshire Tea and Jaffa Cakes, in which they debated whether a Jaffa Cake was a cake or a biscuit, amongst other things. Injecting some personality into your tweets helps engagement and can generate significant interest in bizarre exchanges like this one.

It only takes one bad experience for a customer to never use you again. That customer will probably tell many of their friends not to use you too. So, make sure your social media is managed by someone who is motivated, professional and can be engaging without going over-board. Read our interview with Harry Hugo, Social Media Manager of Sportlobster for more tips.

Have you seen a PR or social media disaster? If so please comment below to tell us about it. We will send a tweet out about the best one.

If you’re interested in what we could do for your company, read our post that explains our production process. As ever, please share this post if you enjoyed it.