Graco: Social Media’s Role in Product Recalls — Live from BlogWell

2:10 – Andy Sernovitz introduces Kelly Voelker from Graco

2:11 – Kelly is going to share information around a recall that Graco faced.

2:11 – Jan 20, 2010, 7:00am the news of the recall went out over the newswire.  They announced a recall of 1.5 million strollers worldwide after 7 injuries were reported.  The recall was only for a few specific models.  The story was posted immediately on a large number of national news sites.

2:12 – Graco pro-actively shared their message with specific communication on their blog, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and a dedicated Web Page.

2:13 — They also reached out to top influencers to help share information.  They sent an email prior to the news release to a variety of brand ambassadors who also have blogs.  The bloggers appreciated getting the news first and helped to share information.

2:14 – There was a lot of negative feedback.  Here are some of the tips to deal with negativity.  First, get ahead of the news and pro-actively search for and respond to conversations.  Second, work closely with customer service; prepare them in advance and loop them in with a senior person who can approve appropriate real time responses.  Deal with responses on a case-by-case basis and get permission to act.  Third, start building the relationships before the problem exists.  Nurture a community of positive advocates who will help in a crisis situation.  Finally, if there is something that the community can benefit from then keep it online, otherwise move it offline.

2:17 – One specific example is “Michelle” – she tweeted to the Chicago Sun Times, was responding to other consumers on the Graco Facebook page and actively shared negativity.  Graco had a senior person respond to her and it turned her around.  She then shared positive experiences across all of the same channels.  She was happy that Graco wanted to help and reached out to her.

2:18 – There was some positive response.  When you are straightforward and try to engage you do get some positive feedback.  The Christian Science Monitor wrote a positive article after seeing positive interactions between Graco and consumers on Twitter.

2:19 – Key learnings: First – Legal collaboration – Become a legal go-to inside your organization as the communications team.  Prepare messages in advance.  Make sure that your legal team understands social media.  Second – Executive Communication – Graco held twice a day calls with leadership leading up to and during the announcement.  They sent a daily email with the coverage and red-flags.  This helped build consensus.  Finally, Global Integration – Clarify the meaning of a recall outside of the US and treat all customers the same.

2:22 – The way that the team is structured at Graco helps.  There is a social media team that is made up of multi-functional people who are passionate about the brand (they don’t have communications backgrounds).  They were all briefed in advance and were told how to respond to issues.  Additionally, the social media team was able to collaborate around what they were saying.

2:23 – And with that the presentation finished about 5 minutes early (leaving more time for Q&A).

Q: How long in advance did you know about the recall and what was the process leading up to it?

A: Typically they have a couple of weeks and they have to work with the team to understand what the fix is for the consumer.  They have a few weeks to prepare the communications and work with legal.  This allows them to decide how to communicate – do they need step by step videos or is it a general announcement?  This helps determine the course of action.

Q: Are you finding it easier and less expensive to deal with recalls vs. before social media?

A: Now the information spreads quicker, which is a good thing, but at the same time more people know about them.  This can make them more expensive.

Q: How did you work with your social media agency during this recall?

A: We really used them as a tool to listen.  They were keeping an eye on the conversation to help us comb through the conversation and respond when needed.  They don’t respond directly – they provide council and listening.

Q: You have created a close relationship with your legal departments.  How do you address legal hesitancy to allow digital communications?

A: We meet a lot.  We clear our calendars and make sure that we are talking to each other many times a day.  We see that things change fast and we need to ask, so we make sure that they are there and available.

Q: What do you do about the crazies, nutjobs and wackos and people in that category?

A: Set expectations with your executives that this will happen.  Reach out and let them know that you are there to talk to them.  Ask them what they want and be there to talk to them about their issues and deal with it on a case by case basis.

Q: Do you consider how your competitors may be trying to take advantage of your misfortune and how do you respond?

A: We think that if we are doing the right things for our customers that they respect that.  We don’t respond publicly to every question and will sometimes take things offline.  We can sympathize with our competitors and we are dealing with the safety of children so we are all on the same page.

Q: What would you do differently if you could do it again?

A: The one thing we could do better/differently is to go our more pro-actively to the media.  The media wants to get the news out so quickly and sometimes wasn’t accurate.  We would work with them in advance to make sure they were accurate.

Q: Do you consider your executive presence on social media?  Like a CEO blog/twitter?

A: Our social media team is on the ground every day and can relate to the customers.  It is something that we will think about in the future – how to include them.

Q: How do you deal with employees who take it on themselves to respond?

A: We had a message go out from our CEO explaining how employees should respond on the behalf of the company.  We try to communicate the expectations for communicating outside of the company.

Q: How did you set up Graco Nation?  Did you vet the bloggers and how are they compensated?

A: Graco Nation was built in over a year.  We figured out who was passionate about the brand in the community.  We have never paid the bloggers.  They have preferred status in product reviews and they get preferred information.  Most of them are really excited about the brand already.

Q: What are the top 2 or 3 things you would have done differently if you were at Toyota?

A: Toyota is in an unprecedented difficult situation.  They have been hit by one thing after another after another.  They are working hard to get out in social spaces and put their CEO out there.  They aren’t necessarily doing something wrong, but they are hit with so many different things.  Andy chimed in that they should be building the relationships before they need them.

Q: How do you deal with negative comments that are coming from competitor fans?  Did you come across that at all?

A: I think that some people will take an opportunity to disparage you because they like your competitors.  There will always be people out there who want to say something bad, but you have to take it with a grain of salt and not worry.  Build your fans.

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