Embrace the negative publicity

We’ve all seen marketing campaigns go horribly wrong.  With social media today, a company can’t get away with anything without some public opinions on Twitter or Facebook.  The trick is not to react emotionally to this type of social commentary; sometimes you should embrace it.  Yes, seriously!

In the 60′s, Avis Car Rentals were the number two player in their market.  Instead of shying away from the fact that they didn’t have the largest market share, they embraced it with an advertising campaign leading with the phrase: “We’re number two, so we try harder”.  Such a clever, simple campaign which also implied that the market leader would not be offering the same level of customer service.  This ad campaign was continued for many years following the spike in market share that followed.

This week, I’ve seen an ad for Harvey Norman advertising their “Hardly Normal” sale.  Now the phrase Hardly Normal is often used as a derogatory descriptor of the company in social media.  When a consumer is disgruntled, they use it to re-brand Harvey Norman.  By using it as a catch phrase in their own advertising, they’re disarming the negative commentary and ‘owning’ it.

I was talking to someone in digital marketing at an international corporation about some comments made on their Facebook page.  They were new to the social media game, and had some rather negative comments posted on their wall by a consumer relating to a public figure they were using for their current ad campaign.  It was decided that rather than deleting the comments, they would address the individual’s concerns and monitor the page a little more closely over the following week.  The idea of deleting the comments would be a reactive, emotional strategy and it would mean constant monitoring to delete follow up comments.  This is also not in the spirit of Social Media.  If you are going to dip your toe in the SM pool, you need to be prepared for some negativity.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve seen two companies use the ‘delete’ strategy in the last week.  The backlash was that individuals on Twitter and Facebook were spreading the word of their concerns on their own pages.  This was then shared, retweeted and the ‘problems’ went viral very quickly.  It would have been far more effective to address the issues head on, answer questions and show a united front for their brand.  The end result was a train wreck.

I know it can be hard to take negativity on board.  Trust me, I know.  However in managing the social media pages for several small businesses, I also know that people-power is an incredible force not to be reckoned with.  You need to be aware of how quickly a message of negativity can go viral in this digital age.  The truth is, regardless of the size of your brand/business/blog you’re going to receive some unsavoury comments at times.  It’s easy to become emotional and tweet in defiant anger, but this will rarely see a positive outcome.  Instead, you should embrace (or at least address) the issues that are raised.  Take a step back, a deep breath and look at what is being said.  Can you turn it to your advantage?

How do you address negativity in your business?  Any tips for our working women?

  1. Traci O'Sullivan
    May 1, 2012 | 10:48 am

    Love this ~ thanks for sharing!

  2. Margaret
    May 1, 2012 | 11:06 am

    Not sure whether anyone else remembers the Tylenol product tampering case, but they handled it brilliantly by addressing the problem very quickly, communicated to the nth degree, complied with every request made – even silly and drastic ones made in a knee jerk response, then introduced ground breaking tamper-proof packaging. They turned a terrible situation into a very positive PR exercise, and didn’t suffer long term loss as a result.

    • workingwomenaustralia
      May 1, 2012 | 4:11 pm

      I remember talking about that case in my Law of Marketing class at Swinburne ;) It was handled very well by addressing the problem head-on. Just goes to prove that a negative situation can be turned around, and that is an extreme case.

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