“Put your seatbelt on”: how networks handle social media criticism

How do network publicists deal with negative social media, and particularly news media that turn them into stories?

That was amongst topics discussed at a session at last week’s Screen Forever conference in Melbourne.

Victoria Buchan, Head of Nine Communications told delegates, “All media organisations are cutting staff, but they are looking for stories on social media.

“I can have a situation where there can be -literally- 5 negative comments on something and News.com.au, SMH or a really big outlet will take that and turn it into a story.

“They will say ‘Social media is outraged!'” she explained. “And it’s 5 comments. You’re kidding me?

“But we will not comment on that. I just say ‘Get over it!’ it’s something where you have to suck it up and know there will be another 4 hours and the cycle will change.

“It’s a clickbait thing,” she continued. “I just say to my guys, ‘Put your seatbelt on.’ You have to stay strong and not comment. If you start commenting on every bit of dribble and horribleness you diminish your brand, you’ll demean yourself, you devalue your talent and damage people terribly.

“It’s so distressing.”

Steve Murphy, Head of Communications at FremantleMedia said, “On the flipside, there’s nothing worse than not being talked about. We’ve all worked on shows where there are crickets.

“Suddenly if there is no talk, how do we get relevant with the audience?”

Buchan acknowledged while Family Food Fight had done moderate broadcast numbers the social media reaction has been positive.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive and people are loving that show,” she said,” and we feel really encouraged by that.

“We were up against a show on Seven called The Wall and the social media on that was horrible. They got massive numbers for the first night and we got modest numbers but the social media was encouraging. So we sat tight. The people who are watching it are loving it.”

Buchan also explained that every project and situation requires an individual strategy based on experience. Gallipoli was given a cinema premiere for media to capitalise on its filmic look, which differs from other network launches.

“There are no rules. I didn’t handle what happened with 60 Minutes in Lebanon the same way I handled Lisa Wilkinson leaving the Today show or Amber and Julie wearing white jackets.”

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