Another epic PR fail: When Nestle met Greenpeace.

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It all started with this video. WARNING: It`s hardcore.

Have a break? from Greenpeace UK.

The story behind this video addresses a couple of issues in PR: the power of NGOs, why they always seem to be one step ahead, why corporations are still so vulnerable when it comes to their reputation, why you can`t live without a descent social media strategy these days and last but not least, why having a facebook fanpage and a twitter profile doesn`t mean you control social media.

When a powerful NGO like Greenpeace starts a worldwide campaign against a corporation like Nestle, it is hard for them to react adequately. Greenpeace wants Nestle to remove palm oil from their products, because its production destroys the rain forrest. They launched the video above, a parody on a kitkat commercial and basically accuses Nestle of killing orangutans by destroying their natural living environment.
Nestle was not amused. But what is the right way to react in a situation like this? Well, we certainly know what the wrong way looks like: Nestle lobbied to have the video removed from Youtube, citing a copyright complaint. That was clearly a bad decision: first, because the video was bound to appear on several other video platforms and second, because it drew even more attention to it. Now that it`s banned, we have to see it, right? Nestle itself gave the video its news worthiness. A text book example for a phenomenon called the Streisand effect.
"Thank you Nestle...I would never have seen this video if you hadn`t had it kicked off YouTube. Now I`m forwarding it all my friends, through Facebook, and guess what they are forwarding it all their mates. Fire your PR team. They are muppets."

We`ve seen this scenario before: While NGOs know exactly what the web2.0 is capable of, partly because they`ve participated in it and needed it from the very beginning, big corporations like Nestle are still wary of it. They use it because they have to, so they employed some people to run a facebook fanpage, a twitter account and maybe a corporate blog. But when it comes to a crisis, they immediatly fall back into old habbits, in this case pulling some strings, make some legal threats, publishing a press release with empty phrases about CSR and hoping that everything will calm down eventually. They just don`t get that the world of PR has fundamentaly changed and that these tools don`t work anymore.

As the video went viral, Nestle made another mistake. Instead of using their existing accounts on social media plattforms to jump into the conversation and calm the waves a bit, they decided to stay away from it. Nestle decided not to address the issue on their twitter feed, except for one single link to their corporate press release, whereas Greenpeace makes it more than easy for supporters to participate in the campaign through social media. Even worse: Nestle is following only 8 people on twitter: what kind of dialogue is that?

Nestle tried to do the same with facebook, but Greenpeace wouldn`t let them. Supporters started posting to the Nestle and the kitkat fanpage en masse, encouraged by Greenpeace. Many changed their profile pictures to Anti-Nestle slogans. Once more, Nestle completely missed the chance to produce any kind of dialogue around the issue, but instead decided it would be a good idea to threaten the facebook users and snap back at fans. When a user posted the following (very true) comment:
"not sure you`re going to win friends in the social media space with this sort of dogmatic approach. I understand that you`re on your back-foot due to various issues not excluding palm oil but social media is about embracing your market, engaging and having a conversation rather than preaching!"
Whoever is responsible for the Nestle facebook account decided to respond this:
"Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it`s our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus."
Nestle completely lost control over its own facebook page - which shows the ugly side of social media. An open forum for comments and feedback can turn against you, when badly managed. The way Nestle snapped back at users is just ridiculous. The whole social media strategy seems completely uncoordinated and unorganized.

But I don`t see that as a threat to social media marketing in general, as some bloggers already predict. Corporations should be alarmed and learn from what`s happening to Nestle. Don`t take social media for granted and try to dig a little deeper before using it. True engagement in social media first requires you to understand the sociological and cultural implications that social media is funded on. Like every PR tool, it needs to be used strategically and consciously.


deepak mavi says
23 March 2015 at 09:37

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