Social Media Setbacks: The Rise and Fail of Fashion PR

social media fail                                                           (Image courtesy of Flickr)

Last month I introduced how PR practice has embraced the emergence of social media in the changing public relations landscape.

Then we discussed the various PR 2.0 strategies practitioners have undertaken in the fashion ‘webscape’ to successfully build relationships with their stakeholders using social media (refresh your memory here).

Finally, on the flipside – we look at ‘how it can all go wrong’, the difficulties and downsides to using social media, like these 7 pitfalls.

Social media is a double edged sword. Its participatory, transparent and potentially viral nature means that publics are given an all-access pass into a company’s inner sanctum – be it the good, the bad or the ugly. If you want to play the social media game, you play by its rules. A lack of PR 2.0 knowledge can result in companies experiencing a ‘PR fail’.

Let’s look at some case studies and take a leaf out of their [Face]book…

Be considerate: don’t leverage off controversial events to push products. Kenneth Cole ‘hashtag hijacked’ the #Cairo uproar to promote his new collection, while American Apparel and GAP turned the natural disaster ‘Hurricane Sandy’ to promote a sale. Insensitive topics shouldn’t be used for commercial agendas.

Be present: a customer complaint to Country Road’s Facebook page was unanswered and deleted. It went viral. Customer service should exist both online and offline. When fans interact with a brand, the least they could do is respond. Engaging with their stakeholders can build credibility and trust, which can drive sales. Just show up.

Be careful:
everything you say can and will be held against you. The infamous ‘Gasp Fail’ is a testament to this. Be conscious of what you say online. More importantly, don’t shut down your social media platforms during a crisis – it’s the only avenue where publics can see your side of the story.

Be transparent: this cute kissing video melted the hearts of millions, until it was revealed the whole thing was staged and sponsored by a fashion label. Viewers felt tricked, and this controversy has negatively transferred to the brand. Companies should be honest and respect their audience.

The takeaway:
– observe other company’s mistakes and learn from them
– do not run away in case of a fire: put it out, stay online, keep engaging
– use social media platforms for conversation and commerce (don’t just sell, sell, sell)

nobodylikesthis                                                      (Image courtesy of Flickr)

Social media gives PR practitioners another source of value and more ways to build relationships with stakeholders, but it does come with risks. If mishandled, poor practice could leave a company’s reputation hanging by a thread. Now more than ever, PR best practice includes being ahead of the curve, examining changing trends and adopting strategies to fit.

Because consumers have new found power, companies need to make influential stakeholders their advocates, by inclusion, feedback, listening and engagement.

Though challenging, if executed effectively social media can be a valuable tool in the public relations arsenal: it truly puts the public back into public relations.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions!

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