KPT Social Media and Braehead how too little knowledge is a PR disaster

Social Media is not only changing the way commerce is done in the world but also how to service the customer and, indeed, how a company and brand is viewed by its consumers and the public at large. In the wrong hands, a company's Public Relations can be an unmitigated disaster. In todays news from Scotland, UK, this kind of disaster has befallen a large shopping mall on the outskirts of Scotlands second biggest city.

It centers round the situation where a father was in the shopping mall with his 4 year old daughter and has just bought an ice cream. Going to sit down and enjoy the ice cream together, the father sees his daughter sitting on the novelty chair - in this case a pink Vespa scooter. Thinking - "ah, this is a Facebook moment", the father takes a few snaps on his mobile of the cute little daughter. All's well. Cue security chap who heads over and tells the father that photography is illegal in the shopping mall, he was acting suspiciously and apparently asks him to delete the photos. Obviously the father says no and the next stage is obviously to attract the attention of the local police force.

Apart from the usual delights that an intimidating police force can bring, the father was again, apparently, told that under some Terrorism Act, that the photos he was taking were illegal and that he would have to delete them. Too late, the father says, they are already uploaded to Facebook. At this, the father has his details taken, his knuckles wrapped and told to get on his way.

Here's the Social Media crux. The father set's up a Facebook page entitled "Boycott Braehead" - Braehead being the name of the shopping mall. The Facebook page creates a large following in a short space of time, as one can imagine and then the mainstream media picks up on it. Television and National newspapers run the story. The shopping mall seem to panic, or indeed was unaware more likely of the ripples this was causing, and issued a statement "to set the record straight". Mistake number 1. They then are accused of deleting messages by the users of their Facebook page - oops Faux pas number 2. They then say that they acted in "good faith" oops there goes number three.

In todays social media age, it is well known by company's who effectively use Social Media that a negative comment or opinion or experience by a customer can be turned into a positive. Social Media means that news and events are transmitted around the net at lightening speed - obviously some grow arms and legs at the same time making stories exaggerated. In this case the lack of customer service and indeed knowledge of the power of social media really got the consumers going. this is to the point where the complainants Facebook page now has more followers than the shopping mall itself.

Let's look at the misjudgements of this case - Number 1 - never, never set the record straight, especially from a second hand viewpoint. Any misjudgements are going to be picked up straight away. Negative publicity can always be used to bring about a positive and a simple line saying that the situation has been brought to their attention and is being looked at. A company making X amount of millions will never get public sympathy and indeed the public are always waiting to bring something down.

Number 2 - Never delete the bad publicity from consumers (unless of course the language is too much to take!). It's a big no no. It shows severe lack of empathy, understanding and service. Indeed, a simple message saying that they are keeping note of the comments but please refrain from using course language, or a response in itself to the comments is better than nothing.

Number 3 - Obviously acting in good faith was perhaps the wrong terminology. When the witch hunt is out and you have one bullet left, what do they do? They shoot themselves. A straight hands up in the air, taking the customer relations punches until those doing the punches become weary and a response. To tell those leading the (perhaps justifiable in their eyes) witch hunt that they did what they thought was right isnt going to wash. When the madding crowd are en masse surely an perspective from the customers side is more beneficial in terms of PR which has turned into a disaster, that could easily have been avoided, that they will end up reeling from.

Indeed Braehead if you are reading this and would like a professional company to deal with your online social media then please let us know!!! :)