Is silence golden?

In these times of instant updates and reaction on social media sites, is silence from a corporate PR department golden?

There is an interesting article in this week’s Radio Times by Justin Webb.   He suggests that being open is easier said than done and

…is it possble that the smart response to the public is sometimes, still, silence?

I think not.

He gives an example of a Quantas social media campaign to improve their image after a strike.   A prize was offered for people who “named their dream luxury flight experience”.     They got bombarded instead by people who wanted to stick two fingers up to them as a company and didn’t want the prize.   A massive fail.

McDonalds this week ran a similar  Twitter campaign trying to promote their commitment to fresh produce from wholesome farmers.   So they started the #MeetTheFarmers hashtag.

If you don’t tweet a # is something that Tweeters add to Tweet and then other Tweeters can click on this and see what everybody is saying about that topic.

That was fine until they then changed the # to #McDStories and then the # got hijacked.     Tweeters started using it to tell their own stories of food poisoning / losing weight when no longer working there / fingernails in food.

It then went viral and is viewed as a huge PR fail.  Particuarly then when McDonalds fell silent.

Last night a story broke about LA Fitness that makes horrific reading.

Within 20 minutes this story had gone viral due to Tweeters outraged at the stance of this gym chain.

What was the response from LA Fitness?  “No Comment”.   And then seven hours later they Tweeted this:

We would never wish to cause distress to any of our members & offer a wide variety of contract terms which are explained fully on joining.

Seven hours of silence as this story had gone worldwide and this is the response?

When will companies realise they cannot allow this to happen?  They cannot be silent anymore.  They cannot run the risk of saying nothing as their company’s reputation is destroyed in minutes.

When will they realise that disgruntled customers won’t just tell their mates in the pub.  They will tell their 500 followers who will tell their 500 who will each tell theirs and before you know it millions are reading about it.

Companies really do need to wake up and realise that they cannot allow this to happen.  They need to react and respond appropriately.

Silence is not golden anymore.




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  • I missed this last night, so thanks for bringing it to my attention. I cancelled my membership with LA fitness last month, after my initial 12 month contract. During that 12 months I didn’t use it often enough and when I did the gym was often understaffed and various equipment broken …. Is this value for money ???

    LA Fitness be ashamed …. Very ashamed !!!

  • Brilliant stuff, and highlights exactly how the biggest corporations are failing abysmally at social media. The risks of going silent when the PR company clock off at 5 are evident- if you’re going to be present online, you need to be present 24/7. To go quiet when a Twitstorm hits does a hundred times more damage to your image and position than the original problem ever could have done.

  • I agree with you – companies need to be much more careful with their communication with their customers and their response to a complaint that goes viral.