Twitter and Facebook need senior attention

So, according to this morning’s PR Week news bulletin, Nestlé has been facing a barrage of criticism on Twitter and Facebook. At issue is its use in Kit Kats of palm oil from Sinar Mas, an Indonesian company accused of illegal deforestation of rainforests. Greenpeace has highlighted the case.

Nestlé’s response to the criticisms has been inadequate, Facebook users say, and it seems that it’s because, yet again, an important task has been delegated to the wrong person – someone junior who wasn’t using an appropriate tone.

This is a classic. In any crisis, responsibility needs to be taken at the highest level; responses should come from the top. Even if the most senior person can’t physically hit the keyboard, the content and tone should be agreed at that level. And, yes, that applies to comments on Twitter and Facebook. Just because these social media are often used by the young (though recent research found younger people were deserting them), they are also frequently used by people of any age and any seniority. Sarah Brown, the prime minister’s wife, is not a one-off. And words travel fast, around the world, in this 24-hour publishing medium.

The potential impact of social media in a crisis is massive – and it could be good or bad. Of that there should never have been any doubt – as Nestlé has, through its errors, found out.

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