While thousands were dead or missing following Friday’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan, a social media tsunami hit hard at Microsoft’s Bing search engine company.
The newspaper headline said it all: Microsoft’s Bing suffers backlash from Japan quake tweet (The Province).
On Saturday, some marketing genius inside the company tweeted: “How you can #SupportJapan — http://binged.it/fEh7iT. For every retweet, @bing will give $1 to Japan quake victims, up to $100K.”
Bing’s insensitive pitch for support was immediately and appropriately criticized all across the Internet from Twitter to Facebook.
They compounded the problem Saturday with an apology that was both insincere and inadequate: “We apologize the tweet was negatively perceived. Intent was to provide an easy way for people to help Japan. We have donated $100K.”
So the problem was not Bing but the thousands of netizens who “negatively perceived” its tweet? Big PR Fail. Again, response by critics was swift, negative and often not fit to repeat.
Microsoft is now in full damage control which is really unfortunate because its corporate response and efforts to assist with the Japanese disaster are first rate.
Unfortunately, Bing will be tarnished for some time by this poor judgment and half-baked apology.
There are simply no excuses for PR failures of this type. PR, and especially marketing people, seem destined to relive these type of mistakes time and time again.
What Can PR Learn?
So what PR lessons can we take from this incident?
- Don’t mix marketing with community engagement or corporate social responsibility.
- Small mistakes or lapses in judgment can become a big crisis online in minutes.
- Take full responsibility for your mistakes.
- When you apologize, do it sincerely and without reservation.
- PR, not marketing, should be in charge of social media and community engagement.
In the meantime, please consider donating to the Red Cross or other organizations trying to help with disaster relief efforts in Japan.
Author: Jeff Domansky is Editor, The PR Coach
If you liked this post, please share
Marcia’s Makeovers: 24 Press Releases Transformed from So-So to Sizzling
Get Marcia Yudkin’s popular self-study news release writing course. Learn how to transform your news releases from ho hum to hot!
PRWeek Magazine Subscribe to the leading PR news journal.