Sometimes you see something that reminds you to start a folder called “stupid corporate tricks.”
What I’m writing about today would be top of that heap. In fact, it sets a new kind of standard for stupid behavior but let’s see what you think.
Gizmodo published a piece yesterday about Chick-Fil-A and their social efforts. As you might know, that company is engaged in a controversy with the gay community over same-sex marriage. Now since we don’t do politics here, let’s put aside the cause of the controversy and just acknowledge that there is one. This issue caused another company – The Jim Henson Company – to announce that it would no longer allow Chick-Fil-A to distribute miniature muppets in its children’s meals. Again, let’s not argue right,wrong, good, or bad – those are the facts. As a preemptive move, Chick-Fil-A announced it was ceasing to distribute the toys because of a safety issue – kids were getting their fingers stuck in the puppets. With me so far?
Now comes the business part. On Chick-Fil-A’s Facebook page, there were quite a few comments. One commenter accused the company of making up a lie about the cause and asked them to admit they were dumped because they were “bigots.” I suppose we could have a long chat here about how to handle negative comments in social media and that would be a valuable discussion. However, I bet we would all agree that one way we would never endorse is to have a PR staffer create a fake Facebook account in the personality of a teenaged girl and respond with corporate talking points through that mechanism. Want to guess what Chick-Fil-A did?
The company denied having done it. However, the account was created hours before it began posting and the profile picture is from a stock photo house – a fair amount of circumstantial evidence that this is not a real person. Regardless, it’s a lesson on how NOT to handle a problem is social media. Yes, we need to respond quickly but not by hiding or lying about who is talking. Transparency is one imperative; knowing that if you’re using social you no longer control the conversation is another.
I don’t suppose we’ll know for sure if this was a corporate flack or not. We do know for sure that in addition to the original controversy there now is another. Thoughts?