This post isn’t about Rush Limbaugh. It’s about how companies react to a crisis.
Several days ago, out of professional curiosity (and a wee bit of schadenfreude), I visited Twitter and Facebook accounts belonging to several of Limbaugh’s sponsors.
Most circled the wagons while they settled on a strategy. (Five will get you ten that no Community Managers participated in these conversations.) While the suits crafted a corporate response, their social media drones flew in tight formation, awaiting instructions.
Which brings me to ProFlowers’ Twitter page.
One of my guiding principles (at work and in life) is that at any given moment, we’re all doing the best we can. So when I saw this, I was surprised and a little sad (click to enlarge):
ProFlowers.com social media team: if this is the best you can do, I respectfully suggest that you find a new line of work. Preferably one where you don’t interact with the public.
Consider how much white-hot outrage it takes the average American to write an angry letter, then ask yourself whether CTRL + C and CTRL + V is appropriate crisis management.
When people still sent letters of complaint, marketers could get away with cookie cutter, Mail Merge responses like these. Using social media as a rubber stamp isn’t just lazy, it’s disrespectful; you’re telling customers (and your competitors) that contacting you was a complete waste of their time. For some ProFlowers.com female clients, I imagine it added insult to injury.
ProFlowers might have alienated fewer people if they’d simply posted an opaque response to buy some time and went dark until they had a real announcement to make.
Put another way: a florist in a small town sponsors a local bowling team. After the team loses a tournament, several keglers start a brawl that results in injuries, arrests and very unflattering local news coverage. Because the team was sponsored by Roger’s Florists, a group of concerned citizens visits the proprietor to find out if he’ll continue supporting the team.
Each time a customer asks Roger whether he’ll keep buying bowling shirts and shoes for the team and letting them use his van for road trips, he extracts a 3 X 5 card and clears his throat before reciting:
“Your concerns affect how we manage our dealings with local sports teams. Thank you again for your feedback.”
“I understand your concerns and I will ensure that your feedback is communicated to the manager of the bowling team.”
Even after Roger washes his hands of the bowling team, how many customers will keep him at the top of their list the next time they have a need for a florist? There’s a lot of competition out there.