Anticipating the Unexpected

We have blogged about the importance of measuring the impact of your change and of ensuring you allow for contingencies when planning your change effort. In this age of social media, it is imperative that the change team is prepared to monitor the moment the change launches, and that the team is empowered to pull the plug in the event of a catastrophic response. I think this recent twitter campaign from McDonald’s reported in Business Insider War Room is a great example of monitoring and making an adjustment immediately upon identification that the result is not what the company desired:

McDonald’s kicked things off on Thursday with the hashtag #MeetTheFarmers, in a campaign meant to draw attention to the brand’s guarantee of fresh produce.

Later in the day, however, the burger company used a dangerously vague hashtag: “When u make something w/ pride, people can taste it,” McD potato supplier #McDstories

People took this hashtag and started talking trash….

<In> an emailed statement from McDonald’s social media director Rick Wion:

Last Thursday, we planned to use two different hashtags during a promoted trend – #meetthefarmers and #mcdstories.

While #meetthefarmers was used for the majority of the day and successful in raising awareness of the Supplier Stories campaign, #mcdstories did not go as planned. We quickly pulled #mcdstories and it was promoted for less than two hours.

Within an hour of pulling #McDStories the number of conversations about it fell off from a peak of 1600 to a few dozen. It is also important to keep those numbers in perspective. There were 72,788 mentions of McDonald’s overall that day so the traction of #McDStories was a tiny percentage (2%) of that.

With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger.

I was very impressed not only with Mr. Wion’s decision making while monitoring the twitter campaign, but also with his data-focused and professional handling of the situation when McDonald’s identified that it was time to pull that particular hashtag. Considering possible scenarios before you launch your change will enable you to create alternate plans that you can execute immediately, if needed.

About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.
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