How to make Twitter rows a storm in a teacup

by James Hyde

It seems somewhat ironic that one of the very staples of British civility and relaxation is generating so much, well, hot water.

Less than six weeks ago, the dubiously-named Blue Monday was turned into ‘Brew Monday’ to encourage people to reach out to one another over a nice cuppa. In an era of adversarial discourse, where it’s getting increasingly difficult to truly talk, tea was bringing the nation back together.

Little did we know, however, that tea itself was about to be cancelled.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (and MP for Richmond, North Yorkshire) tweeted a photo of himself holding a large sack of Yorkshire Tea and Twitter, somewhat predictably, went berserk.

Any of us who’ve ever worked in a press office would have felt an instant pain of solidarity for the Yorkshire Tea social media team: like their teabags, thrust into an boiling environment and forced to stew in it while feeling the energy slowly sap out of you.

Fortunately for Yorkshire Tea, and for everyone with common sense everywhere, their social media team have pitched their response perfectly – owning the narrative with confidence, charm and class.

Here’s a four-point plan of how to deal with a social media crisis, Yorkshire Tea-style:

1. Don’t be paralysed by fear. Look at the amount of tweets and replies Yorkshire Tea have sent since this ‘scandal’ began. They quickly addressed accusations of paid product placement and political bias, and efficiently shut down the criticisms at source.

2. Remain on-brand. Yorkshire Tea have built up a large and engaged Twitter audience, largely due to their colloquial, humorous and irreverent tone of voice. Many companies have reverted to an overly-corporate rebuttal in a time of crisis; Yorkshire Tea recognised the value of brand consistency, kept calm and carried on.

3. Be human. Despite rumours to the contrary, not ALL Twitter accounts are run by bots. No, honestly. By acknowledging the fact that their platform is run by real people with feelings, Yorkshire Tea have allowed users to empathise with them in a really genuine, relatable manner. As they themselves tweeted: “for anyone about to vent their rage online, even to a company - please remember there's a human on the other end of it, and try to be kind.”

4. Remember you can’t please everyone. The infamous "Sue, you’re shouting at tea" has generated mixed feelings, and it’s easy to see both sides. While the vitriol that ‘Sue’ has received in the aftermath of this tweet is completely unacceptable, Yorkshire Tea can’t be held responsible for defending their position and humorously trivialising the subject matter. If everyone remembered to #BeKind, as they suggested in the very same tweet, then this would have all been a storm in a teacup (sorry).