Gerry and the Hatemakers

    Sam Mutimer

    Over the past 15 years consumers have rapidly evolved in concert with the internet. The ‘social web’ is a very different place to shop compared to the suburban megaplex of the 20th century. We are better informed, more consumption savvy and have more purchase options and tools than ever before. When the words tumbled out of Gerry Harvey’s mouth this week, maybe these changes weren’t front of mind for him.
    He certainly wouldn’t have expected such a unanimous response from consumers.
    @GerryHarvey #wtf? Indeed.
    With their facebook and twitter sites set up and humming along, did they honestly not think that this would be the first place people would head to vent their frustration and anger?
    Where was their social media crisis management plan? When are they going to execute this?
    There may be internal conflict and I trust Gary Wheelhouse, Harvey Norman’s Head of Social Media & Sam Fletcher are stressing the fact that fans and commenters on their facebook page need to be acknowledged, not just swept under the carpet and forgotten about.

    From The Age Jan 7th 2011 “Gerry Harvey has declared he will step back from the big retailers’ campaign to have the GST imposed on overseas online purchases, saying he is hurt by an avalanche of criticism directed at him and feels that getting involved was ”suicidal’‘. A media release like this has some impact but it seems crazy to me that Gerry and his social media team didn’t utilise Youtube in a timely manner and addressing it head on!
    In an age where consumers can have significant influence in the marketplace every brand needs to have a social media crisis management plan in place. Rehearse and update it regularly. We saw many near misses for brands in 2010 (and some casualties) but it seems social media crisis management is still not being taken seriously, or executed well in some cases.
    I’m guessing Harvey Norman have a social plan and policy in place however I’m confused why they have suddenly stopped using their official facebook page, when it’s one of the stronger platforms to communicate through. There are always ways to clean up the spilt milk and social channels can be some of the most effective.
    Here’s my advice Gerry:

    • Use Youtube to explain why you said what you said Gerry, tell us what was going on! You know what was going on, so don’t think we are fools to think differently, be honest! Look directly into the camera and tell us! You could even use Ustream/livestream for a quicker and direct comms channel.
    • Using a tactic like this can certainly start to clean up that spilt milk.. you look human! We all say things we don’t mean at times and they may be communicated in a different way than was intended. Now’s your chance to explain it, straight from the horses mouth Gerry. This way, at least you’ve made an effort and acknowledged a bigger percentage of people in a quicker, truer and direct manner.
    • Address the issue right away. Head on and be authentic .DON’T leave it a few days or more…
    • Use the same outlet where the people are. Acknowledge your facebook and twitter community. It may not be answering every comment -( even though that would show the “care factor”) yet use this powerful channel to explain what is happening now, whilst acknowledging comments along the way. Media releases only cover off a percentage of readers.Use the social network to address the rest, in a personable and honest fashion.

    To me, if Harvey Normal rolled out these simple tactics thoroughly, I truly believe the brand has a huge opportunity to start to turn some heads and simmer the boil.
    Harvey Norman, I’m guessing are now looking at this and learning, putting new procedures and plans in place that are relevant for 2011 and beyond. They can’t close their eyes to this…this is reality..everyone has a voice now.
    All brands reading this. You cannot control your message, it’s controlled by the people, but the way you respond and address the issue is the difference that makes the difference.
    We’ve got a few tasty ideas of how Harvey Norman can address this front on and turn it around, and I’m sure some of you reading this will have also. We’d love to hear if you have any suggestions for Harvey Norman! Hit us up below.