By Molly Olten
Fine Brothers Entertainment, a popular YouTube channel, recently launched into crisis mode. The creators, known for popular videos such as Elders React to Dubstep and Kids React to Old Computers, announced plans to allow other video makers to “franchise” the brothers’ video formula. These plans also include trademarking the word “react.”
This is where the issues start.
The response from the YouTube community has been overwhelmingly negative. Creators feel threatened that trademarking a vague term like “react” could create numerous problems for other YouTube users and ultimately hinder creativity. Their fears were immediately confirmed as numerous videos were taken down for infringement. Ironically, several YouTubers have made their own reaction videos to the news.
So what can PR professionals learn from all of this?
The Fine Brothers are essentially dealing with a crisis. Although quick to respond, their strategy has not met the needs of the affected audience. Here are three lessons PR professionals can take away from this situation.
Listen to your audience
When their plans to trademark became public, the brothers’ substantial 13 million subscriber audience began to voice its opinions – loudly. In the early stages of the update a dialogue began between the brothers and their audience,
however, eventually as the situation worsened, the brothers backed out. They began deleting negative posts and questions. Bad move.
This amount of backlash deserves to be properly addressed. An audience wants more than anything to be heard. By silencing negative responses, the outrage will only grow. The conversation will be taken somewhere else – somewhere a brand cannot adequately communicate.
Clarify and then clarify some more
Part of the problem with the Fine Brothers’ announcement was their lack of clarity. They didn’t understand the fears of the YouTube community or how this would threaten their creative freedoms. Because of this misunderstanding, the Fine Brothers employed side-stepping language and vague examples. They tried masking the intentions of their initiative. This fueled speculation by concerned audiences and left the consequences up for interpretation.
Although a company may have been planning a change for months, when the announcement is made public, the information is totally new to audiences. There will be plenty of questions, and organizations need to have answers. If they do not receive adequate responses to their questions, the audience will make its own assumptions and this can add to the problem. Clarity is key.
After the storm of protests just a few days after the initial announcement, the brothers uploaded an update video. Despite the fast response, the creators seemed rehearsed and not genuine. It seems that the Fine Brothers still think their audience considers them to be just a couple of guys making funny videos, but this is not the case. Their channel essentially functions as a business, and the viewers know this. Many of those who responded to the update commented on its forced nature and rehearsed appearance.
Audiences know when an explanation is coming from a place of sincerity or insincerity. An obligatory, seemingly forced “sorry” will not suffice when the audience is deeply connected to the issue.
Know your audience, respect it and own up to the mistake.
Eventually, the Fine Brothers realized the error of their ways and decided to back down from trademarks. In an effort to save their reputation, they released a statement recanting all their future plans. Despite this gesture, the brothers’ YouTube channel has suffered significant subscriber loss and serious damage to follower loyalty. Overall, this was the best and only move the brothers could make.
The bigger picture: While this crisis brings up serious questions about trademarks and fair use, PR professionals can take a few notes from the struggle. Know your audience, be clear and be genuine. This is solid advice for nearly any situation, but it’s especially important in crisis situations.
By Jeremy Noble
We’ve all had those customer service experiences that really provoked us, whether it was because of horrible service at a restaurant, a faulty product or poor customer treatment. When customers feel their complaints are not heard, they don’t give up. People take to social media to voice their complaints.
In his article on Mashable, author Harry Rollason stated that at the end of the 2012, 80 percent of American companies planned to use social media as a customer service tool. Social media allows companies to manage complaints and taking control of the situations, seemingly as they happen. Yet in some cases, companies choose to ignore complaints, which can encourage more frustration from customers.
Today, customers call the shots
If a company chooses to ignore customer complaints, those who were ignored might tell their friends about the bad experience. They could also voice their concerns on social media, and in some cases, those concerns spin out of control for companies.
In the most bizarre case, poor customer service led to the infamous “United Breaks Guitars.” In 2009, Musician Dave Carroll saw United Airlines baggage handlers tossing around his guitar case and soon realized it had been damaged. He told United that the baggage handlers had broken his Taylor Guitar. When United wouldn’t respond to Carroll’s complaint, he wrote his famous song that, to this day, has over 13 million views on Youtube. After Carroll’s song went viral, it caused United to take action before it brought even more harm to their reputation. Though Carroll’s song succeeded because of his talent and unique spin on bad customer service, a situation like this is always something companies always want to avoid.
Why they ignore complaints
As I see it, businesses want to ignore complaints on social media because they don’t want the conflict to go any further. But doing this could still lead to more bad reviews and even harsher comments. Like the case with United Airlines, responding to a customer’s complaint in person could have saved them time and energy dealing with social media. In the end, businesses have set social media plans in place to deal with customer service complaints.
by Sadie Hicks
On Monday Burger King’s official twitter site was hacked. The hackers played a terrible joke on the company by changing the avatar to the signature golden arches logo and the background to a McFish Bites promotional ad. The hackers also changed the profile description by saying McDonalds now owns the Burger King franchise.
Burger King received criticism for the slew of offensive messages that went out under Burger King’s account name. One wouldn’t think things could get much worse for a company that just got busted for using horse meat in their burgers two weeks prior.
Surprisingly, this PR fiasco was not all bad for Burger King. Its Twitter followers grew by 5,000 within the first 30 minutes of the account being hacked. Only two days after the Twitter hijack the page received a whopping 30,000 new followers. Not to mention, this scandal conveniently outshines the whole horse meat issue.
On Tuesday, Jeep’s official twitter account was also hijacked by the same Burger King hackers. The adjustments to their page were similar to the Burger King/ McDonalds edits. Jeep’s Twitter followers also increased by nearly 5,000 from the hacking crisis.
It was important for both Burger King and Jeep to quickly recover the accounts and manage the hacking crisis before it got out of hand. If either company were to let this get out of control the impact could have been much more negative from the public… especially with the offensive images and messages being tweeted. Letting the hijacking last too long could have caused backlash towards Burger King and Jeep for being negligent and insensitive to potential consumers.
After both companies regained control of their accounts, they seem to be in good spirits. And why shouldn’t they be? What could have been a PR disaster turned into an increase in followers and not too much flak from the media about the offensive tweets. MTV attempted to fake hack its Twitter account in hopes to gain some of the same publicity that Jeep and Burger King received. They have gotten a lot of backlash for the attempt. That is why it is never a good idea to create your own PR stunt.