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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Thornton's MySpace hell or something like that

My thanks to Phil Birchenall from Creative Industries for alerting me to this beauty that he saw in NW Business Insider.

It happened before new year but it is worth a look if you do not know the story and gives another small insight into the power of social media and brand reputation.

A 20 year old university student, Steve Beall, was sent from his home town in the North East to go to Barrow to run the local Thorntons. The day before the launch day the shop was burgled and the shop window smashed.

Living in a Travel Lodge, bored and lonely and stressed out from shoplifters he wrote on his MySpace blog that the town was a "shithole." Nothing wrong there many might think. I do not know Barrow so you might say that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

However it was picked up by the local paper the North West Evening Mail, apparently through a Google alert. The story wasn't a brief mention but a sizable piece of outrage and indignation against the scandalous remarks.

The reaction was such that locals went in droves to complain about his comments at the shop, so much so that the police were called in. Steve Beall laid low in his hotel and despite a recant he lost his job; with Thorntons offering free chocolates to angry customers the PR crisis was narrowly averted.

I have to agree with Stephen Newton's comments that the editor was at fault for his "lack of proportion" and "immaturity" at publishing a minor piece and blowing it up so someone lost his living and the police needed to be called in because of the reaction to a personal and in many ways a private thought or restricted thought.

It all shows that a small story on a blog can be picked up to become something bigger and how the reputation battle will be fought online and in the print media.

Anyway I leave it to a quote on the North West Evening Mail website (under the story itself) to end this entry:

"Leave the poor lad alone, he's young, away from home and entitled to an opinion. Plus, anyone who's ever been to Barrow knows it is a s**thole."

RHR Manchester


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