SMIP 02: How We Can Gain Insights into a Crisis by Monitoring Social Media


Transcription of the Podcast Episode 02

Mireille Ryan : Welcome to the Social Media Intelligence podcast, brought to you by NUVI, the world's most stunning social media marketing suite. I'm Mireille Ryan, CEO of the Social Media Marketing Institute and founder of Social Intelligence HQ, a social listening, strategy, and intelligence digital consultancy that helps our clients turn their social media data into effective business decisions and strategy. I'm joined today by David Burgess, a senior account executive from NUVI. Hi David. How are you?

David Burgess: Mireille, I'm doing great. Thank you so much for, first, having me back. I'm doing great. How are you doing today? How is your day going? How was the week?

Mireille Ryan :  It's great. Busy, but in a good way. I've had the flu. I went and spoke at a conference last week and I got the flu. Now I'm back. I feel human again, so life is great.

David Burgess: That's good. I was sick a couple of weeks ago, and then all of a sudden, right, planning for our little baby to come, our daughter to make her entrance, so luckily I wasn't sick when she came. That would have been awful.

Mireille Ryan : You don't want to miss that.

David Burgess: I'm adding her to the mix with our two other toddlers, which has been great. No sleep but great.

Mireille Ryan : How old is she now?

David Burgess: She is three and a half weeks.

Mireille Ryan : Wow. She really is brand new to the world.

David Burgess: Brand new to the world, but our two little boys couldn't be happier. It's been pretty cool to see how they've adapt around her, so it's been all good.

Mireille Ryan : Awesome. Are you getting any sleep is the big question.

David Burgess: More than her mom, my wife. I can't complain too much.

Mireille Ryan : Awesome. My youngest is 12 now, so I've long past the days where I had to be up all night. [inaudible 00:02:05] but it's always awesome to have a new baby in the house.

David Burgess: Right. Isn't it?

Mireille Ryan : Yeah. Today we're going to look at how we can gain insights into a crisis by monitoring social media and obviously using social media tools. Today, David, have you got some examples of how you've identified some potential crises and how ... Basically take us through how those crises progressed and grew.

David Burgess: It feels like there's a new potential, I guess, case study for crisis every single day with the number of brands. One that definitely comes to mind, which I'm sure most of the world already knows about is the Pepsi and Kendall Jenner commercial that's happened a couple of months ago, that's ... Kendall Jenner, she was, I think the ... I can't remember what the quote was, but essentially they wanted to do 2017 version of Cindy Crawford for Pepsi, and Kendall Jenner was their spokesperson, their spokeswoman. Those that are probably the millions and millions and millions of people that have seen the actual commercial and the video, the campaign, it's ... It wasn't taken the right way. You can say, right?

Mireille Ryan : Obviously Pepsi didn't mean for it to be taken the way that it was. They were trying to have a good ... Being a positive statement, but it's interesting, isn't it, how a business can perceive the way that they're going to be received with their campaign, yet it can totally be perceived in another way.

David Burgess: Yeah. It totally can, and that's really the power of a tool like a listening tool to ... All these big companies have had tools in place where especially before a campaign, something that they know is going to go live, they create something to capture all those conversations and you think it's going to just be positive and positive, and all of a sudden it just goes negative. This is an absolute perfect, I guess, crisis communications use case. I can't remember how many conversations, but it was millions within hours of conversations across all those networks, and just negative sentiment, people talking negative as far as ... Not just bad negative, like going at Pepsi really [inaudible 00:04:44].

This is why are you doing this? This is bad. More of just making fun of it. Making fun of it and making light, and putting out memes of Kendall Jenner saving the world with Pepsi or Pepsi saving the world and all of its problems with a Pepsi soda. It happened in a split second because of the power of social media.

Mireille Ryan : Yeah. I actually think I remember seeing a post about that. I think it was Martin Luther King's daughter. I'm not quite sure, but I think it was. She was saying, "I wish my dad had known that all he needed was a Pepsi to be able to solve all the issues." Like I said, from Pepsi's perspective they were trying to do something that's very positive and about how you can come together and obviously their drink was bringing everybody together, but at the same time people saw that and they just felt that they were making light of something that was quite a serious situation with the different upheavals and unrest around the world.

David Burgess: Yeah. Essentially they were trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding, and they ... You could say they missed the mark. Not intentionally, but unfortunately these things happen. They didn't want to make light of a serious issue, but the world's issues and there's millions of people that are sensitive to certain things, and when they put it out they got major backlash. Pepsi had to put out a statement apologising to the Kardashian and Jenner family. I'm sure you saw that and everything. Essentially they created this ... It was a massive campaign.They put out there that Kendall Jenner was going to be their spokesperson just like Cindy Crawford was. That's massive. It came to a halt within 24 hours.

