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Weighty Issue Tipped The (Online) Scales

Belgian singer Maurane at the festivities on the Wallonia-Brussels unionLast week a Twitter-storm caught the attention of the Belgian media. A heated exchange between a singer and a fashion blogger created an on and offline witch hunt that neither was prepared for. For those of us in PR who watched it unfold, it also contained some key lessons on social media crisis. Here’s a quick overview if you missed it:

Blogger Valerie De Pever @mentioned singer Maurane in a reaction to the repetition of a Weight Watchers radio ad that the star appears in. The singer’s response was less than friendly, shall we say.

#Mauranegate - the tweet that started it all

#Mauranegate – the tweet that started it all

It’s fair to say in the exchange that followed, neither of them emerged victorious, but worse was that Weight Watchers was constantly associated with the personal spat between the two. Spreading it from Twitter, Valerie wrote a post to explain her own point of view on her blog. This helped to ignite the situation further, with over 100 comments. Followers who jumped into the argument remained divided. Most fans of the singer turned against the blogger, whilst others felt she had gone too far.  Then the media picked up on the story. It was only after a few further days that Maurane and Valerie actually spoke out personally and the story died down. Not before the story achieved a lot of attention, including its own hashtag, #mauranegate.

Our Belgian social media team were asked by some journalists what the impact of this kind of situation can be on a brand, and what we could learn from it. Here are the tips we gave:

  • Use a good online monitoring tool: That way, you will be alerted first if there is a high amount of conversations and mentions on your brand. If Weight Watchers had seen the situation earlier, they may have been able to steer the messaging
  • Seek advice  on the best approach: If you do not know how to respond then speak to someone with experience before you react. Maurane could have avoided negative comments if she had not reacted so emotionally [the twitpic in which she photoshopped herself into a devil for example!]
  • Not all online comments have to be followed-up online: In this case, both parties had better spoken offline, and then given a joint public statement afterwards
  • Have clear guidelines for brand ambassadors: This will help to ensure that the celebrity doesn’t voice publically anything you’d rather they didn’t! In this case Weight Watchers had to openly distance itself from the opinions of Maurane, when she declared that even she was fed up with her radio ad’s high circulation

It’s not the first, and won’t be the last time that something more suited to private correspondence has been played out on social media. Which leads us to ask: which famous #fails so far have been the most interesting and useful for you to learn from?

(photo credits Eddy Berthier)

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  • http://twitter.com/blogtobealive Valerie De Pever

    The aim of my blog post was to clarify the situation immediately! It was written immediately because Maurane didn’t bother to read my second tweet and then said that that tweet wasn’t clear.

    I might have not studied PR but I think that the first thing to do in these kind of cases is explain yourself to avoid rumours, and so that people don’t twist your words.

    You do realize that in the end I am just a blogger (as a hobby) and don’t have a whole PR / agent machine behind me? I think that I have managed this situation as best as I could!

    • http://twitter.com/pietr Pieter De Wit

      Hi Valerie, thanks for your feedback. We think you did a great job indeed in using your blog to explain your point of view.

      Transparency and openness are powerful communication tools. And that’s why we have taken a look at the story from a brand perception point: what is the impact of this on a brand? And how should a brand react on it? That’s the point that triggered our attention.

      In order to honour your openness, I have amended the wording above to the link with referencing that you wrote it to make your own point of view clear.