By threatening to fire a cashier suspected of having picked up a 1€ coupon left by a customer, Cora found itself in the middle of a major controversy – and that it itself contributed to feed through a poor knowledge of the mechanisms and rules of digital communication and social networks, and more broadly of crisis communication.
It must be said that the scenario was ideal: a cashier, mother of a family, union representative, with a low income, against the necessarily implacable management of a large supermarket chain. And indeed, the explosive potion traditional media – social media was concocted, with the damage that could be expected for the reputation and image of Cora: the story was picked up by the local press (the Républicain Lorrain), and thus detected by Internet users who seized on it: Cora’s Facebook page was stormed without the community managers managing to contain or moderate the increasingly numerous and increasingly negative comments. The same thing happened on Twitter, where Cora quickly became one of the most followed “hashtags”. The traditional media then took over and the cashier was featured on Europe 1.
This is not the first time that the web comes to the rescue of a poor employee threatened with dismissal for stealing expired melons (Monoprix in July) or 12 salads (Carrefour mid-November). Like its competitors in these two other cases, Cora could have deflated the crisis with its quick decision to abandon the procedure. But its disastrous communication strategy has instead aggravated the crisis: the press release, cold and short, lacks empathy and sincerity. And above all, Cora had the curious idea of putting an “amateur” video online on Youtube featuring employees who “spontaneously” praised the qualities of Cora as an employer (“life at Cora is mostly that”). Far from restoring its reputation, Cora finds itself once again at the heart of a controversy and is accused of propaganda…
The conclusions of this beautiful failure are simple: companies must integrate social networks and their influence on traditional media in their crisis communication management. Whether it is in their monitoring process, which must include active surveillance of social networks, or in taking into account the likelihood of a media frenzy in the event of a crisis, which is both faster – the crisis is declared more quickly – and longer – crises last on the web – and in the responses to be provided: more than a video of employees, the leaders should have explained themselves on their Facebook page.