How (not) to respond to an online PR crisis (cc ITVfootball)

As you may have read, ITV HD managed to run an advert at exactly the same time Steven Gerrard scored for England against the USA last Saturday. OK, it’s the worst possible timing for that to happen, but they do have previous – the same thing happened during an Everton v Liverpool FA cup game earlier this year.

I was one of the unlucky ones to have missed the goal (and all my best friends who I invited round to watch the game on my new HD TV…) but I’m resisting the temptation to rant (barely), and trying to be constructive instead. As what has annoyed me almost as much as missing the goal has been their poor response to unhappy fans online. So here’s a list of do’s and don’ts I’ve helpfully written out for them (which they’ll probably ignore too).

When a mistake happens, say sorry

“We’re really sorry that you missed the goal, we don’t know why it happened yet, but we’ll let you know when we do”.

This isn’t what ITV said on its twitter stream. Instead we got the wonderfully vague and corporate…

I don’t think I need to explain why I think this is bad.

Respond as soon as possible

What was the first tweet ITVfootball sent after the goal wasn’t broadcast?

Not something that would annoy someone who missed the goal first time round then…

And when did their apology come? Yes, two hours after the missed goal.

Make sure you’re listening

If people are being negative about you online, you probably want to know about it. And if you’re using a particular platform to talk to people (ie twitter), it’s useful to be checking said platform for what people are saying about you.Because when you listen, you can then respond to people who have complaints. Which leads me on to…

Respond to individuals as much as possible

1.5 million viewers were apparently affected by the goal blunder. You can’t apologise individually to all of them, but you can to the 10s (not 100s) who might be berating you on Twitter. In the case of ITVfootball, there were a fair number of people complaining on Twitter – but not hundreds of thousands. And even just replying to the people who had used @itvfootball would not have taken very long. An individual message would’ve been so much more effective for those people.

Vodafone tried this approach, and whilst the way they did it wasn’t perfect, it was better than nothing.

Be human, not corporate

The above advice could be summed up by saying it involves empathy, urgency, listening and responsiveness. Unfortunately, I do have some experience of dealing with this sort of thing (see an old post on comms in a crisis) but I think the main thing is to remain human and humble.

When you make mistakes, people will get annoyed. But if you can empathise, and connect on a human and individual level with the person who’s annoyed, you can make them less annoyed, if not totally turn that relationship around. But I’ve seen no effort from ITV to try and reach out to individuals, or anyone on the channels they are using. This is what has frustrated me more than anything.

But then, I don’t know why I expect a broadcaster to do anything on social media other than, well, broadcast.


If you’re interested in reading more about this, there’s a great write up on NMA of ITV’s failures as well as a great article on a missed opportunity for the brand featured in the advert that interrupted the goal.

Oh, and you can contact ITV at if you were also unlucky enough to miss the goal. I wouldn’t recommend trying to get an answer on Twitter though…


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