In my Community Management class, we are discussing how to deal with Social Media Crises.
We are all familiar with the Dylan Roof the deranged young man who was charged for the arson and murder of the nine at the AME Church in Charleston South Carolina. Pictures have circulated around various news stations as well as on the Internet with Roof holding a Confederate flag. The controversy that surrounds this emblem evokes different emotions for different groups of people. For white southerners, it is a symbol of pride, but for the African-American community it represents injustice, inequality, hatred, fear, anger, sadness and frustration.
I recently read an article about a Wal-Mart store in Louisiana whose bakery had a request by a customer for a cake with the Confederate flag pictured on it. The store’s bakery denied the customer’s request stating, “We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer.” The same customer compromised and instead asked for a cake with the ISIS flag emblem. The Louisianian convenience establishment’s baker agreed to making it.
Looking at this situation objectively, I don’t believe that the Walmart store deliberately or maliciously baked the ISIS cake. I think that the baker was ignorant about what ISIS was, and unknowingly made the cake because as far as he or she knew, that there were no restrictions associated with that particular emblem.
Chuck Netzhammer, the customer who ordered the cake posted a video on YouTube of the culinary creation saying, “ISIS happens to be somebody we’re fighting right now and who are killing our men and boys overseas, and are beheading Christians.” Being that the ISIS flag is also a confrontational symbol in America, this unfortunate incident could have escalated further than it did. Nevertheless, I think that Walmart as a company did an excellent job diffusing the situation by issuing a statement on a public platform, ABC News not only apologizing for the occurrence, but also coming to the aid of one of their own employees. They said, ““An associate in a local store did not know what the design meant and made a mistake. The cake should not have been made.”
Admitting that the cake should had never been made, shows ownership of the mistake which is the mark of a trustworthy company, and not mincing words and apologizing outright was another great decision by the establishment because it showed remorse, recognition that they were wrong, and covers the bases of anyone who may have been or had the potential to be offended by the cake being made.
What is perhaps the most concerning thing to me in this whole story is why Chuck Netzhammer wanted a Confederate flag cake OR an ISIS cake created in the first place. Moreover, it’s curious that there was no follow up. It makes you wonder what his underlying motives may have been. I believe that this is cause for more monitoring or investigation.
For More Information on this story, check out this link: