Crass decision, disastrous response

Are you running an organisation and are too busy to monitor what’s being said about you on social media? Oh dear!

Social media crisis expert Melissa Agnes compares this with crossing the road with your eyes closed.

Tempting though it may be to dismiss such warnings with a “Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she?” I have seen enough evidence recently to convince me otherwise.

For a raw example of the potency of social media and its relevance to business take a look at the Facebook group “Boycott browns in Coventry”.

This angry campaign began on Monday June 25 after four soldiers seeking coffee on their way to the funeral of a fallen comrade were refused entry to Brown’s bar, not because they were misbehaving but because they were in uniform.

Once upon a time this would have provoked a dozen protest letters to the Coventry Evening Telegraph, maybe a story and picture and perhaps a brief item in The Sun before the whole thing blew over. Boy, how things have moved on.

This dreadful decision unleashed a huge blaze of protest on Twitter and Facebook, was picked up by the national media and even raised in Parliament.

As I write this, four days after the event, nearly 100,000 people from around the world have joined the Facebook campaign. Another 100 have joined since I first looked at it 30 minutes ago.

All are united in their contempt of Brown’s bar, whose owner can surely never have imagined the possible consequences when he formulated his policy on military uniforms.

Apart from an apology, which he clumsily and half-heartedly read out on ITV, and an offer of £200 to the grieving family’s chosen charity, he has done little to redeem himself. There is still no reference to the incident on the bar’s website and no apology on its Facebook page. I wonder whether even now he is aware of the devastating effect this has had on his reputation.

From a business perceptive, the moral of this story is clear. Firstly and most obviously, do not make rules that insult the men and women who risk their lives for this country. Secondly, monitor social media sites, and be ready to react decisively the moment people start saying negative things about you.

And if you don’t understand social media find someone who does – now!

-GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.