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1 February 2013 - 12:07pm | posted by | 11 comments

HMV social suicide is a wake up call to consultants and marketing grand fromages

HMV has made a dog's dinner of social mediaHMV has made a dog's dinner of social media

This week was going to be all about Blackberry, a brand that I have knocked on these here pages in the past but who, ultimately, I love because they are the only mobile device I have used where the email has just worked without issues.

With their big fanfare launch this week, it now looks like they are at the top end of the bath, rather than swirling around the plughole as they have been for the past year of so.

The goings on at HMV though, specifically the social media suicide that happened yesterday, means that praise for the Blackberry PR team has been massively reduced in my column (but well done everyone involved).

All I will say is, from a PR perspective, a huge amount of kudos, especially in the face of adversity - i.e. a cynical tech world and a BBC interview that was clearly set up with an attack agenda in mind from the outset.

Moving on to HMV, the details of what has happened have been plastered over every newspaper and social media news site, so there is no need for me to go into the narrative.

I have two main observations about what has happened and I am going to tell you whether you like it or not.

The first is that I find it staggering that in this day and age, such senior level marketing managers do not feel that social media delivers such a return that they can be bothered to take it seriously.

Well, let me rephrase that. Not being bothered to take it seriously is probably a bit harsh; maybe cannot be bothered to get a basic understanding of how the platforms work, not even from a personal point of view it seems.

Drilling down, and giving it thought, this is another reason why HMV found itself in trouble: they didn’t move with modern times and clearly did not give social media any value. They seemingly packed it with interns and let them roam free without setting any safety checks in place.

Secondly, I think the HMV situation highlights that the bulldozer approach of administrators and consultants, parachuted in to try and rescue/sell off or shut down a brand, needs to be reviewed and more thought out in terms of how they manage certain situations.

I am not naming the consultants in the HMV case because I know from my own experiences of working with that sector in general that they go down the sue-y route of protecting their reputations.

We all know that the administrators and co have to move quickly to manage a failing situation but normal working practices should not be ignored and the high fees that they command means that they should work all hours to get the right processes in place.

Having worked for global companies I have had the misfortune of having to be involved in announcements where entire departments or divisions were being made redundant or sold.

The amount of work and effort that goes into making sure that the employees affected have the immediate support that they need, along with protecting the company from rogue announcements or reactions is thorough to the point of obsession.

I don’t think administrators get this, they certainly don’t look at the potential impact of their actions on the brand that they are trying to save. Did the HMV consultants seek advice on the brand/marketing and communications implications of their planned announcement?

HMV has had serious brand damage from yesterday’s activity. They will make up 90 per cent of every social media and PR knobbers’ (of which I am one) oh so trendy slideshare presentation on social media fails for the next few years - well, until the next one comes along.

The search engines will be filled with high-ranking blogs and articles detailing what they have done, something, should the brand survive, they will struggle to move down the rankings.

Finally, it could actually put off any wider groups that were thinking of joining the current suitor for taking them on. For example, I doubt Peter Jones would have been bothered to secure the rights to the Jessops brand had it suffered such long-term brand damage in the immediate aftermath of its demise.

Finally finally, to the person who did the rogue tweeting and claims (so the Telegraph would have us believe) that she has been inundated with job offers...

I would guess that they will be stunt-related and any credible social and marketing brand with common sense will steer clear.

That being said, of course, what happened to them was horrible and having been made redundant and (oops) actually fired from big companies in the past I can sympathise with what went on. But the question remains, would I have done the same though?


So whilst the lefties rave about what a great thing was done to stick it to the man, I imagine agency heads everywhere have noted down that person’s name as one to maybe avoid.

Wow, that was a deep one this week. Keen to get your thoughts on how wrong I am.

Andy runs 10, an online public relations agency. Got any PR gossip, give him a shout on or on Twitter @10Yetis.


1 Feb 2013 - 13:03
dcfdenny's picture

bizarre rant...

1 Feb 2013 - 13:28
andybarr's picture

That is so weird dcfdenny, "Bizarre rant" is my family nickname? Are you my sister per chance?

1 Feb 2013 - 13:58

I wholeheartedly agree with everything here, apart from your views on the individual concerned.

All things considered, I don't see her as a liability in a social manager's role with a brand that actually embraces social media and, more importantly, understands the importance of sensitivity towards a group of employees whose lives are about to take a significant turn for the worse. Before recent events, she appears to have been deeply loyal to the hmv brand and a keen advocate of social media, despite the apparent refusal of senior staff to acknowledge social as a serious medium.

We all have memories of spending time in an hmv store, searching for something to spend our well-earned paper round wages on. That nostalgia enables a kind of brand affinity that's very difficult for most brands to achieve. Add that to the normal loyalty you have as an employee, and you have a workforce which generally consists of unusually passionate staff.

In yesterdays tweets, I envisaged a person who loved the brand they worked for, surrounded by 60 other people who felt the same way, being told (apparently in a rather callous way) that their jobs were gone. It was being done by people who couldn't care less about the brand, about Nipper or (apparently) about the people who stood before them. I believe it was her feelings for (the artist formerly known as) hmv, and for the staff by whom she was surrounded, which prompted yesterday's activity. Add those to the frustration of trying for years to convince senior staff of the importance of having a good social presence, and you have a finale which I expect would create a sense of overwhelming hopelessness.

