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Helping Speedo be more resilient in response to social media crisis

Negative coverage in social media is a hot topic for any brand, and the potential for negative coverage to create a full-blown crisis is the stuff of nightmares for not only PR, but any other team you care to mention, especially the C-suite. Thankfully the industry has moved on and brands are more comfortable with negative coverage generally, accepting that it’s a healthy part of feedback, and often a sign that customer/supporters/constituents actually care.

A crisis is still a crisis though, and anything that a business can do to ready itself should be done. We’ve helped many clients with this, through training, simulation and governance, so it was great to get another opportunity with Speedo. Speedo is a global swimwear brand known for cutting edge technology, and like any large brand is subject to a variety of positive and negative conversation online.

When we did this work the Olympics were about to begin and as a brand worn by many competitive swimmers Speedo needed to prepare for potential peaks in conversation online. Also the brand is increasing its use of social media globally and so a Crisis Management Framework was needed.

Working closely with the social media team, our first step was to gather as much information as we could about existing processes, guidelines, internal cultural norms and anything else that may shape the framework. Working closely with Sally (Speedo’s social media manager), we then went through real and hypothetical scenarios, discussing potential responses. This was essential as it tested any assumptions we’d made, and uncovered weak points in any processes that we had proposed. It was also good fun – imagining a crisis is much nicer than reacting to one.

The key part for Speedo was defining what a crisis is at Speedo and just as importantly, what is not.
The collaborative approach taken by NixonMcInnes helped in forming a simple framework that was actually useful to our teams.
The whole process was a great learning experience and gave Speedo real ownership of the output
Sally Carter, Social media manager, Speedo International

Armed with a ton of notes we then went away and created the first iteration of the Crisis Management Framework. Sally was clear that it needed to be fairly punchy if it was to be used, which was good to hear as we’re really not a fan of unnecessarily weighty internal documentation. There’s a temptation with digital to create guidelines/processes for the sake of it and so whenever possible we steer clients towards brevity and common sense. 

As for the framework itself, it contains:

  • A process that can be applied globally to any negative coverage.
  • Clear examples of what constitutes negative coverage, and what is a crisis.
  • Guidance for in-country partners (Speedo has a large global network).
  • Olympics specific guidance.
  • Key contacts for further assistance.

It was a really nice project to work on, and good to gain experience in a whole new industry. It helped to work with a client who could really articulate the strengths and challenges of the internal culture, and who was able to think pragmatically throughout about the framework.

Image from Flickr user AirmanMagazine, used under the Creative Commons license.

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