Intern Insights: Rumor has it

By Posted in - Public Relations & Social Media on June 10th, 2011 0 Comments

In our day and age of fast-paced communication, news spreads like wildfire. While technology and social media certainly have many advantages, there are also disadvantages. The recent Rep. Anthony Weiner incident comes to mind. Rep. Weiner made the mistake of tweeting a photo instead of sending the photo in a DM. While this mistake may not always result in nationwide news, it did in this case  and Rep. Weiner now has a severely damaged reputation because of a social media mistake.

Not only do we have to deal with our own social media mistakes, sometimes we also have to deal with lies and rumors started by others in the social media world. McDonald’s recently dealt with this situation in March when the tags #McSushi and #McLobster began trending on Twitter. However, McDonald’s doesn’t have lobster rolls in the US and has no intention of bringing them here. While the subject matter itself, although false,  is not necessarily harming to McDonald’s reputation, the jokes and comments about the lobster roll quickly turned crude. McDonald’s director of social media, Rick Wion, began to devise a plan.

The company tried to dispel the rumors by stating that McDonald’s didn’t have any plans to bring the lobster rolls to the U.S. However, the negative tweets continued to plague the company. Wion quickly realized he had to come up with a plan to completely change the conversation. He took the Charlie Sheen approach and incorporated the term “McWinning” into the next tweet.

The offensive approach worked and rumors about the McLobster ceased. While this approach wouldn’t have worked in a traditional press release, it was perfect for Twitter. Wion realized he needed to shift the conversation immediately and used a light-hearted approach without hurting the McDonald’s brand.

Crisis communication is an aspect of public relations that all PR practitioners will have to face at some point in our career. While it’s not an easy situation to deal with, we must be able come up with a plan that will shed a positive light on the company in the eyes of the public. Sometimes this means admitting a mistake, apologizing and sharing the ways the company has learned from the situation. As we have seen in McDonald’s situation, sometimes a humorous tweet can fix the problem.

Although I have not had to deal with crisis communication in my internships yet, I know the day will come. The best thing I can do to prepare for this is to stay updated on how various companies deal with crisis situation. It’s important to know what strategies work and which don’t. While learning from your mistakes is a good way to learn, it’s even better when you can learn from someone else’s mistakes.

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