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Tesco PR disaster and crisis management tips

Social media addicts may already be aware of the JSA (JobSeekers Allowance) Plus Benefits Tesco PR disaster that is currently sweeping sections of the web. For those of you not in the know, I’ll quickly summarise:

Tesco PR disaster - Job Cenre posting

  • An advert for Tesco Night Staff on the Directgov jobs website was posted on 09/02/2012
  • The position lists the wage as JSA plus expenses of which between £45 and £67.50 per week is payable under the JSA allowance
  • The position is part of the government initiative Sector Based Work Academies which is intended to offer job seekers work experience to increase their long term employment prospects
  • Sunny Hundal, Guardian reporter spotted the vacancy and referred to it as, “nothing more than modern slavery” in his blog
  • Then a wave of outrage began to spread across Twitter and the Tesco Facebook page
  • Tesco PR disaster begins!

Whether you believe that Tesco are right or wrong with regards to the job vacancy (especially as it seems there was an error made in the listing by JobCentrePlus), it is how they have handled the situation that I find most interesting.

The backlash over Twitter and Facebook has generated comments like these:

Tesco PR disaster - Facebook comments

Tesco have been responding via both their Tesco Media and Tesco Customer Care Twitter accounts by trying to focus on the number of jobs that they create, the error made in the original job listing and their intentions behind the creating the position:

Tesco PR disaster - @UKTesco tweets

Tesco PR disaster - @TescoMedia tweets

On their Facebook page however Tesco seem to be absent with the vast majority of the complaints and posts going unanswered and as of yet there hasn’t been an official statement via the news feed on their corporate site, Tesco PLC.

Tesco PR Disaster Key Points

How do you begin to formulate a response to a crisis like this?

  1. Check facts
  2. Seek good, trusted advice
  3. Assess the potential damage
  4. Determine the reach and influence
  5. Track the fallout

What could have done to avoid the current Tesco PR disaster?

  1. Respond from the top: there is something so much more powerful about a CEO or senior Director personally responding compared to one of the media, PR or customer service team
  2. Hold your hand up and own up to mistakes: people aren’t perfect, so that makes it impossible for companies to be faultless. Sometimes things go wrong
  3. Apologise: politicians get this one wrong all the time but an apology goes a long way and it certainly would have worked for Tesco
  4. Take control of the conversation: by writing an official response on the company blog and using Twitter and Facebook to direct people there
  5. Fix it by making them happy:

There are definite echoes of the Paperchase scandal that made the headlines in February 2010 when independent Hide n Seek challenged their use of an image in their products. Similarly to Tesco there was a backlash from the online community which in this case resulted in denial of service attacks on the Paperchase website and droves of negative comments on their Amazon listed products, which were subsequently taken down. Granted the Tesco PR disaster is not a case of Corporate vs Individual, but it is a case of The Big Guys vs The Small Guys; and in my experience it is these kind of struggles that the internet community likes to get behind.

Tesco are certainly big enough to shake a crisis of this size but the online community have long memories.  As we become more digitally dependant, they are not a community that even the big boys want to upset. Companies and individuals do not own their own reputations, they are made by others. Google used to say, “Don’t Be Evil.”  At 3ManFactory we like “Be Nice.”

So that’s what I think about the Tesco PR disaster but what I really want to know is how everyone else thinks they have handled it?

To find out about 3ManFactory’s PR services including crisis management head to our Marketing & PR page.

Sunny Hundal’s blog and today’s article in The Huffington Post have more detail on the wider issue of fair employment practices.

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