When no social media is better than using social media (for RTL and other PR’s)

The racism issue around Zwarte Piet or Black Pete has received a lot of attention lately. RTL has recently decided to not use Black Pete in their programs anymore and that they will not be allowed in commercials on their channels. The announcement of banning Black Pete from their channels raised a lot of fuss on social media and recently PR blogger Anne Sofie has written a blog about the reaction of RTL on the fuss. This blog was mostly about the way in which the reaction of RTL was framed and in this might have made them look indifferent to the negative comments on social media, but is there more to it?


(source: ANP: Roos Koole)


Communication handled well

Anne Sofie wrote that RTL handled the communication about taking Black Pete out of their channels and programs pretty well. On the one hand I would like to agree with this point of view, because RTL indeed made clear from the start why they banned Black Pete. According to Fournier and Avery social media is seen by the public as a discussions platform for consumers or in case of RTL: viewers. This study shows that the reaction of companies on these conversations, unless specifically asked for by consumers, is seen as an intrusion, which support the findings by Valentini, who also found that social media is not always the best medium for PR. Even though some of the comments were indeed placed in hope of a further response from RTL, most comments were to further discuss the subject among RTL viewers. Therefore, I agree with Anne Sofie that RTL did the right thing with not further involving themselves.


Or was it not?

On the other hand, if you are going to comment, like RTL representative Pieter Klein did on Twitter, it might be best to do this in a sympathetic way and react to specific comments according to (Noort and Willemsen), so the viewers will feel personally addressed and it will feel less like an intrusion. This is a better way to present yourself as a company, than Pieter Klein’s comment, which in my opinion would seem intrusive for the public instead of adding value to the discussion. The public will not become any wiser and maybe even feel offended, since it might come across as: you people are wasting your time. Company representatives should try to keep this in mind!


Did RTL really frame themselves to be neutral?

What RTL could have done better is to be consistent in their frame. Anne Sofie said in her blog that they frame themselves to be neutral. In my opinion they do engage in framing. It was only last year when RTL said they wouldn’t ban Black Pete from their channels and then one year later, they suddenly side with the opponents by banning Black Pete. It important to be consistent in your frame to be convincing (Moreno et al.). This seems logical, since inconsistency makes people unsure about the next move and have less trust in announcements. Therefore, include past statements in decisions and look at important scenarios that might happen in the future. This is something that RTL has forgotten and what may cause this announcement to change a lot of attitudes about RTL, don’t you think?


About the Author:

Mary (Debbie) van ‘t Hullenaar is a Master Student Persuasive Communication at the University of Amsterdam. She interested in, and writing her master about brands on social media. In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing fashion blogs. For comments or questions feel free to contact me on my LinkedIn page. And don’t hesitate to leave a comment on the blog!



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