Yesterday would have been an extreme situation for anyone. And let's not forget that the girl is 21 – young shoulders to bear such a load. As a person in a role similar to her, I should make my feelings clear that her specific actions yesterday were wrong, absolutely. But I don't believe those actions should define her, nor should they ruin her prospects of a career in a field that she's clearly very talented in. The passion, loyalty and intelligence that she can offer would, in my opinion, be an asset to any potential employee with the right attitude towards both social media and its own people.

1 Feb 2013 - 14:08
andybarr's picture

Happy to admit when i am wrong, not this time though :-)

1 Feb 2013 - 14:13

@andybarr To each his own - the world would be a boring place if we all thought the same things... :)

1 Feb 2013 - 15:24
lucym18847's picture

Nice piece. I completely agree with your comments about the girl that did it! Silly and unprofessional move. Found the whole thing quite undignified.

1 Feb 2013 - 15:40
drewm86026's picture

I actually work for HMV and wholeheartedly agree with everything you say here. The company has been very poor to capitalise on social media, but the point I have been trying to impress upon people since yesterday is exactly what you say about the individual involved. The official HMV twitter feed has been very poorly executed by her. In this day and age, every individual store has its own twitter, and they do thousand times what she has done to promote the brand. This was an act of self promotion and bitterness. She was made redundant, not fired, and those of us working in stores have had this hanging over our heads for two years. Lets not forget it was only last week that staff in the Irish stores staged at a sit in to ensure they got paid what they were due after being made redundant, but I'm sure she was making a song and dance about it at the time.

1 Feb 2013 - 21:51

I disagree entirely.

Any business with a large retail footprint should have one social media presence, managed by someone who understands social. To have countless channels dilutes the effectiveness of what should be the one social voice of a brand. It's also virtually impossible to police and leaves the company vulnerable to all kinds of compliance issues, policy breaches and potentially something far more serious.

Managing a social channel requires a little more than the ability to create a twitter account and knowing what CD's are on offer this week. There's an endless list of things to consider - intellectual property issues, brand image, even maintaining consistency in the brand's tone of voice - employees who refer to the company as 'HMV' instead of 'hmv' being a prime example of where this might fail in the hands of those who aren't familiar with such details.

Anyway, all this undoubtedly made the individual's job even harder, particularly when combined with a board who were clearly inept when it came to social.

It's disappointing to see that you presented your opinion of her motives as fact, when you probably have no way of knowing that to be true. It seems that working for hmv (and maybe running your store's twitter account?) has somehow made you an expert in all matters related to both hmv and social media? Perhaps you're also one of those people who 'could have scored that with my eyes closed' when a professional footballer fires one wide?

1 Feb 2013 - 23:59
drewm86026's picture

I don't actually run my stores Twitter account, I'm actually far from being anywhere near an expert. I also nowhere claim that there shouldn't be an official hmv - note the lack of capitals, if it pleases - account. What I did say is that the people who run the store accounts more often than not understand the customers interests than a 21 year old girl sitting in an office. I know people who have lost their jobs in the last fortnight, they didn't have as high a profile platform to vent their frustration as this girl did, but if they had, I don't think they would have. If she loved the company as much as she claims she did, she would understand that it's the administrators who made the decision, not hmv, and she has done nothing but further damage the company's reputation by "speaking up", perhaps irreversibly so.

3 Feb 2013 - 03:32

I didn't accuse you of saying that a centralised social presence was a bad idea, I offered my opinion that it's a good idea, and listed the reasons behind it.

The fact that you think her actions have perhaps 'irreversibly damaged' the brand's reputation shows that you're right - you're far from being anywhere near an expert. Before her tweets began, the @hmvtweets account had less than 62,000 followers. As i write this, it has 73,700 - an increase of almost 20%, many of whom will continue to follow the account long after this is finished. Hopefully, they'll pass control of it to someone other than the brainiac who was tweeting in the aftermath, who seems unable to spell simple words such as 'thanks' or 'through'.

This event has prompted news stories across the world, none of which have been scathing about the brand - the vast majority have followed in exactly the same vein as the article we're commenting on now.

All of this increases brand awareness with almost zero negative sentiment towards the brand itself. You can't buy this type of publicity!

I also think she made it perfectly clear that her vexation was towards the administrators and senior staff, and the way in which the life-blood of the brand - the little people (like you) who have made it what it is - were being dismissed en-masse. I didn't once see her blaming hmv as an entity. Did you?

To clarify something I said in my initial comment - I'm not advocating her actions - they were wrong. I have access to an even higher profile platform than that of hmv and I agree with you - I'd never do that. I think she did the wrong thing for the right reasons.

And, getting back to the original article's point, should this ruin her potential career in a field that she's talented in at the age of 21? No. I think it would be a terrible waste.

4 Feb 2013 - 21:35
micha97449's picture



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