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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 Amazon.com'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.