In the aftermath of the incident where two black men were accused of trespassing and arrested, Starbucks announced that it would close 8,000 of its US-based stores for race-sensitivity training.
Unsurprisingly, some members of the public took to Twitter to comment on this decision. For instance:
Less predictably, perhaps, Starbucks engaged with the criticism by replying to individual tweets:
Is this a waste of time?
An analysis of Twitter conversations suggests many users question the intention and the value of closing down for training, saying that it is a PR exercise. However, many others support the need to tackle racial bias.
I, too, think that replying to Twitter comments is absolutely the right thing to do.
It is crucial for companies to acknowledge and react to social media crises, and to do so in a way that shows that the company is in control of the situation. During a crisis, it is essential that companies communicate regularly, and that they engage with critics using the same social media channels where the crisis is playing out.
The only thing(s) that I would do differently would be to share their response worldwide. While the event happened in the US, this is a global company. Also, the original video made its way across the world. However, the company’s video response is only available via a link to news on the .com website – there is no link via other countries’ variants such as co.uk.
If this topic interests you, check the paper that I co-authored with Dirk vom Lehn, Finola Kerrigan, Cagri Yalkin, Marc Braun and Nick Steinmetz, available here (open access).
How would you handle this social media crisis?