Earlier this week the supermarket chain Waitrose asked their Twitter followers to complete the following sentence: “I shop at Waitrose because… ” and add the hashtag #WaitroseReasons. We’ve seen how posing questions like this can go catastrophically wrong for brands, but I’d like to argue that, despite the less than ideal replies they received, this PR stunt couldn’t be further from a #Fail. If anything, it was raging success.

It’s been compared to the #McDStories fiasco that took place in early 2012 when McDonald’s asked the population of twitter to share their stories about the fast food chain. The hashtag was very quickly hijacked, and soon became what was know as a #bashtag. The companies corportate image was battered by the barrage of insults. That, was a fail.

In the case of #WaitroseReasons, the most severe accusation help against them is that they sell Unicorn food. And really, who wouldn’t their brand associated with unicorns? The replies they received made reference to the supermarket’s high-end status, and the superior quality of their products. Does any of this sound like a fail?

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Similarly, the majority of the replies were genuinely funny, so much so that I quite happily passed 10 minutes over lunch reading through them.

So why isn’t it the PR disaster that all of the news agencies are so keen to make it out to be?

  • None of the criticism was brand damaging. Waitrose has fostered a very clearly defined lifestyle around its brand (hand in hand with John Lewis) that suggests high quality and superior service. The tweets, serious or otherwise, reaffirm this.
  • The social media team handled it superbly. They didn’t try to shut it down, they didn’t attempt to respond to every criticising tweet, and they didn’t feel the need to try to hijack it back. They were graceful and poised throughout the whole event, breaking their silence to say this:

What Can You Learn From This?

  1. Before embarking on a social media #hashtag campaign, have a crisis management plan in place.
  2. Don’t panic, sit it out, and try to have a sense of humour about the situation.
  3. Enjoy the press coverage. Which is precisely what Waitrose is doing right now.

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