Social media PR disasters and mistakes

Social media PR disasters and mistakes

Summary: Social media can be a double-edged sword.. how have some companies impaled themselves?


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  • A Greenpeace campaign against palm oil policies that were considered 'unsustainable' dissolved into a row between the organization and Nestlé, which ended up spilling across multiple social networking platforms.

    Greenpeace accused the corporation of advocating an unsustainable policy on their use of palm oil, which in turn meant it was damaging the rain forest. The reaction of social media followers was to post angry comments on the Nestlé Facebook fan page.

    A mistake the corporation would commit in reaction to this negative exposure would result in antagonizing the issue further. It became defensive, and in the world of social media, attempting to quash outrage usually results in the opposite effect.

    Without professional community channels and managers, the reaction of one (or several) company individuals damaged the brand in the eyes of social media users. Without a correct 'damage control' policy in place, the actual issue was forgotten, and Nestlé's customer service entered the spotlight.


  • In January 2009, student Alan Parsa found himself in need of a job while studying documentary film making at Chicago's Columbia College.

    Like many students before him, he went online to try and find some work, and eventually stumbled across's Mechanical Turk -- promoted as the 'marketplace for work'.

    One possible job caught Parsa's eye. Clicking on the link, the job description stated that payment would be given for writing 5/5 (100%) reviews for products manufactured by Belkin. Posters should also 'write the review as if they own the product' and 'thank the website for making you such a great deal'.

    Dissatisfied with the dishonest nature of the work, the student quickly blogged about his findings, and it took mere hours to break across the Internet and go viral. The company were slow to respond to the story, and by the time Belkin's president issued an apology, the damage was already done.


  • Bad PR is a strange thing. In new companies, it can generally be used as a learning curve, and damage control is possible. But what happens when a supposed PR 'expert' breaks out of the concept's core values and throws themselves to the mercy of the Twitterverse?

    Mufadal Jiwaji used to work as a graduate trainee at Public Relations firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies. Tweeting about Grace Dent, TV Critic at the Guardian and restaurant reviewer for the London Evening Standard, he serves as a wonderful example of how not to blend PR and social media.

    The Public Relations firm kept quiet about the Twitter conversation, but considering Jiwaji's swift apology, the lesson was quickly and painfully enforced.

    See also: PR employee chastised for 'vulgar and puerile' tweet to journalist

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Semi-literate writing

    " of which the airline gave a total of $3,000."

    Sigh. "to which". Writers on ZD are soooooo.... semi-literate.

    And then: "Customers that loks up the profile were no doubt confused when they met tweets in Taiwanese."

    "loks up" - really?

    Ok, let's face it: At ZD, editing for such minor things as grammar, or even spelling, is clearly secondary to its mission of getting out rarely-valuable articles.
  • Godaddy Suxx!

    As a consequence of Godaddy's support of SOPA and because of the elephant hunting "incident" (which I came to know at the same time godaddy had the bright idea to support SOPA) I decided to end all business relationship with Mr. Parsons' company and advised friends and colleagues to do the same. Just for the record I moved even accounts that weren't going to expire for the next 5 years, to completely cut any ties to with a company that not only didn't read bills before supporting them, but put the interests of its customers after that of Washington's lobbyists showing to be instantaneously ready to kiss a**.

    The animal cruelty only made me more determined to end any connection with the company and just to be clear I am not against hunting or fishing when doing so for food, but as far as I know Mr. Parsons isn't homesteading in Africa and that catch didn't have such purpose. Worse yet, it was actually justified in the lamest possible way as some sort of positive humanitarian help saying it was done to solve a problem where elephants were destroying entire harvests for the poor local communities. And that one elephant ended the problem? Does this guy and Godaddy's P.R. think we are a bunch of 2 years old?
    Obviously no footage of the alleged crop destruction was ever produced, but regardless godaddy should have never taken part in such activities even it they were aiming to "solve a problem" besides at not being in that kind of business, if it was really done to help locals, there would have been no cameras and above all no reasons to take a gruesome trophy photo. On the contrary, one would have taken no pleasure in having to shoot an elephant down. I am rather confident there would be a very numerous list of individuals and companies qualified to do that before godaggy would've been called upon. Also the right company would have been involved in removing the "problem elephant", it would have been shot with a sedative and relocated to a more appropriate remote location solving the problem for the locals and keeping the animal alive.

    Mr. Parsons should've just continue to stick to his shtick of featuring attractive chicks, leaving politics and animals alone.