Mireille Ryan : Yeah. I mean a lot of expense to really just pull something so quickly, but what about the brand ...

David Burgess: Yeah. No question.

Mireille Ryan : What about the brand damage that can come from something like this, because obviously if you're having a million conversations within a 24 to 48 hour period of people discussing, and especially if the sentiment for the most part is negative, and then also if you look at the unique mentions, so the unique authors who are commenting, and I believe in this case there was probably at least half a million unique authors. What sort of damage can it do to a brand?

David Burgess: If it's bad enough, it can do financial damage. If it's a big enough brand, it can do financial damage. Now, with this one, with Pepsi because it wasn't as, I guess, serious as some other ones in the media, what it can do is it can first damage their brand image, how they're perceived in not only on social but out in the world, out in the culture. Someone that's even though they didn't mean to do it but that it was taken this way. It can damage their image. It could even set them up for maybe, I don't think it ever happened, but maybe litigation from someone that's as powerful as the Jenner and Kardashian family for damaging her rep, them damaging the influencer's reputation. Right?

Mireille Ryan : Yeah.

David Burgess: That's just going to possibly decrease sales. These brands at the end of the day they're all about pushing out their product and selling more and selling more, and the last thing a CEO and a boardroom want to see is in the matter of a day seeing stock prices plummet.

Mireille Ryan : Absolutely. Exactly.

David Burgess: In this case seeing people pick up Coke, Coca-Cola instead of Pepsi because they don't agree with Pepsi's now campaign, and losing that following. There's just a mountain of reasons. Then also influencers going forward. Influencers that or certain celebrities that at one time ... I'm sure there's certain celebrities at one time would have loved to do a campaign with Pepsi. Now if they were ever asked to do one in the future, I'm sure they would probably second guess or at least have a PR team behind them before anything gets put out there on the media. 

Mireille Ryan : You actually raised Coca-Cola which was a question I was actually going to ask you. If Coca-Cola's listening, which I'm sure they are, and they started to ... Obviously one of the key things that you can do by using a listening tool is that you can monitor your competitors and all the sentiment and the conversations around their brand. If you were in Coca-Cola's shoes and you saw this kind of chatter starting to come across, what do you think they could do or what could they pick up, or harness this kind of instance?

David Burgess: I'm just trying to imagine myself in that marketing department of Coca-Cola, and I could imagine once they saw this spiking that they were just chomping at the bits.

This is a marketer's dream especially with how big these two competitors are in their market, Coke and Pepsi. They probably got right away with their social media department, and everyone collected together to start putting out an aggressive social monitoring campaign. I have seen time and time again, and you see it all the time. Someone makes a mistake, or on social, a brand, or they misspell a word. Nowadays if you misspell a word you're going to get eaten alive. If I'm Coca-Cola I could imagine they immediately started putting a social monitoring campaign and then started creating jokes, memes of their own, making light of the issue, but saying look what our competitor did, and we're Coca-Cola. We would never do that. Not necessarily come to our product, but why wouldn't they not want to make light of the issue and poke at their main competitor, Pepsi, and just try to gather as much mentions and conversations they can off of their mistake.

Mireille Ryan : Yeah. Absolutely. I mean the good thing with Pepsi, it was Pepsi realised by obviously understanding and listening to the social chatter and the conversations, they understood that they had made a mistake and very quickly put out an apology and were able to tidy it up, but interestingly enough they also were blessed because later that week there was an even bigger social media disaster that took place. Can you take us through how Pepsi in some ways had the benefit of a bigger organisation having an even bigger social media disaster?

David Burgess: Yeah. There's a now popular tweet and meme that is now going around whenever a company or a person one-ups someone, and now it's popular negatively, and what they say is if someone does something wrong, it'll say like, "Pepsi, Kendall Jenner tries to save the world." Then underneath that there's a meme going on where it says, "Can anyone top that?" Then United, "Hold my beer." Like I'm getting ready to top it. That's essentially what happened, that the mass of the conversation switched from Pepsi to United and this one was your absolute peak of crisis communications because it involved aeroplane safety. It involved an actual human being being physically assaulted and the backlash that happened, and then an out of touch CEO that received backlash when he first made his statement.

In the matter of days, Pepsi probably, the firings internally stopped, right, the let go's, and their marketing team probably ... The heart palpitations went down a little bit, and all the focus was on United, and it's still on United. When any kind of crisis communications come up within brands, the first people, first thing that comes to mind is now United because of what happened.

