"Toxic Talk" in Social Media

While surfing around the blogosphere I came across a post by Crisisblogger Gerald Baron  about “toxic talk” in social media and whether its effects should be taken as seriously as they have in the past. The example brought to light was how reputation management dealt with the backlash of a Motrin Ad that struck sour with mommy communities across the web. Did they respond well to the situation?

We’ve talked about this case in PR class a couple times, but the notion that Johnson & Johnson (the distributor of Motrin) may have overreacted hadn’t really crossed my mind. The post by Baron referenced an article in Advertising Age that suggested we shouldn’t be so worried about viral outrage online. It is clear to us that social media matters, so what is trying to be said here? Well…there is definite controversy.

The article on Advertising Age suggested:

  • Internet and conversations don’t directly impact everyone.
  • For those who aren’t exposed to the message, it is more likely the controversy will drive them to seek answers and go check out what the fuss is about. (which is positive)
  • The overall impression of a company won’t necessarily have dramatic altercations.

Crisis management is extremely important, but are cases where company’s overreact becoming more apparent?

Another blogger, Shel Holtz, pointed out that people don’t have to see the message to get caught up with the outrage. He also noted that small issues online can blow up into mainstream coverage like well-known newspaper publications leaving company reputations extremely vulnerable.

These two perspectives got me thinking. I have come to the conclusion that each situation should be evaluated individually to determine and develop proper methods of solving the problem. Any thoughts on what may be a better way of dealing with crisis in social media?

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5 Responses to "Toxic Talk" in Social Media

  1. lmdavis2 says:

    I disagree with Baron, I think organizations do need to be concerned with their online presence, especially when it comes to negative comments. A company’s online reputation is becoming more and more important in their overall success as a business. If companies alienate and ignore their online following for or against them, they are losing out on a major possible stakeholder group. I agree with you though about companies overreacting to negative online feedback. It definitely needs to be addressed, but you can only do so much to prevent negative feedback from a crisis. The best thing a company can do is admit to the mistake and directly apologize to the stakeholders effected. Too much attention on the issue though draws it out and keeps in the media or in online discussions.

  2. plepkows says:

    In the original post, the blogger states that since only about 10 percent of consumers had seen the advertisement, it shouldn’t have been treated as such a big deal. I, however, disagree. When you put that percentage in perspective, it is still a very large group of people and an important stakeholder group of the company. The upset mothers deserved action on the part of Motrin. Especially since members of the Moms and Motrin group were particularly vocal, it was critical for Motrin to take action to improve the reputation of the company. I do not think that Motrin over-reacted. I think they acted appropriately as public relations professionals should – respecting the values, beliefs and opinions of stakeholder groups.

  3. haleypetersonasu says:

    I both agree and disagree with Baron. It is very important for a company to take responsibility during a crisis, apologize to the necessary stakeholders and then MOVE ON. As much as a company’s online presence has become more and more important in the recent years, there is still a large chunk of the population that never would have known about the Motrin case if hadn’t been so magnified.

    On the other hand, because online presence is becoming the epicenter for so many companies, it is important to closely monitor what positive and negative feedback is placed out there.

    The best rules of thumb…admit the mistake, apologize when necessary, create an action plan and MOVE ON.

  4. lehanson says:

    I came across the blog about Motrin while I was trying to figure out what to blog on this week and was surprised by some of the statistics. When this advertisement went out we discussed it in my PR class and I remember thinking to myself, “did they show this to any pregnant or new moms before they aired it?” But I wonder had we not talked about it in class if I would have even seen it. Because of the online buzz the ad created it received even more publicity but yet woman were surveyed after the fact and more than half said it didn’t alter their view of Motrin. With that being said it does seem that things get blown out of proportion more often because of blogs and sites such as Twitter but as Haley posted above, take the necessary actions and get on with things rather than dwell on what has happened.

  5. mjcavaleri says:

    I don’t want to defend the Motrin people here, but I think it is important to understand who will come out and complain about ads.

    The people who find the ads to be either extremely bad or extremely good are the ones most likely to talk about it later (or blog about it, whatever).

    Maybe these minorities also led competitors to see it as well and then drive home the point to hurt Motrin sales.

    I’m not saying this is what happened, I’m just putting it out there.

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