How to manage a Twitter crisis if you’re a major TV show


I’m a huge fan of the Big Brother TV show set in the UK. I’ve been watching since the show started ten years ago.

Since moving to Canada seven years ago I’ve managed to keep up with it every year.

Clearly, Twitter has grown and more Big Brother fans use it than ever before.

2010 is a major year for Big Brother in the UK; this is the last series. Channel Four are cancelling it.

Last night was the first eviction – if you’re not familiar with the Big Brother format then all you need to know is that a bunch of strangers get put in a house for a couple of months and get to nominate each other for eviction every week. The whole thing is shown on TV and the general public vote to decide who leaves. In the end, the last housemate wins a major cash prize – like $100,000.

Channel Four broadcasts a highlights show every night of the week and Friday is always eviction night.

Eviction night is a major event for Big Brother fans.

So it was with nervous excitement that I ‘tuned in’ to the internet late yesterday afternoon to check on which of the three peeps up for eviction would leave.

I was on Twitter and also a Big Brother forum which I regularly check – obviously I can’t watch the eviction show live on TV because I’m in Canada so I’m relying totally on the internet to keep me up to date.

I’m scanning everything for clues about who will leave the house. That announcement is always made live on TV by presenter Davina McCall.

Until last night.

Someone at Channel Four messed up on Twitter by announcing the name of the person being evicted before it was announced live on TV.

In some cases this type of reveal is intentional – breaking exclusive news on Twitter. This was not one of those moments.

In addition to the main Big Brother show there are several supplementary TV shows which cover news, gossip and behind-the-scenes. Big Brother’s Big Mouth (presented at one time by Russell Brand) is one of them. They even have their own Twitter account.

Moments before the TV reveal Big Brother’s Big Mouth tweeted:

SHOCKER!!! Tell us what you think of Rachael getting evicted. Say what you really think!!!

Seconds later the tweet was deleted. I didn’t see it but what I did see were dozens of angry Big Brother fans on Twitter bemoaning the slip up.

But Big Brother’s Big Mouth did good.

Sure there were plenty of folks on Twitter proclaiming that the tweeter responsible would surely lose their job. I hope not because Big Brother’s Big Mouth did precisely what you should do in a crisis situation.

The listened. They acknowledged. They apologized.

The result?

Reactions like this one.

Honestly it didn’t bother me one bit but what it did do was underscore an important issue about handling yourself publicly when you mess up.

In the ‘olden days’ the PR approach was to act as if it didn’t happen, cover it up, not comment or comment with an excuse. I’ve lived through that – back in England as a press officer.

And that’s why I love the social web in 2010.

It forces you to be open, honest and genuine. I hope!

People will love you all the more if you can be those things. Even when you mess up.

Social media and old school PR approaches don’t mix.

This is something we can all learn from.