Listened to a great episode on the For Immediate Release podcast. An Australian t-shirt company, Cotton On was making t-shirts for babies that were a little risque. (It looks like they’ve since pulled the line).
One saying was particularly offensive. A mother sent a note to a prominent mommy blogger about the slogan’s insensitivity. The mommy blogger wrote to the company asking for clarification about the offensive t-shirt. She received what appeared to be a standard committee-written response that did not address the issue.
She sent another email asking if the company understood that the saying was offensive and asking if they were going to do anything to correct it. Result: another canned response.
The mommy blogger’s posts began making the rounds. A Twitter conversation formed. You know how it works after that. As people share the messages, make their own comments and create their own posts, it radiates outward creating a firestorm of activity.
A hash tag was created on Twitter reading “Cotton On Are Sick”. A lot of comments were retweeted. It finally hit the mainstream media and Cotton On finally responded. By now, of course, it was too late. There was no way to undo their mistake.
They withdrew the offensive slogan with a long apology.
The lesson is not new to us in the business. If you get inquiries from someone ins the social media, your response needs to be honest, personal, and immediate.
What used to be a 24-hour news cycle is now an immediate 140-character news cycle, as FIR cohost Shel Holtz points out. He quoted another expert who says when queried, you have to respond immediately and in the same media where the issue appears.
It’s a fascinating episode with a case study that can apply to all of us in the business.