March 11, 2016: Posted online: a 43-second video showing a man urinating onto a Kellogg’s conveyor belt, clearly contaminating a Kellogg’s product. The video went viral and spread to mainstream media.
Kellogg found itself responding over social media at the same time it was learning the facts.
In its first tweet, Kellogg Company did triple duty: replying to @SupaFirePilot, setting the stage for its messaging and making sure that Kellogg US was in the loop:
The early tweets were important. Days before the release of Kellogg’s official statement the tweets were widely quoted in the media.
March 12: The video, along with Kellogg’s reaction, hit the news on a global scale. In addition to questions of health and trust, hilarity spreads. This back and forth from reddit is an example:
- I honestly don’t think I want to know…ignorance is bliss.
- In this case, ignorance is piss.
- Is this a pun thread? I’m in if urine.
- We shouldn’t waste our time with these piddly attempts.
And, another example from Twitter:
Kellogg did not join in on the jokes.
March 13: Kellogg continued to monitor and address every inquiry on its managed social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—including those arising in the comments of unrelated posts, as in this Instagram example:
March 14: An apology from Kellogg’s North American president was posted on Kellogg Company’s Social K blog.
The apology expresses disgust with the video and sincere emotional caring for customers. It addresses three areas of concern, including first, that the company has launched internal and criminal investigations. Second, that the “situation is a food quality issue and does not present a food safety risk.” Third, that the company is committed to share more information as it becomes available.
The apology was posted to the company’s social blog rather than to its newsroom. This decision properly assigns the need for an apology in the online world where the crisis originated and where the majority of discussions took place.
One problem: the apology contains a link to Kellogg Company’s Facebook page which is offline.
The apology was effective.
After March 14 the video fell out of the news and ceased its viral spread. The crisis settled into an issue which Kellogg’s social media team continues to address through social web responses.
Was this a crisis? Definitely.
From the time the video was posted to the time the apology was posted, Kellogg Company’s share price trended downward.
But, the company’s apology was a turning point.
However, the second “No quick resolution?” devaluation (above) might be connected to a lack of information updates (although further research is needed to prove this). What can be said is that once Kellogg was out of the news, the company’s overall crisis response and its longstanding good reputation were likely factors in its share price recovery.
Support eventually gathered around Kellogg. Here’s an example of a Twitter follower vilifying the pisseur, blaming unions and making it clear whose side he was on:
I’m in if urine.
Impressively, Kellogg managed to dodge reputation-wrecking ties to urine which, year over year, is far more interesting online than “Kellogg’s”:
Kudos to the Kellogg social media and crisis response team for not fanning the comedic flames:
- No mention of urine in any of its responses.
- Jokes were left to the public.
Kellogg’s response kept the focus on the company and its customers as the wronged parties. And it drew attention to the criminality of the act as the topic most worthy of discussion.
What more could’ve been done?
The downed Facebook page could have been explained, particularly since the apology linked to it. And, although a proactive tweet gave Twitter users a direct link to the apology, a similar post wasn’t made on Instagram. All social platforms where conversations took place needed access to the company’s latest information.
Finally, Kellogg continued to respond on social but didn’t provide centralized updates once the apology was published. Since this potentially influenced the second share price decline, follow through with updates in the early days of the crisis–even if only to report on the ongoing nature of investigations–may have had a better impact on share prices.
However, in the end, the response was impressive and effective.
Consistent from the first tweet to the published apology, Kellogg’s crisis response reflects sophistication, preparation, coordination and a lot of hard work.
What do you think: did Kellogg make you feel better about eating its cereal?