Home  › Social › Social Media
facebook-logout-progressive-flo

Citi Social Media Man Pans Progressive’s Handling of Twitter Scandal

  |  October 3, 2012   |  Comments

Former @ComcastCares manager Frank Eliason has some constructive criticism for Progressive and other brands that have knee-jerk reactions to crisis management in social media.

In social media, doing nothing is sometimes better than doing anything at all. When it comes to social messaging and crisis management, that's the sentiment of Frank Eliason, director of global social media for Citi. Eliason was referring to Progressive Insurance and its handling of a case involving a comedian's sister - and the firm's much-maligned social media response to the grave situation.

"There are tons of these scenarios that happen everyday now," said Eliason, speaking during an Advertising Week panel in New York this afternoon hosted by LinkedIn. Before joining Citi, Eliason managed one of the first highly successful customer service accounts on Twitter, @ComcastCares.

In August, the brother of a Progressive car insurance policyholder who died in a car crash published a Tumblr post stating that Progressive "refused to pay the policy to my sister's estate." Progressive's brand was tarnished by the post, which portrayed the firm as generally heartless. Comments about and links to the Tumblr post spread quickly across Twitter, prompting subsequent attacks on the insurance firm.

The company soon disseminated a statement on Twitter, as many firms might. A singular tweet - juxtaposed with a profile image featuring Progressive's grinning, crimson-lipped spokes-gal Flo - was tweeted verbatim several times to separate individuals. Calling the case "tragic," and expressing "sympathies," Progressive went on to note: "We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations. Again, this is a tragic situation, and we're sorry for everything Mr. Fisher and his family have gone through."

"They tried to talk about it from their Twitter handle," which Eliason suggested was a mistake because of its association with the Flo mascot. The response also failed from a business and legal perspective, implied Eliason. "[Progressive] set a precedent" that "if [a consumer] disagrees with you...[he should] take to social media" in the hopes of being awarded a court settlement.

The sterile response, and the firm's seemingly cold approach to tweeting it over and over, with Flo smiling alongside didn't help. Critics said the company looked like a "soul-less, lipsticked robot" - and much worse.

"I think they did what they thought was right," said Eliason. "Progressive's plan probably was they have to respond right away," he added, noting that many brands react that way because they are taught, "that's what you have to do in social media."

Progressive might have stayed quiet at least for a day, he said. "Would I stay quiet for three days? No," he continued.

Despite a variety of online comments and memes in response to the scandal that besmirched Flo and the firm she represents, Advertising Week named the apron-clad spokescharacter to this year's Madison Avenue Walk of Fame.

ClickZ Live San Francisco August 10-12: Revolutionize your digital marketing campaigns at ClickZ Live San Francisco! Educating marketers for over 15 years, our action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covers every aspect of digital marketing. Early Bird rates available through Friday, July 17 - save up to $300! Register today.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get ClickZ Social newsletters delivered right to your inbox. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

US Consumer Device Preference Report

US Consumer Device Preference Report
Traditionally desktops have shown to convert better than mobile devices however, 2015 might be a tipping point for mobile conversions! Download this report to find why mobile users are more important then ever.

E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle

E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle
Have you ever wondered what factors influence online spending or why shoppers abandon their cart? This data-rich infogram offers actionable insight into creating a more seamless online shopping experience across the multiple devices consumers are using.

WEBINARS

Resources

Jobs

  • Sr. Marketing Specialist, PPC
    Sr. Marketing Specialist, PPC (Charter Communications) - StamfordSr. Marketing Specialist, PPC– Digital Marketing Charter Communications...
  • Online Marketing Analyst
    Online Marketing Analyst (FULLBEAUTY Brands ) - New YorkINTRODUCTION: Are you interested in a unique career opportunity where you can represent...
  • Copy Editor
    Copy Editor (ClickZ / Search Engine Watch) - New YorkROLE OVERVIEW The role of the copy editor for ClickZ has many demands. Ultimately, the copy...