|March 25, 2010|
|Oh, Nestle, Oh, Humanity|
|By Greg Hazley|
|As Facebook crosses over from hugely popular social networking site to the top destination online for just about anything, the PR realm is adapting, listening and watching to the FB hits and misses.|
Nestle last week became the latest involuntary case study on social media PR when its Facebook page became the site of some terse exchanges between "fans" and the company.
The confectioner has been targeted by Greenpeace International recently for its use of palm oil produced from, the group says, clear-cut rainforests in Indonesia. PR-savvy Greenpeace produced a revamped logo from Nestle's Kit Kat brand that swapped in the word "Killer," a piece of clip art which was used by activists as their avatars online. Another version of its bird's nest logo was also reworked to show a vulture hovering over a baby in a bird's nest.
Nestle responded by telling users via Facebook (at around 11:30 p.m. on a Thursday night) that it would delete all comments with modified Nestle logos, a move that was seen by many as overly aggressive and stifling free speech. The result was a flood of negative criticism, including threatened boycotts of its products.
PR counselor Gerry McCusker called Nestle's tone "at times scolding and a bit sarcastic" and offered a few lessons from the debacle on his blog, as did Jeremiah Owyang.
The U.K.'s Guardian called the play an "anti-social" media surge, while Salon observed the blunder from the prism of a PR textbook:
"Most Internet marketing veterans would likely have just folded up their tents and headed for the hills in the face of an angry online mob. You can't win that kind of fight. But this moderator refused to back down. He (or she) did exactly the opposite -- breaking every rule of corporate public relations ever made."
But Salon's Andrew Leonard wisely observed that Nestle's Facebook administrator was essentially burned at the stake for being human.
"It's a sad sight, to see a man (or woman) broken by the taunts of an angry mob," he wrote. "But what I find most confounding about this whole sorry display is that the real error here was for the moderator to act like an actual human being."
Nestle's moderator eventually apologized for deleting comments and for being rude, acknowledging that "we're learning as we go" in social media and called Logo-Gate "one in a series of mistakes."
But if authenticity is the watchword of social media done right, while corporatespeak and one-way, overly polished dialog s anathema, why was this person flambeed for being honest?
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