Mireille Ryan : Exactly. The thing that I take away from the United incident was technically when you look at it, the CEO from a business, strategic communication he didn't do anything, per se, wrong. He did it, if you look at the way he communicated, he did ... They followed procedures. What, I guess, social media really shows is that when people are discussing and they're upset about something, if a CEO doesn't show compassion towards those followers and to those ... to particularly the person involved in the incident, that can lead to a massive backlash. I know that from this incident that United at one stage had lost a billion dollars off their share price because of this incident, and also people, very well-known influencers said that they would never fly United ever again, ever.

David Burgess: It's ever. I've heard that too and I even have colleagues saying the same thing, as far as ... Because it seems like now every single week at least stories with American Airlines or Southwest, those things. In the States there's always something happening on a plane whether it's there was an argument or a discussion now. Things are getting bigger and bigger because of this United situation. You're absolutely right. What had happened just no one wanted that to happen. Realistically United Airlines didn't take that man off the plane and assault him, but essentially it was on their plane, on social, their name was attached to it. It happened under their watch. Then they were responsible for it, I guess, in the social media airwaves.

You hit it on the head as far as the CEO and I guess being tone deaf is the right verbiage afterwards, is that people after something like that, especially when there's a video of a man bleeding from his mouth and getting hurt and being pulled off of a plane, people are going to want to see either that next day the boardroom firing that CEO. They want to see [inaudible 00:16:02] someone let go, or they want to see a change internally, or they want to see the company come out immediately, a PR, right, and just apologise and act like a day in and day out human being, someone that would come in and just take ownership. That's not what happened. Initially it wasn't taking the ownership. He technically didn't do anything wrong like you said, but it's not what everyone wanted to hear.

Mireille Ryan : It's not. Yeah. It's not the things that they want. People want people to care. They want them to not just be focused on company and be focused on profits. They want to care about the individual, because they want to feel that if they were ever in that situation that if there was an incident like that, that the company would straight away be able to say, "Look, we made a mistake." Because I tell you, litigation was going to happen in that case whether they said they ... admitted any type of fault whatsoever, because litigation was going to happen anyway. The thing is they lost the, I guess, the audience. The audience said, "They don't care about us."

If they had listened to the conversation and really understood, which it wouldn't take too much to understand. I know over that period of two days there was over two million mentions on ...

David Burgess: Easily. Yeah.

Mireille Ryan : Yeah. Easy on that and there was a million unique authors, so not only had they got a lot of people talking about it, but a lot of individuals were talking about it, so that was amplifying that conversation, and that's what led to such a huge response from not just obviously social media listeners but the media themselves and that's why it's affected their brand and their stock price so much.

David Burgess: You're absolutely right. The thing that as far as when it comes to social media and how that thing, how it transpired and how it was started, what's so eye-opening to me on this topic when it comes to social media is that how this first started and how this word got out was not from a celebrity on an aeroplane, not from someone who had a huge following on Twitter. It came from someone that had less than 100 followers.

Mireille Ryan :  A smartphone.

David Burgess: A smartphone or less than 100 followers. He records it happening. He tags United and says what happens and then publishes it and then it just took off. I'm talking, you know, you saw it, just millions of conversations spilled off of that one person, and everyone is a photographer.

Mireille Ryan :  A journalist.

David Burgess: Everyone is a journalist. Everyone is now because of smartphones, so it just goes to show you that it can, again, it can ... Little things can change in the matter of minutes, and essentially this use case with United, not only did their brand just get damaged, but they lost that next day one billion dollars in the stock market, which is ... You get a room full of ... You get the boardroom and I'm sure that CEO didn't have a good day in the boardroom. Backing up him a little bit, he did, the PR team did probably circle around him and say, "Look, we understand what you put out, but after the conversations that we've heard from your initial talking about what happened, that wasn't probably the right tone. This is probably what you should put out." That's when the change happened. $10,000 for, up to $10,000 anyone that gets booted from a flight in compensation, training their employees even more. They're putting in all of these things now essentially because that first response was not well received by the rest of the world. 

Mireille Ryan :  That's a really important point too is that as you're going through a crisis, obviously you're trying to deal with the crisis itself, but at the end of the day you need to go back and look at what you've learned from that crisis so you can ensure, one, what could we have done better, and then how can we train our staff how, so that they can respond in a more appropriate way, or our systems and processes are a bit more appropriate. The other thing, too, is in the past when there was a crisis, brands had the opportunity of generally at least a good 24 hours where they, like you said, they could all huddle around, get the lawyers, get the PR people and they could make a proper statement, a PR release. They could then release that to the press and be more controlled.

