Yorkshire Tea: Spilling The ‘Tea’ On Social Media Etiquette

“Sue, you’re shouting at Tea.”

A contender for quote of the year, says the Huffington Post, as well-known British tea company, Yorkshire Tea, silences social media trolls.

If you haven’t heard of the now-dubbed #YorkshireTeaGate, then I seriously recommend you take to Twitter as it’s all people seem to be talking about today.

The debacle began as well known Conservative politician and Chancellor Rishi Sunak shared a harmless photo of him prepping a “good Yorkshire brew”, exhibit A:

Yorkshire Tea - Sue you're shouting at tea tweet. Social media management.

What followed was a PR crisis that Yorkshire Tea would never have expected.

I guess the brand is typically thought to be left-wing (which is crazy by the way, as to my knowledge they’ve never explicitly said this) and thus, despite Yorkshire Tea having absolutely no involvement with Sunak’s photograph, they were inundated with hate all the same.

I for one wouldn’t have expected that kind of reaction, but herein lies the reality of Twitter in 2020.

Yorkshire Tea: Spilling The Tea On Social Media Management

The tea brand, who don’t post that often on social media as far as I can see, handled the situation perfectly.

Any crisis communications teachings will tell you that the first thing to do is address the problem head-on, however, I guess this would be kind of tricky when you’ve genuinely nothing to apologise for.

Enter Yorkshire Tea, who despite being burdened with this backlash through no fault of their own and out of nowhere, come back with the perfect response…

Screenshot 2020-02-26 at 16.45.02

In a 5-deep-tweet thread, the brand explained that though they have no affiliation with Rishi Sunak, they’ve been threatened with boycott calls and online abuse from trolls. Their response is not something particularly ordinary, but is brilliant all the same.

Instead of not reacting, or even apologising, whoever controls Yorkshire Tea’s Twitter account used the platform to draw attention to the situation, and then explain that such behaviour is totally inappropriate. Reminding social media users that there’s a “human on the other end” of any branded account.

And quite rightly there is, which is why I love this response so much.

The brand was met with a plethora of praise. From social media comments to news coverage, many got behind Yorkshire Tea today and rallied support…. Even their competitors!

Screenshot 2020-02-26 at 16.52.20

Dignified and honest, they don’t teach you about dealing with crisis communications when the crisis you’re in actually has nothing to do with you.

“Sue, You’re Shouting At Tea”

It doesn’t stop there, either.

Despite their open and honest statement on social media, that anyone in their right mind wouldn’t question, it would seem that some were still not happy with Yorkshire Tea. Again, (and I cannot stress this enough), despite them having absolutely no involvement with Sunak and his brew-making routine.

Luckily, Yorkshire Tea had yet another brilliant response up their sleeve.

In response to an angry tweeter, who was still wholly unhappy with the brand (so much so that she felt not one, but 4 tweets were in order), Yorkshire Tea responded with the following…

Screenshot 2020-02-26 at 16.53.14

Since, the hashtag #SueYourShoutingAtTea is amongst Twitter’s top trends in the UK, and Yorkshire Tea’s mentions have been flooded with well-wishes and words of praise.

Who said that killing them with kindness doesn’t work?

What Can We (All) Learn From Yorkshire Tea?

Look, I think everyone can learn a little something from what’s unfolded here today.

I would hope that the eyes of many have been opened to the reality of corporate social media. Because while venting your fustrations to a branded account may seem like the most plausiable solution to your issues at the time, it does bear thinking about that there is a genuine human being behind that account who’s having to deal with those fustrations.

A little kindness goes a long way.

Furthermore, there’s a lot to take away for those (like myself) who work in PR and social media. Not everything in our industry can be taught, but taking inspiration from other brands and learning from their movements is never really a bad idea.

I for one learned something today, and that’s when you’re in a crisis communications situation that was largely unexpected and very much not-your-fault, one of the best ways to approach the situation is with honesty, transparency and just a dash of humour.

If faced with an abundance of online trolls and hateful messages, why should brands sit back and take it?

Being a successful business does not make you immune to the repercussions that targeted hate brings, therefore if you’re in a situation wherein you’re under a lot of pressure through no fault of your own, addressing it and talking candidly about the situation really seems to bring people back down to earth.

Not only this, but their witty responses have earned Yorkshire Tea a lot of great publicity, far outweighing any negativity being directed their way, I would imagine.

Managing social media is not an easy job, but it is a fundamental one. Your online presence can make or break your brand, and thus you need a grounded person (or persons) with their head screwed on at the other end of the computer screen to look after it. Get it right, and the rewards you can reap are golden.

Much like Yorkshire Tea have proven today.

What are your thoughts on this one? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.



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