HMV Boss: How Do I Shut Down Twitter?

31 01 2013

A departing communications staff member at HMV scored a social media first when he or she began live tweeting from what was described as a mass firing of 60 employees.  The first tweet to appear said. “We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired. Exciting!!  #hmvXFactorFiring”.

The tweets kept coming for a full 15 minutes before the Marketing Director apparently discovered what was happening was alleged to have been overheard saying “how do I shut down Twitter?”  According to the live feed the Marketing Director is not one of those at risk of redundancy.  Clearly the organisation hadn’t considered the social media risks when they called the comms team down to the HR department.  The tweet stream gave a clue as to the level of senior involvement in social media when it referred to the fact that HMV had used an intern to set up the account.

The tweets then stopped abruptly and were erased from the account – apparently the Marketing Direct found out how to shut the channel down.   Business closures are never very pleasant and I hope the HR team and the remaining senior management see the rebel tweets for what they were which was a gallant last stand by employees loyal to the brand.  Anything else would be another PR disaster for the brand and any going concern that survives the cull.

For those of you that missed them here are the tweets in full before they vanished into the ether.

Jimmy Carr and the Decline of the Press Release

26 06 2012

David Cameron’s allegation that Jimmy Carr was tax dodging put the comedian into crisis mode last Friday.  Five years ago there would have been a press release and possibly a brief statement given to a carefully chosen news channel.  It can’t have escaped your notice that Jimmy Carr put his statement out on Twitter, even though it took five tweets to get the full apology out.

“I appreciate as a comedian, people will expect me to ‘make light’ of this situation, but I’m not going to in this statement,  as this is obviously a serious matter.  I met with a financial advisor and he said to me “Do you want to pay less tax? It’s totally legal.” I said “Yes.”  I now realise I’ve made a terrible error of judgement.  Although I’ve been advised the K2 Tax scheme is entirely legal, and has been fully disclosed to HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs), I’m no longer involved in it and will in future conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly.  Apologies to everyone.  Jimmy Carr.”

Although Carr hasn’t emerged entirely unscathed it is broadly agreed that he did a good job of defusing the story.    So why Twitter?  He has over two million followers, that’s more than the circulation of any newspaper.  He was able to decide the timing of the announcement and he could ensure it was free from comment or selective editing.  So if celebrities are side-stepping the press then they don’t need PR people either?  Not so.  Carr sought the help of  his trusted advisor entertainment PR guru Gary Farrow on the handling of the apology.

Not every celebrity has a multi million follower list and certainly few corporate accounts can boast that sort of number, but if you are at the centre of a media storm is doesn’t matter whether you have 200 or two million, people will be watching and Twitter provides a faster, more effective route than the press release.

Argyll and Bute U-Turn After Cooking Up a Storm

15 06 2012

The speed at which a PR crisis can now strike and escalate has seldom been better illustrated than the #schooldinnerbloggate debacle ignited by Argyll and Bute council after it banned a nine-year old girl from blogging about school lunches.

Yesterday school girl Martha Payne wrote on her blog  “this morning in maths I got taken out of class by my head teacher and taken to her office. I was told that I could not take any more photos of my school dinners because of a headline in a newspaper today…I will miss sharing and rating my school dinners …I don’t think I will be able to finish raising enough money for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals either.  Goodbye, VEG”

At 10.53 this morning Argyll and Bute Council (strapline – ‘Raising our Potential Together’) posted a statement which began “Argyll and Bute Council wholly refutes the unwarranted attacks on its schools catering service which culminated in national press headlines which have led catering staff to fear for their jobs.  The Council has directly avoided any criticism of anyone involved in the ‘never seconds’ blog …despite a strongly held view that the information presented in it misrepresented the options and choices available to pupils…so a decision has been made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen.”   I’ve screen grabbed the full statement.

By lunchtime today ‘Argyll and Bute’, ‘neverseconds’, and ‘Martha Payne’ were all trending on Twitter.  The leader of the council appeared on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme and reversed the decision.   Whilst the initial action and statement was a PR disaster you have to admire the speed of the resolution.

Perhaps the happiest outcome of all is the extra £15,000 in donations added to the appeal for a kitchen for Mary’s Meals a charity that provides lunches for schoolchildren in Africa.

Update: As of 5pm donations to Martha’s appeal have passed the £35,000 mark.

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