These days with social media ... I was at this conference recently and the social ... the crisis management expert that was speaking there, he said that companies have between four to five minutes once something hits to be able to be responsive. One, if brands are not listening, they won't even know necessarily for a while that there's a crisis until it really gets momentum, and a lot of the time if they haven't had a chance to get onto that, then it's too late. It's like trying to get the horse that's already bolted. They need to know what they're going to be able to say. They need to be prepared, so these ... Having the listening is a critical part of the whole crisis management process or framework, because if you don't even know that anything's been said about you, sometimes it can be too late or it's done a lot of damage before the company can get in to what they need to do to try and manage that crisis.

David Burgess: Absolutely. You're absolutely right. I've said this for a while, especially after this, I think if they can have a Twitter handle internally with policies, but I think all CEOs of large companies should at least have a Twitter handle. That way they can quickly say something or engage with the audience and put out, after talking to the PR team, get on top of it. The PR team can tell them, "Hey, this is what happening. This is what we're picking up. This is what we should have you put out." What more powerful than a CEO putting out a quick message while a crisis is still peaking of, "Hey, we know what's going on. We're on top of it. I'm talking internally."

Not necessarily, "Hey, I'm going to take care of it." But, "We have everything. We have all the information and we are looking internally at what happened and getting all the information we can, so ... And I just wanted to let everyone know that I really do care about this issue." That just makes that person, that CEO down to Earth.

Mireille Ryan : That's right. It's interesting you said care about the issue. They don't have to admit liability because a lot of CEOs and [crosstalk 00:23:02] and lawyers obviously advising them are scared to admit any type of guilt or any type of liability, so it's that you understand that there is an issue and that you want to get it resolved, and you're not admitting any liability, but you're looking after and showing that you're listening to the conversations.

David Burgess: Yeah. That's it, especially when I ... If I'm a fan of a brand or something like that, and if I see that, if I see the CEO actually reaching out to the audience and talking to his audience like a real person that cares and not admitting guilt, but just saying, "Hey, I care." That's good. That's good PR for that company. As far as a consumer or someone that flies United at times, I'll say, "Okay, he actually cares."

Mireille Ryan : Yeah. That's right. You can turn that negative PR or negative situation into a real positive because of the way you handled the situation.

David Burgess: Absolutely. To be completely frank, there is no way that anyone could've stopped this from happening, but there are certain things I'm sure that they look back on or brands that look back on that said, "Okay, we could have done this differently. We could have learned," which is all part the process. They look back on these conversations in their social media tool, their social media listening tool, and they look back at the peak of when that happened, when that person was pulled off the plane, and then they look at the spike of when the CEO initially put out his statement. Then they learn from that. They learn the conversation of the audience and then adjust accordingly. Even though they couldn't prevent it, they could be prepared going forward. PR and marketing, all the executive teams can be better prepared going forward.

Mireille Ryan : I think the take away from this is that businesses and companies need to be listening, because if they're not listening then they could literally be sitting right on top of a crisis. The thing is, it's not a matter of if your business will have a crisis, it's really a matter of when and how you respond to it.

David Burgess:  That's it.

Mireille Ryan : Being prepared by understanding what your audience is saying about you, monitoring that sentiment, that conversation is critical to the operations of any business, because it could be the difference, and I've seen examples over here in Australia where a business, for example, that put their head in the sand, I guess, when they started to hear that there was some issues instead of being very responsive, and they lost a brand that was worth $100 million ended up being sold for like a million dollars. That is the power, or that's the effects if you're not listening and then having a plan moving forward on how you're going to respond to that.

David Burgess: You're exactly right. It doesn't even need to take ... It only takes one person. This was [inaudible 00:25:57] United. The guy only had less than 100 followers. He wasn't some huge celebrity and it's ... You hit it on the head, it can happen to anyone and it'll happen to any brand and they need to be prepared. They need to be listening to all the conversations possible.

Mireille Ryan : Awesome. Thank you, David. I really appreciate you coming onboard today to discuss these great case studies and hopefully those listening have been able to learn some great lessons about how they can use social listening to be able to protect their brand, and be able to ensure that they understand what their audience is saying. Thanks so much for joining me.

David Burgess:  Thank you so much, Mireille. Take care.

Tags: Social Media Intelligence, Social Media Listening, Social Media Data, Social Media Insights, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Social Media Strategy,

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