10 crisis PR tips following Braehead Shopping Centre social media boycott campaign


By Stephen Lepitak, -

October 11, 2011 | 3 min read

Marjorie Calder, director at The BIG Partnership, offers 10 crisis PR lessons that can be learned following the recent headlines created by Braehead shopping Centre in Glasgow's treatment of a father, who took a picture of his own daughter while shopping, only to be detained by security, who in turn involved the police.

Much has been written, blogged, tweeted, broadcast and picked through about this weekend’s explosion of publicity at Braehead. There are lots of complex points but for me, the main leaning points are simple and the crisis could have been averted before it made the local paper, never mind social media commentators in the Southern hemisphere. 1. Don’t be afraid to have policies. Public places require policies and Braehead’s was not substantially different from most other centres. What it lacked on the day was the presence of common sense interpretation. 2. Be willing to apologise. If something has gone wrong, apologise; not for the policy but for heavy-handed implementation disproportionate to the incident. 3. Recognise the speed of social media and be at least prepared to respond. Dealing with an online campaign is a bit like moving a pendulum; small movements significantly change the trajectory. In this case, it seems it was lack of common sense which inflamed the issue more than any detailed knowledge of social media.4. Ignore the human element at your peril. The moral majority is just that. Give them information in a credible way and they accept it; - even defend your position. Treat them as fools and you make people understandably angry. 5. Keep going back to the basics. Once you have apologised for any error, maintain accessibility, humility and humour and you turn a story around or strike it dead. You certainly take all the fun out of it for the inevitable mischief makers who seek to whip up the argument further after the event. 6. Use the tools at your disposal. In this case, a good communicator would have had easy access to all forms of traditional and online media to proactively turn the story around (or of course, to make it worse if they hadn’t paid attention to points 1-5).7. Consider the future implications. Unfortunately this centre has earned itself the reputation for being heavy-handed. This means people will react to it differently for a while. This need to be recognised in ongoing staff training so that the story is not prolonged by sequels. 8. Take it on the chin. The real problem is not a Facebook campaign which will wither when it’s no longer topical. It’s the cost of reputational damage which lives on the minds of shoppers. This will cost money to fix through community engagement. 9. Don’t lose perspective. With Christmas coming, it is unrealistic to think that shoppers will boycott Braehead to any significant effect but I bet they will be more bolshie if approached by security on any topic. Train, train and train again. Then suck it up as a penance for not reacting quickly enough to a situation which could have been averted through tact and common sense. 10. This is not a social media case study it’s one of basic communication. Social media just makes it bigger and faster. Be warned and make sure you have an effective crisis communication policy too.Marjorie Calder is a Director with The BIG Partnership - marjorie.calder@bigpartnership.co.uk


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