By: Mackenzie Hodge, @mhodge21
Over the past couple of weeks we have seen both Burger King and Jeep’s official twitter accounts get hacked and some questionable tweets were sent out from the hackers, who attempted to play it off as if the two companies competitors, McDonalds and Cadillac, were behind the scandal.
In December of 2012 Starbucks in the UK was also hacked, but this hack was a bit different than the hacks experienced by Burger King and Jeep. During the holiday season Starbucks launched their #SpreadTheCheer campaign. The idea behind the campaign was that customers would tweet their holiday cheer using that designated hashtag. However, Starbucks failed to take into consideration their image in the news at the time. When Starbucks released this campaign they were in the midst of being accused of only paying 8.6 pounds in taxes over the past 14 years and there was talk that the company planned to cut paid lunch breaks and maternity leave benefits. As you could guess, the public was not so keen on the brand during this time.
Unfortunately for Starbucks their upset customers used the #SpreadTheCheer campaign to voice their disgust with the company instead of tweeting holiday cheer. Here is an example of some of those tweets.
These tweets were swirling around the Twittersphere, but that is not the only place they stayed. To make matters worse these tweets were also amplified on a giant screen over a Starbucks-sponsored ice rink at London’s National History Museum.
Clearly, crisis management was much needed at this point. Starbucks attempted to recover by sending an e-mail to the Huffington Post apologizing to visitors of the ice rink “who may have been offended by the inappropriate messages” that appeared on the screen. They claimed that there had been a “temporary malfunction” with their Twitter filtering system, which allowed the inappropriate tweets to leak through.
But what did they do besides apologize for the inappropriate tweets? They also, ultimately, agreed to pay more taxes than required by law over the next two years. This campaign can appropriately be deemed a fail; they attracted negative attention to their company, they offended customers and users of the ice rink and they ended up having to pay more taxes.
There is a large difference between the Burger King and Jeep hacks and the Starbucks hack. Burger King and Jeep easily regained control over their accounts and apologized for the temporary scandal, plus they benefited from the increase of followers. Meanwhile, Starbucks couldn’t just take back control of their twitter account. The hashtag was out there, the information was out there, and their customers were angry. Really, Starbucks provided their customers with a very public platform to express their anger on.
Clearly this case can be defined as a crisis. So, what does a company do?
In my opinion, there is not much more the company could do after the fact, at that point releasing an apology and vowing to right their wrongs is about all that could be done after the damage. But there are things that could have been done before and during the campaign in order to prevent or lessen the negative effects of the campaign.
- Maybe it’s an obvious solution, but pay the correct amount of taxes…
- Proper research and awareness of the attitude of its customers and the public towards the company at the time, before the campaign was launched.
- Deal with the negative PR circulating in the news before attempting to bring more attention to the company.
- Have a team established that is constantly monitoring the campaign in order to detect early signs of inappropriate tweets and quickly and appropriately address the issues arising
Put yourself in the shoes of Starbucks UK, what would you do? How would you recover from this campaign gone horribly wrong?