Utilizing Social Media to Combat Negative Press
In 2010, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) found itself the focus of increasingly negative press and criticism over its business practices and programming. In response, WWE launched a public relations campaign titled “Stand Up for WWE” that centered on evangelizing to its fans through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Since launching, the campaign has generated thousands of videos, tweets, posts and “likes” that highlight positive WWE experiences, criticize the negative attacks and galvanize fans to show their support for the organization and its core values.
By Rebecca Johnson, Strategist, Digital Integration & Innovation
In mid-October, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) launched a social media–based advocacy campaign in response to what it calls “unfair and biased attacks from certain politicians and media outlets.” The organization recently has come under increasing levels of scrutiny and press coverage in part due to former CEO Linda McMahon’s tight U.S. Senate seat race against Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
The goal of the campaign titled “Stand Up for WWE” is to energize the fan base to help refute these attacks on the WWE. In the campaign’s launch video, WWE CEO Vince McMahon reached out to fans and asked them to join the “Stand Up for WWE” movement by posting their own personal videos, tweeting about their WWE experiences, joining the campaign’s Facebook page and visiting WWE’s website1 for additional ways to spread a positive WWE message.
The movement hinges on the power and connectivity of the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and WWE’s website to disseminate a coherent and consistent pro-WWE message and enable fans to connect and share their WWE passion. Given that WWE’s audience is primarily between 18-34 years old with a 60/40 male-to-female split, launching this campaign via social media channels was a strategic decision by WWE that has led to a significant level of response and campaign engagement.
One month post-launch, the campaign’s Facebook page had received 78,536 “Likes” and the vast majority of the 19,222 comments are positive. After 1 month on Twitter, @StandUpForWWE amassed 11,162 followers, with 4,992 users retweeting the “Stand Up for WWE” Twitter petition and with the StandUpForWWE messaging reaching 1,433,260 Twitter users. Lastly, Mr. McMahon’s "Stand Up for WWE" YouTube outreach videos have over 185,000 views. WWE is also using YouTube to repurpose pro-WWE videos and messages from politicians from both sides of aisle, sports stars, WWE employees and celebrities.Implications and Action Items
WWE's "Stand Up for WWE" campaign is a good example of the potential impact social media efforts can have on mobilizing a fan base to counteract negative publicity.
- Know the audience’s social media habits. WWE’s campaign works because WWE fans were already sharing and adding content within these social media networks. This will not necessarily be the case for every brand, and understanding if and how the target audience currently engages within social media is extremely important to the success of every social media–based campaign.
- Select the right platform(s). Depending on the medium of the campaign, certain social media networks will be more effective for distributing and sharing messaging. If the goal is for users to create and post videos, YouTube may be the platform to go with, whereas if the goal is to sign and share a petition, Twitter may be best. Simply understanding how various mediums function and are utilized with social media platforms will significantly help in selecting the most optimal platform(s).
- Determine comment policies and settings. Before launching, establish guidelines around how users will be able to directly comment on and respond to content. Ensure that chosen social media platforms reflect these guidelines within their setting functions.
- Create easily sharable messages. Make it easy for users to spread a campaign with simple, easy-to-personalize messaging that can quickly be retweeted and posted. If you simplify the sharing process, users will be more apt to engage with and pass along your content.