NBC made a huge gaffe this weekend in the United States when they chose not to air the portion of the Olympics Opening Ceremonies that included a lovely, haunting rendition of “Abide With Me” by Scottish singer Emeli Sandé, backed by a somber troop of dancers. The segment was in honor of those killed in the 7/7 London bombing and others who have died at the hands of terrorists. You can view the video segment below.
What did they air in its place? A Ryan Seacrest interview with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.
Here are some stats from Radian6 on the spread of the social media crisis, which developed quickly via Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels as users created negativeto reflect their irritation with NBC (#NBCfail, #shutupviera, #shutuplauer, #NBChistory):
After a lengthy delay, NBC did release an official response to the issue, which only served to make the people in the US who are appalled by this more vocal. From NBC’s official statement: “Our program is tailored for the U.S. television audience. It’s a credit to [opening ceremony producer] Danny Boyle that it required so little editing.”
What’s the Uproar?
First, let’s take a quick look at what is inciting viewer outrage over the way NBC handled the broadcast of the opening ceremonies: edits, commercials and commentators. Then we’ll look at what NBC could do differently to handle the situation.
— Fernanda Romano (@fefaromano) July 29, 2012
Viewers took to Twitter and other social networks to voice their dismay at the memorial segment being cut in the US for an inane interview. Viewers also took issue with the number of commercials (though tended to temper this critique point with an acknowledgement that the company has to pay for the broadcast somehow – the “necessary evil” argument). Additionally, the commentary by Lauer and Viera during the show sparked viewer ire for being disruptive (talking over music and other poignant moments), uninformed, mispronounced and condescending in tone. Viewers were also irate that in addition to chopping up the parade of nations with commercials in the US, one of the commercials cut off the entrance of the US — their own country. People were also incensed that NBC online required a cable subscription to see the Olympics content when NBC is not a cable network.
— CanCan (@MomMostTraveled) July 29, 2012
When Twitter users flocked to the Twitter profile of NBC’s Chief Digital Officer Vivian Schiller looking for answers they were greeted with a comment that she has “nothing to do with the Olympics” and bumped down the food chain.
When looking at any of the one tweet so far from the account of Jim Bell.)users created to express their dismay with NBC’s handling of the Olympics coverage, there are two things that stand out: the high volume of tweets continuing to pour in and the complete lack of human, engaged response in real time from NBC or NBC representatives. It’s been two days. At this point, NBC should be all over the social media outlets responding to this and doing triage. (Update: there has been
The vitriol at the delayed broadcast and cuts to commercials as well as the panning of the commentators has been cutting (warning: mild language) and still — no response from NBC or the commentators themselves. Several large insults were delivered over the air by our commentators, and no one has come forward to make it right. People are noticing, and they’re not happy that the US is being made to appear ignorant and uneducated. (Add in presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s gaffe this week, and my next post might have to be about political crisis management at the Olympics!)
What should NBC do to handle the situation?
• Using multiple monitoring tools (Radian6 plus Google Analytics is a great one-two punch here) and listening for sentiment as well as comments during the broadcast would have allowed NBC to respond in a timely fashion. Instead they chose to remain silent, as if they were hoping the crisis would die down, or worse, didn’t think it was important. Brand lesson: your customers determine what is important to them – not you.
• When a crisis response is as delayed as NBC’s has been it escalates on the brand side from something anyone on the response team can address to something that requires a response from the top of the food chain. Brand lesson: combine monitoring with a crisis response organizational chart to direct responses to the right team member according to topic, severity and reach of each issue. You can download our org chart template in our next ebook, Social Media Crisis Management.
• Responding on the platform where the crisis erupts is key — NBC should have been knee-deep in Twitter to stem the tide of these most anticipated events on the air). Brand lesson: all departments and team members need to be in the loop and out of silos to avoid this kind of “left hand not knowing what the right is doing” scenario.from the moment viewer sentiment started to turn negative. NBC even has a special Twitter account set up to live-tweet the Olympics, and a calm, kind response from that account would have done wonders. However, that account was so out of touch with the masses that it went so far as to live-tweet some events before they had aired, thanks to its own time delay (and the US national news is no better, spoiling one of the
• With this much backlash surrounding the timing of the events and the delayed broadcast, NBC should be addressing that issue by removing the cable TV account prompt on its website and allowing folks who choose to watch live to do so. NBC is not a cable network, and is available for viewing to anyone in the US with a TV. The site-gating makes no sense in light of this. If it’s an ad revenue issue, take a cue from YouTube and play a brief ad before starting the stream access for the viewer. Brand lesson: your customers expect you to pivot quickly and address the concerns they are (loudly) sharing with you on social sites, and to change what you’re doing if it makes sense to do so. It’s too late for the opening ceremony, but in the age of #SocialTV it’s not too late to fix the website.
• Extend an olive branch to correct the ill will being generated by the commentators, event spoilers, missing coverage, excessive commercial breaks, live-feed access issues, deflection of responsibility by key staff and callous-seeming official statement. What this olive branch is might be the opening of the live feed to those without cable as stated above, or it could be something else. But a prompt peace offering will be helpful as the eyes of the world watch the US focus on NBC’s missteps here instead of on the hard work of Olympic athletes from many nations. Brand lesson: the world is your stage. With everyone watching, the status quo knee jerk brand response doesn’t work any more.