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Corporate Policy Meets Social Media Justice

Hey Home Depot, I got your 'corporate espionag...Image by Ben McLeod via Flickr

There's a controversy brewing in Ankeny over a corporate decision, and now social media justice is being meted out by everyday people. Here's the story.

In May 2010, Heather DeJoode was driving her minivan in Ankeny and was hit by a reckless driver. The result was devastating. Heather's two children, Carson and Claire, were killed. Heather survived, but she has been unable to return to work and is continuing her recovery.

Troy DeJoode, the father, was left to care for and comfort the surviving child, Chase.

Shelley Huss, the director of Chase's daycare in Ankeny, contacted her corporate office to see what the company could do for the DeJoode family. The company agreed to provide a week's worth of free care. Huss decided to offer free care to the family as long as it was needed. The family resumed paying for Chase's care in March 2011, but an audit caught the fact that Chase's care was provided at no cost.

Shelley Huss was fired for her decision to contradict corporate policy.

What happened next is a corporate nightmare. A spontaneous uprising is taking place on Childtime's Facebook page. Parents and other community members are expressing outrage that Childtime would fire Ms. Huss for her decision to extend free care to the family.

Here is some advice to help any company that is dealing with negative comments on social media pages.

  1. Get out in front of criticism: Childtime's first error was not to proactively address the controversy on its own page. By doing this, they left themselves open to getting slammed by negative comments, which is exactly what happened.
  2. Most importantly: Do NOT delete relevant comments. As tempting as it may be, most comments should be allowed to stand as is. Only off-subject and abusive comments should be deleted. Some posters to the Childtime Facebook page have reported that their posts have been removed, so they've reposted repeatedly. Don't get into a pissing match with people. Once you've deleted a comment and it reappears, you have a decision to make. Either allow the comment to stand, or delete it and block the person.
  3. Have a comments policy in place ahead of time. This policy should be posted on your Facebook page and website, and detail company policy for dealing with comments.
  4. Exercise limited control over "wall posts." Childtime's Facebook wall allows links and videos to be freely posted. At this point, they should not change the setting, but all companies should discuss limiting this option.
  5. Answer comments within reason. In this case, when all the comments are so overwhelmingly negative, it does not help to answer each and every post. Childtime is attempting to answer some negative posts with its side of the story, but it has also resorted to "astroturfing" its own profile with positive comments from made-up Facebook accounts. Classic case of what not to do!!!
  6. Offer to take hostile conversations offline. Childtime should host an informational conference call or post an online Q&A. Do not confront angry commentors with defensive posts.
  7. Don't change the subject. Instead of calmly answering complaints, Childtime is attempting to change the conversation by posting thank-you messages to the few people who agree with their point of view. They are killing themselves with that tactic, it's only making people angrier.

Social media presents both opportunity and risk for Childtime. Since the mainstream media has caught on to the story, the company should keep the conversation going. What do you think Childtime should do? Should they buckle to popular opinion and rehire Shelley Huss, or should they stick to their guns?

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Childtime's first mistake was firing Ms. Huss. If Childtime had not taken that action, none of this would have been in the media in the first place. When an organization is faced with a top manager demonstrating empathy for a customer, but yet it results in a loss of revenue and possibly a violation of a policy, the last thing to do is fire the manager. This was an opportunity for great learning to happen within the organization in how to respond to such a heart-breaking situation of a customer. Childtime blew it.

VERY WELL WRITTEN! In this day and age the internet and facebook are everywhere! Customer service isn't what it use to be. It's easier to rant about an experience and get it out to the masses than it was 15 years ago! Companies have to plan ahead for something such as this. PROACTIVE!

I had posted several legitimate questions and not a single one containing profanity. I even complimented the teachers and directors at the locations as they are the ones who make that company what they are! Those posts were all deleted and I was banned from the page!

So many "supporters" were calling Shelley a thief and other terrible things. Numerous times (because they kept deleting the post) I said Innocent until proven guilty...plus if it really was true and she were giving away services to more than just the DeJoode family then why haven't they pressed charges?

Most of all I was disappointed at hearing that most parents knew nothing about what was going on until they had news cameras in their faces on Friday after this all happened on Monday!

Kevin and Katie, thanks for commenting. I am still shaking my head over the manner in which this whole thing was conducted.

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