Social Media Can Be A Recipe For A PR Disaster

There has been a lot of blogging about the incredible benefits that social media can have for churches. I've blogged about it many times. Its free, churches of any size can get involved. Churches like Saddleback have even set up their congregations for success with training. But there is a new reality that social media brings for all organisations including churches. Below is one example of how social media became a negative rather than a positive communication experience.

Case study: Nestlé vs Greenpeace

Nestlé is the world's largest food and drink company.

Greenpeace alleged:

Nestlé, the world's largest food and drink company, is making some of your favourite chocolate bars using palm oil from destroyed Indonesian rainforests. As a result, threatened species like orang-utans are being pushed into extinction and huge quantities of greenhouse gas are being released, accelerating climate change.

Greenpeace set a media blitz attacking the Corporate Social Responsibility of Nestlé. They created billboards and a short TV commercial which went viral all over the web. They even wrote them an open letter.

Nestlé responded by getting YouTube to take the video down. They denied Greenpeaces allegations and issued a very long and verbose statement on their website. Their Facebook page is full of comments from angry consumers. All a bit miffed by the fact it is going to longer to fully stop using palm oil. They are angry at the pace of change.

People also started to change their facebook profile to protest at the Nestle brand.

The same thing can happen to churches. Just Google Hillsong (or your church for that matter!) and you'll find plenty of nasty things that have been said about them.

Social media has moved the communication goal posts. Your online presence is now a two-way communication, you cannot manage your communication simply by writing a press release or building a website. Any organisation has to be quick and nimble to respond to the immediacy of the world of social media.

What would you do if people said negative things about your church on Facebook?

What would you do if an organisation actively campaign against your church online?

Do you have a strategy prepared?

Are you prepared to respond within hours of an issue presenting itself?

Jesus was used to people having a go at him, should we respond like him?

There are four lessons for churches from this story:

1) How you respond when your reputation is being questioned will impact the perception of whether you are guilty or not guilty in the eyes of the world. Responding with verbose corporate speak that feels like the lawyers have written definitely won't do you any favours.

2) Don't get involved in social media unless you are prepared to take the bad with the good.

3) If you don't have a strategy in place, get one.

4) Be prepared to respond quickly and honestly. Don't leave an empty void for others to fill with opinion.

Thanks to Communicate Jesus for the links and his blog post.

P.S. I'm experimenting with the Facebook 'Like' button. If you think this post is any good could you click it as I'd like to see how it works any what it does. Thanks!

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