Normally I wouldn’t write such a post as this one, but after witnessing the whole Benefit PR cock-up on twitter this week it really got me thinking. How damaging is it for a brand when their PR publicly puts their foot in their mouth?
If you missed the latest PR misdemeanour, then let me fill you in very briefly. Benefit Cosmetics UK unwittingly offended many of their twitter followers by posting tweets relating to the trending #MakeAMovieAFatty. I can only assume the actual tweeter, we are talking a bout a real person here remember, thought they were just joining in on a joke. What followed was a string of tweets from twitter users, some being bloggers, who were upset by @BenefitUK ‘s tweets. After being called out publicly for these tweets Benefit eventually deleted the offending tweets from the twitter account.
Now I’m not here to discuss whether these tweets were right or wrong, but rather to discuss the implications of such a public PR fail. I would also just like to add that I am no PR expert, my experience goes as far as a marketing module for my business studies degree. I have worked with a couple of PR’s but as a relatively newbie blogger. My views stem from my experiences as to a regular benefit customer and user of social media.
I’m willing to give benefit, the benefit of the doubt on this occasion. I don’t believe that they set out to offend anyone intentionally. I think that whomever was manning their twitter account at that time jumped on a trending # without thinking about the demographics of their followers and customers. Size is such a contentious issue at the moment among not just us bloggers but in mainstream press aswell. This is from people all shapes and sizes, it is no longer seen as something socially acceptable to joke about how fat or skinny someone is.
Regardless of the content of the original tweets these were made on the brands official account. This account for many represents the brand’s personality. Okay one person tweeting on behalf of Benefit UK does not represent the company as a whole but for many this is their first point of contact. The tweets were seen by some established influential bloggers who shared their thoughts pretty sharpish. What I witnessed was a real time ‘hole’ being dug by the offending PR rep. The tweets were removed very quickly but the wrong message was already out there. ‘We at Benefit UK poke fun at fat people’.
I’m sure this is not what the brand represents but in that moment this is the message that was being communicated to the accounts followers, and consequently their reputation has been damaged.
Today’s twitter feed shows how they have been forced to apologise to many an angry twitter user who are promising to boycott the company. We are talking damage control here now. Only time will tell as to whether they can come back from this and shake off the negativity this has surrounded the brand image with. As they are a large company they probably will bounce back from this. Where they a smaller brand then I don’t think that they would be seeing life so rosy.
Do you think that Benefit will be able to shake off this PR cock-up? Are you planning on boycotting the brand?