Social media isn’t a magic wand nor can it set things right once gone terribly wrong in the offline world. Social media is just a tool to aid people to people conversations in the virtual world. So if you are a brand, use the medium to connect with your consumers and your competitors too. And in cases where your reputation has taken a beating on social media – like in the case of Gurgaon based Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen disaster which is brewing right away – leverage the medium to ‘talk’; do not and I repeat do not ever send an unsigned ‘Press Release’ to give your side of the story.
The string of events as it unfolded on social media
A Sunday brunch visit to the Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen on June 9 ended up with cold food, cops, threats and a life-changing experience for a group of eight youngsters that included a girl too. The social media savvy team then decided to blog about their horrifying experience with details of the afternoon. They shared the blog with their friends, who in turn shared it with their friends to quickly get it to go viral on social networks the next day.
The blog post created on the 10th of June had gained so much momentum that it trended on the top 10 India Twitter trends on the 11th. By this time, the mainstream media also picked it up and everybody outside of social media was also enlightened about the unique customer service at Lemp.
The blog post was then mysteriously deleted sometime in the night. But, this is the age of social media, there is no delete button on the internet. Copies of the blog post were mirrored on Scribd and reshared on social networks. Only this time with even more vigour, ultimately causing ‘Lemp’ to trend on the top 10 India trends for two consecutive days on the 11th and the 12th.
Strangely, the Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen maintained a hushed silence throughout. Not even a single tweet in its defence except for creating a brand new blog called ‘People for Lemp’ with a post by Shruti. In her post – which seems to be deleted by the way – Shruti who claims to be a regular customer at Lemp, had accused the youngsters of ‘ardent campaigning to malign Lemp’s name’. She even claimed to have seen the CCTV capture which will bring out the truth.
Meanwhile, angry protesters had also begun barging onto the Zomato page of Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen demanding it to be delisted. The youngsters were lured to the ‘Hawaiian Sunday brunch’ at Lemp, following its listing on the restaurant review site. Negative user reviews poured in to quickly push Lemp’s rating down to 1.3 from an earlier 3 point something.
Strangely again, the Facebook page of Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen underwent a massive damage control exercise to reincarnate as ‘Purple Bar’. This was pointed out by many sources but cannot be ascertained. Yes, they were crucified at once for this massive stupidity in the age of social media. (UPDATE: As pointed out by a reader in the comments, the name change happened for the Facebook profile page and not the brand page)
Aside this, Zomato being the social media savvy brand that it is, got into action mode quickly and had the Founder address all the concerns in a blog post. He explained that delisting Lemp would be the stupidest thing to do, as “For restaurants which are very poorly rated, we want our users to see their ratings/reviews and decide not to visit that place.” The Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen has 1291 user reviews (mostly negative) and a ‘poor’ rating of 1.2 at present.
Lemp explains its side of the story through a press release
Yesterday at about 1 pm, we received an email with subject line “Press Release – Official statement from Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen with sequence of events” from a person representing ‘Orange Communications’. The mail has two Word file attachments: a) Press Release – Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen – Official Statement, and b) Addendum to press release issued by Lemp Brewpub.
Some of the mainstream media did publish it, but we chose to refrain ourselves as the documents did not carry any authoritative signature. It just stated ‘Issued by Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen Management’.
The press release blamed it to be the handiwork of a full-fledged digital and social media agency hired solely with the motive to malign the Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen. There are 9 points each explaining how the sequence of events unfolded from their side, trying to match up with the allegations made by the youngsters in their blog post.
Excerpt 1 from the press release:
Those who are a little aware about the social media and the way it works would agree that it cannot be the handiwork of a few to malign Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen alone. The timelines and snapshots of the social media platforms wherein the hate wave was initiated against us is a proof enough. Our digital and social media agency has assessed and analyzed the same. Hundreds of LIKES and posts within a second of posting the content has to be the handiwork of a full-fledged digital and social media agency hired solely with a particular motive.
In the addendum, Lemp explained why they have been quiet for two days and were not able to release the CCTV footage as the matter was under police investigation. It also claimed that police is not on the side of Lemp, as was alleged by the youngsters referring to them as ‘guests’. It also plans to issue a defamation notice to the ‘guests’ once their correct names and addresses would be found.
Excerpt 2 from addendum to press release:
On June 11, 2013 (Tuesday), Lemp filed a complaint (FIR) to the cyber crime cell of the police. Since the matter is still under investigation and the CCTV footage, which had to be submitted to the police before, it could be made public, therefore, we have not released it publicly. For the past couple of days, we have kept quiet because of the legalities involved, but, now we want the people to hear our side of the story as well. The police is well aware of the entire issue, however, despite our repeated requests to the police we are yet to receive a copy of the FIR from them. The police is not supporting Lemp, contrary to the perception created by blog from the ‘guests’ that the police is hand in glove with Lemp. We have been asking the police to find the correct names, addresses and contact details of the ‘guests’ so that we can issue a defamation notice to them, however, we cannot proceed with this because are yet to receive the same from the police.
A few hours later, the CCTV footage was released on the Facebook page of Lemp in a series of 10 unedited videos calling it as evidence that has been submitted to the police. I have gone through each of the videos and couldn’t find anything that could strongly disclaim the allegations made by the youngsters.
Lemp does not get social media…at all!
Social media is purely a people’s network and not a nexus of cruel agencies hired to malign your reputation. And, even if it were, you can use the same social media to be open and share your side of the story, considering that you are indeed in the clear, as you claim. When I’m referring to being ‘open’, what I mean is:
1) Sharing your side of the story on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and also ‘on time’. The owner could have curbed the rising protests on social media, especially Twitter, by issuing the same press release himself. This needed to be done on the 10th of June itself, and not on the 13th after it had snowballed beyond control. Even if the matter is under police investigation, an official statement without going into the details, would have really helped.
2) Not force any content to be deleted, howsoever ‘maligning’ in nature it may be. People got furious when the original blog post by the youngsters was taken down. Besides, the Lemp owner’s rude responses were also deleted from the Zomato listing page, including the ‘People for Lemp’ blog by Shruti. The screenshots of the same have been captured by Food Enthusiasts Of Delhi. ‘Deletion’ only adds fuel to the fire and in this case has give birth to a new phenomenon called ‘Lempism’.
3) Bring in a ‘face’ to the press statement. Lemp has lost out on a brilliant opportunity. It could have released a video statement sharing its side of the story featuring the owner and posted it on its Facebook page, instead of sending an unsigned press release to the media. People prefer to believe a real person and not a press release.
4) Have an ‘open’ Facebook page, that allows anybody to write on your wall. Let the protests flood your wall. Then address them as deemed appropriate. By closing the Facebook wall, you’ve come across as a suspicious entity who is capable of doing all that was alleged in the youngsters blog post.
Social media can serve as an excellent tool to talk to your consumers and at times ‘listen’ to them too. Both sides can have their say in full public view. It’s that simple if you haven’t wronged!
Images courtesy: Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen Facebook page.