Using Twitter to Respond to a PR Crisis – Failed To Act

I try to unplug during many weekends. Part of that is the fact that I have two small children, and I’m spending most weekends doing dad things. Another reason is that I like to try and take a break from the firehose of constant info that I’m dealing with throughout the week.

So, I was certainly surprised to check Twitter while waiting for a table at a sushi restaurant late Sunday afternoon and see post after post re: AmazonFail (lots of background info here, here, and here). If you’re not in the loop, Amazon began removing sales rankings from a wide variety of books over the weekends. And, surprise, surprise, almost 100% of the titles affected were books dealing with gay, lesbian, and transgender issues. Sales rankings can impact whether or not a book shows up on Amazon’s various bestseller lists and in customer searches on the site.

Regardless of what actually happened, a) Amazon made the egregious decision to delist numerous gay, lesbian, and transgender books, or b) there was a genuine backend computer glitch that resulted in the delisting, Amazon compounded their mistakes by not using social media to deal with this PR crisis.

I just checked out Amazon’s twitter account. As of 1:40 p.m. ET on Monday, April 13th, more than 24 hours after this PR crisis started, Amazon’s latest twitter message reads, “Amazon Daily: The Bldg Blog Book: The Blog Made Flesh 16 hours ago from Perl Net::Twitter.”

I’m sure there were panicked conference calls yesterday among various execs. But the company’s PR response was to give the same exact statement/quote to multiple journalists reporting the story, ““We recently discovered a glitch to our Amazon sales rank feature that is in the process of being fixed.  We’re working to correct the problem as quickly as possible.”

Why didn’t use Twitter to respond to the crisis – a crisis that could have an impact on their revenue/sales since many of the Twitter posters were threatening boycotts?

Here’s what I would have recommended.

1. Figure out what the hell happened, and figure out what we’re going to do to correct the mistake. And, let’s figure out how we want to communicate ASAP what happened to our customers and the press.

2. Communicate what happened to reporters proactively – call the top 25-30 reporters who routinely cover – and respond quickly to any incoming calls from reporters.

3. Communicate what happened via’s twitter account. I would recommend hourly updates too – either repost the same basic explanation or add any additional info that surfaces.

4. Respond to #amazonfail posts on Twitter with explanation of what happened. This could get tedious – and wouldn’t scale. However, if’s corporate communications team had responded to 25-30 complaints per hour yesterday afternoon, they would have gone a long way in turning the conversation around.

How would you use Twitter and other Social Media tools to deal with a PR crisis?