3 PR Nightmares Meeting Planners Can Learn From

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McDonald's Twitter page
McDonald’s Twitter page

Technology tends to be a meeting planner’s best friend until a major social media mishap or data breach leads to an event disaster. Here are three PR nightmares that meeting planners can learn from to avoid a potential backlash from attendees.

  1. McDonald’s #McDStories Social Media Marketing Campaign: In 2012, McDonald’s hosted a Twitter marketing campaign that encouraged people to tweet their own special #McDStories. The restaurant chain had no control over what people tweeted, and several horror stories came up as a result. “Fingernail in my BigMac” was not what the company was hoping for as a result of the campaign. McDonald’s Social Media Director Rick Wion quickly took control and pulled the #McDStories promotion after less than two hours. Within an hour of stopping, the number of conversations fell from about 1,600 to a few dozen. Lesson Learned: Always have an escape plan for any social media marketing campaign because it’s difficult to predict if attendees will take a conversation in a negative direction.
  1. Target’s Data Breach: Target’s data breach in late 2013 was made worse when Security Blogger Brian Krebs was the first to break the story on Dec. 18. As a result, the corporation was forced to respond to a story and then looked as if they were playing defense for not coming forward earlier. Lesson Learned: If attendee data has been breached at an event, make sure to be the first to make the initial statement of the breach whether or not you know all the information upfront. Coming forward is always better than having to play defense.
  1. NRA’s Scheduled Tweet: Also in 2012, the National Rifle Association (NRA) thought they were ahead of schedule when they tweeted: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” The tweet was posted at 9:30 a.m. EST, not long after the nation found out about the Aurora shooting that left 12 people dead at a light-night showing of The Dark Night Rises. The post was taken down within three hours, and the NRA released an apology statement shortly after. Lesson Learned: Be careful of scheduling tweets. While it may seem like a good idea to get your social media work done in advance, you never know what current event can lead attendees to take it out of context.
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Jessie Fetterling
Jessie Fetterling is a writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area, with past experiences at four different media companies covering a wide range of topics from the travel and hospitality industries to sustainable living. Special areas of interest include writing about travel, food and music. Favorite Destination: Cinque Terre, Italy Bucket List: Brazil, Thailand and the Czech Republic

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