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A look at how Yorkshire Tea weathered the Rishi Sunak Twitter storm

Posted on Tue 3rd Mar, 2020 in: Social Media by Katie Wadsworth

As a proud Yorkshire business, and an avid tea drinker myself, we take our brews seriously at Aberfield, just maybe not as seriously as the people of Twitter!

Last week, Yorkshire Tea found itself at the centre of a very heated Twitter storm after Chancellor Rishi Sunak shared a photo of himself making a brew round, next to a packet of the famous tea. 

The tweet quickly generated traction online with calls to ‘boycott Yorkshire Tea’ from those who believed it was a cynical marketing ploy from Yorkshire Tea. The brand was quick to distance itself from Sunak’s tweet, clarifying that they were not aware the Chancellor would be associating himself with their brand.

This, however, was not good enough for some Twitter users and three days of furious tweets, questions and boycott calls ensued.

In 2020, sadly it’s not surprising to see people being so easily outraged on Twitter, and unfortunately for Yorkshire Tea, they became a proxy for people to vent their views and frustrations on issues which went well beyond the remit of a teabag company.

Social media is a platform most of our clients use and quite often it plays an important part in their marketing strategy. There’s no denying that if you’ve got a strong following on social media, you can more readily engage with your customers and build better lasting and more meaningful relationships. But what is a brand’s best friend, can quickly become a living nightmare if you get caught up in a social media spat.

It is in these instances, much like in a traditional crisis comms situation, where the reputation you’ve built up can make a big difference.

Now, let’s be clear. Yorkshire Tea didn’t do anything wrong on this occasion. All they did was make a product that was in a photo next to a member of the Government. That’s it. But it was how they handled the situation which really stood out.

Here are our two key takeaways from this storm in a teacup.

1. Stick to your brand values

Establishing a clear, consistent tone of voice for your company is essential for creating a solid online presence. You need to know what your business stands for, how it speaks and acts, so you can respond appropriately to your audience.

Yorkshire Tea’s Twitter channel is well regarded for its humorous, personal tone of voice which has helped it build up a large, engaged following (149.6k followers).

During the ensuing Twitter storm, the brand didn’t let this authentic tone of voice slip and it benefitted them with just as many, if not more, of their dedicated followers were tweeting their support for the brand over the weekend.

It also responded in a positive, mature way to what was clearly a tough weekend for its social media managers, positing what felt like a really genuine appeal for more kindness online from its social team. You can find the thread in full here. 

Yorkshire Tea twitter thread calling for Twitter users to be kind

The post felt right and they used their platform for a positive reason which garnered them praise from customers online and encouraged some really nice interactions with other brands including KFC and PG Tips.

 

 

Since then, they’re getting back to their usual fun selves, making light of the situation and being loved even more for it.

 

2. Setting the facts straight

The other important thing Yorkshire Tea did was to continue engaging with its followers, but not get dragged into tit-for-tat arguments.

Yorkshire Tea set the facts straight when there were questions raised about the plastic in teabags, getting their key brand messages across, but didn’t get drawn into the wider political argument which they found themselves in the middle of.

 

They clearly followed agreed internal guidelines at Yorkshire Tea for what they would and would not respond to. This consistency ensured they presented a united position and that they were still able to keep doing their job, without getting dragged into the surrounding noise.

It was a bumpy road for them, with the storm rolling on into the beginning of last week, but their decision to not keep quiet, twinned with their no-nonsense Yorkshire humour, led to real gems like #YoureShoutingAtTea trending on Twitter.

Yorkshire Tea’s Twitter saga shows that, as a company on social media, you can never be sure what’s going to spark the next Twitter-gate, but with clear, consistent internal guidelines and a strong sense of your brand’s tone of voice, you can weather the storm.

After all that drama, we’re off to put the kettle on and enjoy a proper Yorkshire brew.

 

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