Don’t fight a social media wave that you can ride

By Anne Dolinschek, Head of Consumer PR, Conversations Group
@AnneDoli @Conversations_G

The hashtag #JoziDivers started trending on Twitter quite early morning on Monday, 15 January, with 5FM getting in on the hype. If you’re not in the industry, you might have been fooled to think that all this was a complete coincidence and that Roger Goode found this interesting enough to talk about to over a million listeners all on their daily commute. But, in reality, this was a very well organised PR stunt/activation.
#JoziDivers was an activation which saw people around Jozi going about their daily morning routines in flippers and wetsuits, and others “swimming” in various water features. Later during said day it was revealed that it was an activation by alcohol brand Flying Fish who was taking the mundane out of our Monday.

 

 

 

At first, I thought it was a great stunt. I’d never before heard of Jozi Divers and they must have a huge budget to get so many influencers, a national radio station and the likes of eNCA involved. Who are they? I started doing research and realised they were a diving company in Jozi, but what baffled me was the fact that their social media was shocking, it had no bio or link to their website and they weren’t active on social media for over two years. How can a brand launch such an engaging campaign if they didn’t have their ducks in a row?

At this point, I tweeted some advice to them, because it was quite embarrassing. It soon became clear that the campaign was not linked to Jozi Divers in any way. This was even more embarrassing for whoever came up with the campaign idea as it looked like very little research was done beforehand. The owner of Jozi Divers was enraged and went on a Twitter rage, to say the least.

From a PR point of view

As a PR professional, I didn’t understand Jozi Diver’s outrage because all I saw was a fantastic opportunity for them to hijack the hashtag and create awareness for their business. That is the easiest form of PR and the most cost effective too. Jump at the chance to engage with thousands of potential Joburg clients. Unfortunately, he didn’t see it that way and instead left a negative impression of his company to anyone he was engaging with.

Although I saw an opportunity to leverage and get his brand out there, I did, however, have a couple of issues with the #JoziDivers activation:

 

  1. Whoever was the brainchild behind it, they didn’t do basic desktop research. A mere Google search of the hashtag or searching for it on Twitter would have alerted them to the company by the same name. This should have been a red flag as it might distract people from the activation. That’s exactly what happened as the company started ranting and having people engage with him instead of focusing on the campaign. Some may say that because the social media accounts were dormant since 2015, it was back up for grabs. It’s a bit of a risk though. Rather change the hashtag.
  2. The hashtag started gaining traction before 9h00 and was still going with no brand reveal or call-to-action by as late as 14h00. People have close to zero attention span in 2018 and dragging out the reveal just started being annoying and people got bored. A lot of the later tweets reflected just that – they wanted to know what it was all about. A PR stunt is just that – it’s a stunt. It should be activated, gain traction and have a reveal in no more than a couple of hours. Especially in this case when it started during the morning drive slot and people wanted to get on with their day.
  3. Make the call-to-action clear early on – this goes hand-in-hand with point number two.

On the flip side, I was also almost dumbfounded as to how Jozi Divers handled the situation on social media. Granted, whoever was managing the handle didn’t seem social media savvy at all, but this is no longer an excuse in 2018.

  1. A rant about how a brand hijacking your name will only harm your reputation.
  2. Arguing with people on Twitter will not do you any favours.
  3. The attempt to leverage off the trending hashtag, after numerous people advised them to, was dreadful and seemed angry.
  4. If a brand does not know how to engage in the matter online properly, rather stay mum. This would do less reputational damage.

 

Conclusion

This was a stellar opportunity for some great PR as people were already engaged on the hashtag and some assumed that Jozi Divers was behind it all. ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE.

#JoziDivers was a perfect example of by not doing simple research can tarnish an otherwise fantastic campaign/activation as well as an excellent opportunity for another brand to garner awareness.

This is yet again an example of why PR teams need to be involved in all public communication to prevent reputational damage. It’s of utmost importance that PR teams be consulted before any communication is pushed out online or otherwise.

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