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Too Left Tweet: Brands Get Political at their Peril

Too Left Tweet: Brands Get Political at their Peril


The term “coffee break” took on new meaning this week as right-wingers smashed their Keurigs with baseball bats (the above GIF shows Jordan Klepper of The Opposition doing the same, as a spoof).

The backlash came when Keurig and others tweeted about pulling ads from the Sean Hannity show, following his interview of the embattled Republican Senate candidate Roy S. Moore.   It seems that these brands wanted to vote with their ad dollars, and register disapproval of Moore and host Hannity – as most know by now, the candidate is the subject of some controversy.

Companies are learning the perils of wading into political waters – and that, yes, their social media musings do matter.  Many quickly retracted, going so far as to delete tweets and issue statements explaining their decisions, as reported in this NY Times piece by Sapna Maheshwari.  She writes: “…by Tuesday, those companies were clarifying — or even deleting — statements they had made on the platform… Those moves followed a backlash against Keurig that included fans of Mr. Hannity posting videos of themselves destroying the company’s coffee makers. ‘It’s pretty unusual to see companies like this handling an issue so poorly,’ said Kara Alaimo, an assistant professor of public relations at Hofstra University… This idea that you can take back a tweet is pretty shocking,’ she said. ‘It’s remarkable that they clearly didn’t vet their social media posts internally and everyone wasn’t on board when they tweeted.'”

What are some takeaways for brand and PR execs?

  • First and foremost, they should be aware of the risks and rewards of taking a stand.  Stepped up corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs may encourage brands to get more active and vocal – yet a survey reported in PR Week reveals that most people don’t like it when brands get political.
  • Companies should have and enforce a social media policy – and make sure their public statements and communications teams are in sync with the corporate policy on the above (if this isn’t already blindingly obvious).
  • Finally, deleting tweets is kind of like trying to unring the bell, or issue a correction of a press release that’s already on the wire – it is a losing proposition, and often just draws more attention.