Knee-Jerk Crisis Management Hurts Black Milk Clothing

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    An example of a poorly handled social media crisis

    Shouting from your soapbox that offended stakeholders are wrong, deleting Facebook comments, banning users, and finally a full 180 and mea culpa – Australian org Black Milk Clothing ran the full circle of poorly handled social media impact of crisis management, and it all started with a single post:

    Black Milk Clothing Star Wars geeky goddess post

    Followers of the page instantly pointed out that the image seems very much to be a violation of one of Black Milk’s self-imposed “Facebook Commandments”, ““You shall not make critical comments about other women’s bodies.”, and a highly volatile discussion about the brand’s seeming misogyny and body shaming leapt into existence.

    Instead of stepping back and examining what had upset so many stakeholders, Black Milk’s social media staffers started cranking out posts ranging from defensive to insanely passive-aggressive. Here’s a quote from one:

    “If the fan page offends you and you don’t like the way we roll, you probably want to unlike the fan page. If that experience causes you to have negative feelings towards the company itself, then you can always stop shopping with us. We’ll understand.”

    You can pick your jaw up from the floor now, but suffice to say it went on like that for some time. With fans flying off the handle following these responses, the company then started swinging the ban stick left and right. The furor began spreading to other social networks, and critics around the web were throwing hate towards Black Milk.

    Finally, after nearly 48 hours of constant negative attention, Black Milk published a lengthy apology to Facebook:

    I want to start off by saying I am incredibly sorry for everything that has happened over the last couple of days.

    We made a mistake and we apologise sincerely.

    The intention behind the meme was to share a personal experience, and never meant to offend anyone. We misjudged the line between funny and offensive, and underestimated the true impact it would have. I am so sorry.

    The senior management at Black Milk take full responsibility for the post and the way complaints following the post were handled. Any criticism should be directed there, and not to the social media team who were simply acting under the direction of management.

    I want you guys to know that this wonderful, diverse community means so much to me personally. Having gone to meet ups and being involved in all the amazing things you guys do for each other is such a humbling experience. I don’t want to think that what has taken years to build could be jeopardised.

    We are taking ownership of this situation, from the original post to the way complaints were handled. I will work together with the Black Milk team to ensure we learn from this.

    We are a small, passionate team who truly value the friendships we have with you guys. I hope that the past four years are a testament to how proud we are of the diversity and inclusiveness within our communities. In saying that, we are human and unquestionably have made a mistake.

    Again, we are truly sorry for everything that has happened. I really hope any damage caused over the last few days can be repaired.

    This community is such a special place and we want everyone to fun and share the love.

    Considering the amount of attention that’s given to social media crises on a daily basis, it’s incredible to see meltdowns like this still occurring. If you take away one thing from this incident, it’s that you never, ever, let your personal emotions get in the way of issuing a kind, compassionate response to critics. When you feel yourself getting heated or overwhelmed, step back, or hand the reins over to someone with a fresh head. Otherwise, you risk making moves you’ll be paying for a long time after.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]

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