HMV: Not Going Platinum in Crisis Management

On January 13, 2013, HMV announced the 190 job cuts, in efforts to reduce company costs and eliminate redundancies. Concurrently, 21 year old Poppy Rose Cleere took to the official @HMVtweets Twitter account to live tweet what she was calling the “mass execution” of “loyal employees who love the brand.”

The Tweets

Cleere, now the former HMV community manager, had been working for the company for just over two years (officially a year and a half, as she points out in later tweets) as of January 2013. On that fateful morning, 60 employees at various locations were collected, en masse, and fired, and Cleere took to the official account to share her then-anonymous account of the morning’s events with the world:

The first tweet, sent at 9:45am, reached 1,300 retweets within the first 30 minutes. And while senior staff were notified of the debacle, it took at least that long to have the offending tweets removed from the account. In fact, 15 minutes in, Cleere points out that the marketing director is asking “how do I shut down Twitter.” These are the capable hands, she alludes, in which the company’s social media accounts will be left.

She even pegged the pity hashtag #hmvXFactorFiring, which was very social media savvy of her.

Poppy’s Apology

It was after the fact that Poppy Rose Cleere came clean that it was her on the other end of the Twitter line. In a tweet-speech on her personal account, Cleere explained that she had be solely responsible for the official Twitter and Facebook accounts since starting them as an intern two years previously. Therefore, she had not actually been “hacking” the account when she sent the tweets.

Furthermore, she insisted sole responsibility for the tweets themselves, as she had no “family to support/ no mortgage” – though she did have a burning desire to prove that social media deserved the respect of the “senior members of staff” who refused to be educated.

I think it’s safe to say that she proved her point.

The Take-Away

Poppy Rose Cleere made it very clear that this act was as much a result of the poor treatment of staff during the company’s economic failure, as it was a stand on the way social media was viewed and treated within the company. As Business Week stated,

“maintaining Facebook and Twitter pages should be taken seriously as a part of corporate communications, not relegated to the realm of entry-level busywork…”

This is not to say an intern cannot be extremely useful in the social media department, but merely that they should not be pushed to some back corner and forgotten about until the cheques need to be passed out.

HMV risked a major reputation crisis with this situation. Their first and biggest fault was that they fired their social media staff before securing the account information. From Cleere’s personal tweets, we can see that it was not until much later in the afternoon that they collected that information, and even then the new coordinator had not removed her from an administrative position on the accounts. The first step for any organization is to lock down complete control of your social media accounts, separate from the staff that may post from them.

Secondly, while HMV rushed to remove the tweets, there was never any public response from the company. This was a major oversight, especially since the problem had already reached global audiences. Their first reaction to the event should have been a new tweet, apologizing for the incident and promising investigation into the matter. It would not have helped to lash out against Cleere or other staff members, but by keeping completely silent, senior management allowed the public to create their own assumptions over the situation – most of which were extremely negative towards the company.

Finally, HMV should have immediately created a follow up action. Whether it was storewide discounts, a flash sale, or even a fresh ad campaign, they should not have allowed any period of dead space after a debacle like this. The longer you let the situation sit, the greater the risk of brand abandonment.

Ultimately, the entire fiasco could have been avoided by not firing the staff members who had the passwords. After all, the internet hath no fury like a social media expert scorned.


6 thoughts on “HMV: Not Going Platinum in Crisis Management

  1. chevc0906 says:

    Another unfortunate aspect of the HMV story is how it happened at a company that was already struggling to adapt to modern consumer interests. If you’re trying to grab potential customers away from a behemoth like Amazon, you don’t want to be seen to be behind the times. One of the biggest things that brands like HMV need to learn about social media is flexibility; look at Oreo’s swift social media response to a blackout at the Super Bowl in 2013. Consumers really got behind the brand when Oreo’s marketing firm showed how quickly they responded to an event that was unfolding in real time. Great post – thanks for sharing!

  2. What a great example. However, although I should be focusing on HMV I couldn’t avoid thinking about the community manager and her actions as a professional. We as people who work in communications -or want to do so- need to have in mind, more than anyone else, that whenever there’s something we need to express to an audience, it needs to be in a ethical way.

    • I agree completely! While I understand her frustration at the situation, and her reasoning behind proving the importance of social media, she definitely showed an immaturity in how she handled the situation.

  3. I remember this! I also remember barely able to believe it. The execs were made to look incredibly silly and that doesn’t help a brand’s image at all.

    That the marketing director didn’t know who the social media person was or who has access is shocking.

    The comment you made about dead space – couldn’t agree more. I don’t really understand what was behind that decision, or whether it was simply an oversight. Either way, neither was smart and probably did lead to quite a few people abandoning the brand.

    • Sometimes it’s shocking what management doesn’t know when it comes to the daily running some departments! They’re lucky it wasn’t somebody even more vindictive!

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