With tweets coming in by the minute, 82,000+ Facebook group members boycotting the bar, and people showing distaste and utter bewilderment across the social media board, Browns Independent Bar, in Coventry, England, was sure wishing they hadn’t turned away those grieving soldiers earlier this week…
Yup, you heard me! Apparently this little bar in Coventry has a policy where they do not serve men and women in uniform. This bewildering policy came to light when soldiers in uniform, pall bearers at the funeral of their friend and brother, Corporal Michael Thacker, a soldier who died in Afghanistan on June 1st, entered the bar looking for a warm beverage before the funeral. Imagine their astonishment when they were denied entrance because the bar had this policy of not serving anyone in uniform. Imagine the world’s astonishment when the news came out, or better yet, witness the world’s astonishment and disgust on Twitter, where #BoycottBrowns has been trending for days; and Facebook, where 82,000+ people have joined the “Boycott Browns in Coventry” group.
It’s an emotional and irrational situation that immediately sprung to social media and formed a heavy and real-time crisis for this little, corner bar.
Because it’s an emotional and irrational issue (the ‘irrational’ is to the policy itself), I was interested to see how the owner of this bar, the one who put this policy in place in the first place, was responding to all of the negative press he’s been receiving. Once I saw his response it was clear to me: this blog post needed to be titled “Take a Cue from Browns: How NOT to respond to a social media crisis”!
Take a look for yourself:
Click here to view official response made by Brown.
(Sorry, Vimeo has restricted access to embed this video onto other sites, which means I am unable to embed the video here for your convenience.)
How many failures can you count in this short 41 second response?
First and foremost, where is the sincerity? Two grieving soldiers were basically shamed and turned away from receiving service. After having fought for their country and losing a brother and friend, they were turned away due to a policy that refuses to serve men and women in uniform.
The first thing that we would have expected from Brown was a sincere apology, shame and remorse. He could have shown this by 1) memorizing his lines, and 2) looking straight into the camera with a little more than an air of “this is a total inconvenience for me”.
Attempting to justify the actions by stating a policy that the whole world does not understand in the first place, does little to help his case. As does stating that “had I known of the circumstances, I would have served them”.
He goes on to say that he is “now looking to review this policy”, which is his attempt to state that he has learned the errors of his ways. Though with the lack of sincerity and conviction in his voice and actions, he might as well not have said it. As a general rule, if it’s believed that you’re making a change simply because you were caught and forced to, it’s a null action – it will have little to no positive impact.
This was Brown’s one chance at potentially turning the situation around. Had he done the complete opposite within his response, he may have had a fighting chance. But with the lack of sincerity, 82,000+ people boycotting the bar on Facebook, and the sentiment on Twitter, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw this little bar close its doors sometime in the near future.
This is yet another great example of one wrong action causing a viral social media crisis – and another perfect example of how NOT to respond to said crisis.
What are your thoughts on the way Brown has chosen to handle this crisis, and what repercussions do you expect to see on account of his (non)actions? Share your thoughts with me below!
Corp David Allison’s thoughts on the incident
* Photo credit: ITV Central
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.