A few weeks ago, John Mackey, CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about Obama’s health care reform initiatives. The comments made by the chief executive have been stirring controversy on the web and social media, spreading a Whole Foods boycott off and online through protests, a website, blog, Flickr page, Facebook page and group with over 30,000 fans, and a Twitter account with close to 630 followers.
There is an old saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity, though ignoring Internet press, good or bad, can hurt a company and their online reputation. Here are a few ways you can respond and manage a spiraling viral incident in a strategic manor.
Corporate Social Media Guidelines
First and foremost, make sure you company has corporate social media guidelines in place. Policies regarding social media are becoming a standard for today’s organizations and by outlining rules or best practices within your company, you can express the importance of your brand.
React, Don’t Retract
Be aware of the comments and confront them with positive feedback. Use the credibility and knowledge of your brand to interact with these users, answer questions, offer insight on marketing decisions and clear up any rumors or misconceptions.
[flickr]photo:3927346430[/flickr] Mackey posted a blog thread to set the record straight on his comments and also invited consumers to participate and share their thoughts through a forum devoted to that topic. Social networks may not capture your complete key demographic, but as seen by this Whole Foods incident, the Honda Accord Facebook fiasco, and last year’s Motrin Mom advertisement, consumers can have a strong and effective voice. If your marketing resources allow it, consider involving your audience on marketing decisions in the future.
Utilize Another Online Medium
When news spreads like wildfire people are searching online for what is being said. Use this targeted traffic to your advantage and customize a pay per click campaign. Using paid and organic search strategies together will result in a higher brand awareness as well as greater authority and sincerity from consumers. Since paid search advertisements are displayed along with search results, run a campaign with keywords based around your brand’s press-worthy events. This brings searchers into your domain, where you can develop a controlled and customized landing page to promote your company on your turf.