Lars Voedisch, Founder and Managing Director of PRecious Communications was featured in Marketing Interactive’s ‘Branding News’ section on 19 March 2019, in an article titled ‘Virgin Active’s initial #woke CCTV reply: Should PR teams alone have access to social?’. Recently, Virgin Active found itself embroiled in a controversy for placing its CCTVs near the showering facilities in the gym, which was called “intrusive” by most users. That’s not all – this issue then escalated to its Facebook page, where an employee of the gym responded on behalf of the brand and commented: “CCTVs are placed where female members can pick up a bathrobe before using the relax and recovery facilities.” He added, “the gym celebrates body positivity just like anyone living the now times” and “is morally obligated to stay woke”, and “is part of the #metoo movement.”
Here is Lars’ comment as featured in Marketing Magazine’s article ‘Virgin Active’s initial #woke CCTV reply: Should PR teams alone have access to social?’
“A brand should be clear about the rules of engagement in social. Knowing the do’s and don’ts, brands have to train the employees on the three “R” s: Representation, Responsibility and Respect.”
“The first step would be to educate staff on the company’s rules of engagement. Especially in a crisis, it’s best not to get emotionally involved. It’s crucial to be empathetic in acknowledging what others feel, but sticking to facts and showing what the company is doing to mitigate the situation. Crisis communication needs certain skills – and should be left to the teams prepared for it.”
“A comparison would be – is that particular employee allowed to speak to traditional media? If the answer is “no”, then probably he or she shouldn’t comment on social media either.”
Why Are We Talking About Virgin Active’s Social Media Response?
According to Marketing, there are experts in the PR industry who believe that employees are “unofficial PR people”, yet the social media accounts must be at the behest of the PR team. This will help avoid having too many opinions floating around on social media.
Whether it’s simple communication or in a crisis situation, the messaging tone by the PR team is closely linked to what the brand resonates. Social media accounts are often run in a distinct voice, and the PR department is the best to incorporate this tone into the organisation’s communication channels.
Without trying to infringe on an employees’ rights online, the company can hold training sessions for them to make them understand what the brand wants to communicate on social media. In some instances, a PR and social media handbook can be shared with employees that give out proper guidelines, concerning brand communication on social media.
Besides, a brand could also have an official spokesperson from the company, who can answer the toughest of questions and speaks with clarity and authority. This employee could be given additional media training as well, in case there’s a need.
Planning these steps ahead of time ensures you are not stressed out if an incident of a similar nature happens. This could easily be the difference between controlling a crisis or making it worse!