4 years ago

How not to use social media for your travel brand after a terrorist attack

The tragedy in Boston has left many speechless, queasy and simply out-of-sorts with their place in the world.

For the travel industry, terrorist events like these have the potential for huge disruption of business. Uncertainty surrounding safety is never good for business.

And so when a brand wades into the dangerous waters of post-tragedy social media engagement, the risks are enormous. From appearing insensitive to reverting back a tone of “business as usual,” all social media teams must carefully consider how their immediate reactions on social media will appear not only to their immediate audience, but the wider world.

Case in point: the food brand Epicurious.  Owned by media congolomerate Condé Nast, the food brand jumped back into their sharing schedule with the following tweets:

To make matters worse – or at least to appear more robotic and insensitive, the brand then placed an auto-responder – or at least a copy/paste message – for any offended parties.

As Mr Media Training pointed out in his post surrounding this SNAFU:

Get your legs blown off by a terrorist? Try these scones! Lose a cherished friend? Maybe this bowl of breakfast energy can help!

The initial tweet and subsequent response is just not up to par with a giant media brand – they should be better at these sorts of things. After all, they have endless experience across brands.

What should they have done instead? Well, first off, they should never have entered the fray at all. No one is thinking about baking scones when grisly images of victims with missing limbs are leading news stories across the world.

Second, they should have flat out apologized, across all media, and from a senior person at the company – the CEO.

Finally, they should have crafted individual responses to any and all responses – both positive and negative. The team should have sniffed out an impending brand crisis, and immediately dedicated one *senior* person to manage the inevitable backlash.

“Set and forget” is not a strategy when it comes to fixing a mistake. It does not appear genuine or caring, and most certainly makes people lose their appetite for the brand.

Mr Media Training suggested the following steps:

  1. They can start by engaging with readers individually—and offering human responses instead of form ones.
  2. They can learn from KitchenAid’s crisis example from late last year, when that company’s brand manager personally jumped in, stated that the person responsible for the tweets wouldn’t be allowed to represent their brand anymore, and offered on-the-record interviews.
  3. They should pledge that they will provide everyone on the staff with social media training; and, if they don’t already have a social media policy, that they will create one immediately.
  4. Epicurious should pledge a donation to victims of the Boston tragedy in an effort to make something good come out of this experience.
Regardless of what’s already happened, they still have the opportunity to turn this around because the buzz is only building regarding their initial tweet.
Lessons learned all around? We’ll have to see how this shakes out.
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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick is the Editorial Director for Tnooz. Prior to this role, Nick has multi-hyphenated his way through a variety of passions: restaurateur, photographer, filmmaker, corporate communicator, Lyft driver, Airbnb host, journalist, and event organizer.



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  1. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    The core message is that Social Media is not to be trifled with.

    For brands like Conde Nast (who have a big stake in the health of the Travel Industry) this was not just a blunder but a major mistake. Like many brands the grey haired ones leave it to “interns” to manage their presence in social media. This is a mistake. Social Media of all types must be as much a part of the brand persona as anything else.

    Straightforward messaging is essential. Spin is not helpful. Stupidity will be punished.

    Twitter is a fast moving and complex tool. How to communicate in 140 characters is now pretty much an art form. And you can AND will be misinterpreted. Sadly just because you can speak to millions via the Social or even conventional tools doesn’t mean you have to. Let this be a lesson to all of us.


  2. Bernie O'Keefe

    Nice post Nick

  3. Andrea

    I would change the title from “How not to use social media for your travel brand after a terrorist attack” to “How not to use social media for your travel brand after a tragedy”

  4. Todd Van Hoosear

    Good catch. For the record, wasn’t an auto-replyer. It was a social media intern (I *hope*) cutting and pasting the same approved apology tweet via the web app. Not cool, breakfast bar.

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      If a person sounds like a robot, doesn’t it defy the point of having a living, breathing, theoretically-emotionally-active human apologizing?


  5. Fergie

    It’s a really interesting tale. I’ve no idea how anyone at epicurious could have thought it was a good idea. Thanks for sharing, Nick. Little surprised to see it on here, though. I see the second line attempts to make a tenuous connection to travel, but isn’t terrorism bad for any industry?

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Social media is the most widely used technology across all business, so I found this to be instructive. Especially as it was a Conde Nast brand – this wasn’t some smaller operation, but a large company that should have much more stringent policies surrounding social.

      A great lesson for all of us in travel!




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