Progressive Insurance overwhelmed by Twitter backlash.

September 10, 2012

 

On August 13, Matt Fisher released a blog post titled “My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to defend her killer in court.” Fisher wrote the article in response to his sister Kate’s death by a reckless driver. In the post, Fisher claims that the insurance company paid for a lawyer to come to the defense of the negligent drive in the case. The Fisher family originally tried to sue Progressive in hopes of alleviating  Kaitlynn’s student loans. However, the State of Maryland does not allow claimants to sue an insurance company. One must first sue the person who did not have sufficient insurance to establish negligence.

Progressive’s next day response denied the claim all together.  The negative comments on the site go on for pages. Fisher responded to Progressives clams. Official court documents appear to back up his claims. Progressive provided the defendant of the civil trial with an additional lawyer. There were nearly 16,000 negative tweets about Progressive by day after Fishers original post. That’s up nearly 50,000 percent from the previous week, according to General Sentiment, a firm which tracks social media chatter.

Progressive’s Twitter responses kept saying the same message:

 

Progressive for the most part appeared to be giving non-responses or non-apologies.

The link on the tweet goes to the Facebook page of their spokesperson, Flo, on a flying horse with a rainbow.

As a future public relations specialist (and graduating undergraduate), here’s my advice to Progressive:

  • Progressive is going to have to say they are sorry. The standard line of “our thoughts and prayers go out…” is not going to work in this case.
  • “We are sorry” is not the same thing as “our sympathies.” What Progressive is doing is a non-apology-apology. This is a common practice in both politics and public relations. Progressive is going to have to own up to the fact that the company tried to keep from paying out the defendants claim and your statements were not factual. (From my understanding, this isn’t an uncommon practice, but the company got caught.)
  • It would make sense to say something to the effect that sometimes large corporations do not know what the other hand is doing. It may not be completely true, but it is better than what you are doing now.
  • Then, the insurance company is going to have to pay the settlement. The jury awarded the family $760,000 in damages after the driver was found to be negligent. This is what should have been happening in the first place.
  • Progressive also needs to put a professional social media manager on your Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/LinkedIn accounts and pull of any interns if you haven’t already. You are in crisis mode and you need to make sure that you have someone to deliver an understanding tone to your customers and general public.

Today’s Progressive Tweet seems to be the exact opposite, “Have you daydreamed today? http://pgrs.in/PMEPKG.” The link on the tweet takes you to a Facebook page of their spokesperson, Flo, on a flying horse with a rainbow. They seem to be off message, or ignoring the situation all together.

Now the problem has gone viral and Progressive has a cacophony of tweets in their direction. The insurance company is going to need some good will to smooth over the feathers of this angry horde.

Start with a scholarship fund in Kaitlynn Fisher’s name to her alma mater, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Then make a public announcement that you are reviewing any policy procedures that could cause this situation to happen. YouTube a public apology and don’t use Flo. This public relations crisis is no place for humor.

 

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