In 2015, Dove (the cosmetics company, well-known for their international campaigns encouraging self-confidence among women) released a campaign on Twitter making an appeal to all women and girls over the world to ‘speak beautiful’, about others and about themselves, online. By speaking beautifully they meant that women should intervene when they noticed someone speaking in a negative way online, and encourage them to spread positivity instead. This initiative did not sit well with their audience: a storm of negative tweets regarding the campaign coming from both men and women started to diffuse on social media. The Washington Post even called the initiative ‘the ugliest thing on the internet today’.
Speech is silver, silence is golden?
Dove decided not to act upon this occurrence. They ignored the tweets entirely and even when media sites approached them requesting a reaction, Dove refused to respond. Brands experiencing a backlash online is nothing new, and the phenomenon has been widely studied. For example, in an article published as early as 2010 in the Journal of Marketing Communications, researchers found that ‘stating no comment’ and ‘ignoring rumours’ are perceived most negatively out of several control tactics. So, the saying ‘silence is golden’ does not apply in times of crisis! The best way to approach these kind of issues is to remain transparent, staying open to communication, and responding quickly when a reaction is demanded by the public or the media.
This strategy is also recommended in another article published in the Journal of Marketing Communications, in 2014. Twitter is a medium through which messages spread incredibly quickly, which is why a brand should monitor social media and react as soon as possible when a negative storm arises. An echo-chamber effect could occur through social media, which means that when a storm on Twitter arises the topic will soon enough be covered by traditional (online) media, which in turn draws even more attention to the issue on social media. In order to gain any control over a situation like this a brand should communicate through their own social media channels, and possibly react personally to the posts that gained most attention.
Stopping things from getting (even more) out of hand
This echo-chamber effect is also addressed in an article published in the journal Computes in Human Behaviour in 2014. Generating a fast response is crucial; in times of a negative online storm all eyes will be turning to your brand, so it is possible that mainstream media pick up your response which can contribute to damage control. The authors of this particular article also emphasized that the media is quoted more often than the brands in question themselves, so it is vital to communicate directly with the media as well. Maintaining relationships with the media should be part of a company’s public relations strategy.
In conclusion, Dove could and should have handled the situation better by communicating rapidly and transparently with their stakeholders and the media. Hopefully, they will pay attention to their critics in the future instead of sticking their heads in the sand and waiting until the storm has blown over.
About the Author: Rosa Huetink
With a bachelor’s degree in Biological Psychology, this is not your typical PR blogger.