Like the many millions of other users of Facebook, I have succumbed to becoming a fan of meaningless ‘groups’ which try and make a statement about some sort of topical issue (aka the ‘Busselton needs a nightclub’ group). One ‘group’ that I found particularly interesting was the ‘I hate Rivers ads’ group. Upon further investigation I was shocked to find that over 100,000 people are fans, and the page is filled with blasphemous, uncensored comments about why people hate the store, and their advertising so much. Every business, large or small, encounters some form of bad PR, even if it is just in the form of a verbally unsatisfied customer, but the River’s example proves that management of bad PR is very important – let it go and you could have 100,000 people communicating their dissatisfaction to the masses.

Social media has provided a scarily public outlet for anyone to vent their frustrations with companies or brands, and this extends to employers too. There are many horror stories of people losing their job because of off-hand Facebook comments. Of course, it works the other way – people can very easily learn about, support and love, your company or brand via social media i.e. the ‘McDonalds should deliver’ group.

What’s worse is that generation Y, Z and beyond are classic bandwagon-jumpers. If something is ‘cool’, they’ll all scramble to get on board, even if they only half support or agree with it. So, whilst probably only 5% of those 100,000 people have honestly had a bad experience with Rivers, the rest have jumped on the wagon to show their support, and probably wouldn’t be caught dead in a Rivers store for the rest of their lives.

We talk to all of our clients about the benefits of being involved with social media but this exercise reminded me that social media is not a set-and-forget form of marketing, that simply generates you more web traffic, contrary to popular belief. It requires careful attention on a regular basis. How the marketing team at Rivers (if there is one) let this group grow so large, or be established in the first place, is completely beyond my understanding.

In addition, don’t let bad PR get out of control, even if it is a dissatisfied customer who might tell a few of their friends. In the electronic and ‘instant communication’ environment we live in, you’ll have an anti-fan club started before the customer walks out the door. Someone gave me some great advice once, after making a monumental stuff up: ‘I’m not concerned about the problem, just how you fix it’. So in minimising bad PR I offer you this piece of advice – don’t hide from your stuff up – tackle it face on and find a way to minimise the damage. Turn your ‘stuff up’ into an opportunity
to impress.