I’ve been watching Nestle’s social media nightmare play out on FaceBook and Twitter over the last month. For those of you who somehow have missed this – in a nutshell – Greenpeace Trojan-horsed Nestle’s FaceBook Fan page and slammed the company for its role in the illegal deforestation of rainforests and the killing of orangutans. All in the name of bringing us more yummy Kit Kat bars. This type of tree-hugging and criticism happens all the time – however the MAGNITUDE and VELOCITY now enabled by social media channels is unprecedented.
I have been keeping my fingers crossed that the powers that be within Nestle would hurry-up and realize that being defensive, dismissive, or arrogant wasn’t in their best interest. I have used the early 80’s Tylenol Chicago death crisis as an example before and it applies yet again. That said, Tylenol had much more control over the actual response and the delivery of it. Nestle, not so much. It was and is happening REAL TIME and very publicly.
There are a variety of pieces written on how Nestle should have responded – how they should show-up now and how businesses need to be prepared for their eventual ‘turn’ so to speak – so I won’t go into those here. What I do want to share is the notion that even if you DO respond in a timely fashion, with humility and an offer of restitution that sometimes the recipient just isn’t ready to hear it – or isn’t willing – or is too hurt. Sometimes you can’t undo the mistake, no matter how hard you try. And, sometimes you have to be patient and persistent about being transparent and ‘doing the right thing’.
A few days ago I recklessly made a somewhat ‘unfeeling’ comment on Twitter. In hindsight, I am not sure what possessed me – I cavalierly took one person’s misfortune and used it as an example of how a new trend in location based services may have a huge downside.
Well, I received a direct message (DM) back letting me know that my comment was not appreciated. I quickly posted a public apology taking full responsibility for my stupidity and making a reference to the fact that there are times when I behave like the back-end of a donkey. I followed up with a private email – groveling a bit more and offering lunch as an olive branch.
Two days of radio silence and I was beside myself. I made a mistake and wanted to be forgiven immediately. Life doesn’t work that way, does it? Finally today, in the middle of writing this blog, the long-awaited DM accepting my apology beeped through.
The lesson I was reminded of – the lesson Nestle and others need to remember….is that avoiding making mistakes is impossible – not a viable option – however, taking accountability for them and being genuine in our willingness to make things whole, is. At the end of the day – as seen from our collective trust in Tylenol, we have a grand capacity to forgive and regain faith. So, my advice to Nestle and everyone else – whether their faux pas is being played out to millions of just a few – accept responsibility for your actions and figure out a way to make it right. Oh, and most importantly accept the fact that it may be on someone else’s timeline.