How Intel averted a social media firestorm: Listen, then respond—quickly

The global giant explains how its social media team deals with controversies that could turn expensive if ignored.

Several years ago, Intel ran an ad that illustrated the speed of its microprocessors with a picture of a bosslike figure standing with crossed arms over a bunch of half-naked sprinters bent double in a racing stance.

Tiny problem. The guy in charge was white; the sprinters were all black. And, well, it kind of looked like they were all bowing to the white man.

The ad quickly drew fire on the Internet. African-American bloggers denounced it, and Gawker mused, “Intel Ad: Stupid? Or Stupid And Racist?

“There was discussion of picketing our headquarters in Santa Clara,” Intel’s Rick Reed said at Ragan’s Social Media for PR & Corporate Communicators conference in Las Vegas. “Tremendous potential for this to go sideways really quickly.”

Luckily, Intel was listening. Reed, who monitors social media and helps detect crises that could blow up and damage the $35 billion brand, was part of a team that scrambled to draft an apology and pull the ads.

How does a global giant hear and respond to complaints amid the multibillion-throated yawp of the Internet? Take a lesson from Intel:

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