Beware the tweet.  Those 140 characters can ruin your week.

There’s nothing like Twitter to get the masses posting, chatting and creatively hashtagging about your every thoughtless, dim-witted or futile move.  In some cases, relentless tweets have been responsible for the hashtag recipients to call in the crisis managers.  This past week has been a particularly bad time for quite a few sad companies and individuals causing us to wonder who had the most scandalous week?  The competition is tight and Twitter is at the forefront of every shameful outrage. Who gets your vote?

1. There’s Pepsi for the Kendall Jenner “unity” ad.

With all the attention to diversity and inclusion, Pepsi just didn’t get it.  Critics say the ad showed multi-racial tensions with police, solved by Kendall Jenner giving a Pepsi to an officer.  Not only was it accused of using social protests to sell soda, it was accused of having the wrong hero in Kendall Jenner.  They responded quickly by pulling the ad and issuing this statement:  Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize.

It used the hashtags #PepsiLivesMatter and #Pepsi.  Here’s a tweet that says it all from Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. “If only daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi” followed by the actual Pepsi ad:

2. Then there’s United, hit with a double scandal for the leggings caper and the pull-the-doctor-off-the-plane fiasco.

A young girl flying on a special United ticket was required to have proper attire of which leggings do not qualify.  She was denied a seat on the plane.  Critics say leggings are common and appropriate attire for young woman of a certain age, but United was not having it.  We regularly remind our employees that when they place a family member or friend on a flight for free as a standby passenger, they need to follow our dress code.

And if that wasn’t enough, along comes the overbooked flight (or was it?) request for passengers to give up their seats for United employees. One of the randomly selected passengers refused to go quietly and was dragged off the plane.  The result was a disaster, all caught on video, of course. Part 2 of United’s bad week elicited statements from the CEO, initially saying the passenger defied authorities then apologizing, taking full responsibility and promising an investigation of the incident and their policies. Now the CEO vows this will never happen again and will refund all passengers on that flight.

These incidents trended with the hashtags #UnitedJourneys and #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos.


3. Next is Cosmopolitan magazine’s diet-of-the month headline, How This Woman Lost 44 Pounds Without *ANY* Exercise. 

The click-through revealed the woman had cancer. The magazine did not apologize, remove the article from their website or otherwise admit anything was wrong other than to change the headline to A Serious Health Scare Helped Me Love My Body More Than Ever.  #COSMODiet was used.

4. Yet again there’s Sean Spicer, this time with comments about how Hitler was not as bad as Syrian’s Assad because Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons.

Critics pointed out that Hitler gassed millions and Spicer’s clarification was not satisfactory, with references to Holocaust centers rather than concentration camps. And he said it during Passover. It elicited hashtags #FireSpicer and #ICantBelieveHeReallySaidThat.


5. Finally, there’s Bill O’Reilly, another double whammy candidate for this treatment of women.

First, he said he couldn’t listen to Rep. Maxine Waters because he was distracted by her James Brown wig. Tweets were relentless about his being racist, sexist and disrespectful.  Then the NY Times revealed he had paid multiple women multiple millions to settle multiple sexual harassment allegations.  Advertisers headed for the hills and it has spurned these hashtags:  #FireBill, #BlackWomenAtWork#DropOReilly.


This is a demanding week for crisis managers.  Here’s our advice – react swiftly (Twitter certainly does), apologize and take steps so that it doesn’t happen again. And remember, there’s always a cell phone camera in action and a tweeter ready to turn your private moment into a public backlash.

We’d love to get your vote for the most scandalous week and we’ll also take nominations from the floor.

Leisa Chester Weir

 

 

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