Hailu Mulatu

The Journey …. In the Beginning

Nestle’s Social Media Nightmare

Posted by hailumulatu on December 9, 2012

The crisis that Nestle went through in a recent year following a video posted on YouTube by a prominent environmental activist namely Greenspace and rather s slow and ineffective reaction by   Nestle and its social web team appears to be a good example for social media crises and how things should have been done differently.  

Before I outline my thoughts on what I would have done to manage the crisis as a member of the social web team, let me try to give some back ground information about Nestle and what happened as result of the video posted by Greenspace.

Nestle has been in business for almost 150 years and has survived the Great Depression that hit hard most businesses in the Western World. With operation in over 85 countries and about 300,000 employees, it plays a major role in the world economy. By virtue of its   mission “Good Food, Good Life,” it is the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company.

Nestle has a very positive reputation for  doing its business by creating shared value which states that in order to create long-term value for shareholders, it  also creates value for society. It goes beyond compliance and sustainability. It fosters growth and opportunities relating to nutrition, water, and rural development in countries in the continents of Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Until quite recently, Nestle’s use of palm oil was minimal and had not attracted the attention of environment lobbyist Greenpeace.  But its recent use of a large quantity of palm oil which has nearly doubled the  last few years has made Nestle  a target  for  Greenpeace  – an organization that aims to “ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity.”

Greenpeace’s accusation of Nestle includes, among others, deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia where several companies are leveling rainforest for palm oil plantations. According to Greenpeace, such deforestation is taking place on protected carbon-rich peat lands and in critical animal habitats. As a result, it is becoming a major factor to global warming and endangering precious animals.

The video that Greenpeace posted on YouTube went viral in a matter of hours is damaging its reputation and its overall business performance. The video portrays Nestle as a company socially and environmentally   irresponsible.

Nestle - killerNestle - birds

To make matters worse, Nestle’s social web team did not act quickly to manage the issue and they did not utilize social networking sites effectively as the most efficient tool of crisis management and the issue at hand. There was more focus on traditional media than social media and there was on open, timely two way communication between Nestle and its publics. Reach, velocity and action were clearly lacking.  

Here is what I would have done differently:

Developing social media strategy: I will devise a social media strategy geared towards   justifying Nestle’s position of using palm oil. This reactive strategy focuses on softening the blow of Greenpeace’s accusation and asking stakeholders and the publics to look at the positive outcomes of Nestle’s use of palm oil.  

Identifying audience and building supporters: Based on the need and issue at hand, my social web initiatives will focus on key audiences such as Nestle’s major stakeholders, the general public, and all other advocates who believe in its shared value.  

Crafting impactful and appropriate responses: Identifying professional and impactful responses is crucial.  I will have responses for comments that go hand in hand with key messages I will reinforce in my communication through all social media networking sites. Messages will include:

  • Nestle is committed to going beyond compliance and suitability and fostering   shared value which aims at creating long-term value for stakeholders   and society.
  • With its mission of “Good Food, Good Life,” Nestle is the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company and it plays a major role in the global economy.
  • Nestle continues to be a reference for financial performance, a company trusted by all its stakeholders.

Responding quickly and dedicating social networking pages/ areas: I will set up accounts with Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn, YouTube, and Blogs entirely dedicated to Nestle’score shared values and mission to create a two-way communication with all of its audiences. Social media will enhance the shared value messaging by making the information available to everyone. Specifically, its audiences will be able to comment, ask questions and share their experiences about Nestle’s values and products.  

Setting rules of engagement: I will establish the rules for the dialogue and   dedicate a discussion area so that critics have a separate forum for their comments.  This will help me in managing the conversation n and  making Nestle’s brand a less visible target.


Monitoring the social web:  Evaluating the effectiveness of the social media strategy is paramount. I will regularly monitor the social web for the tone and content of feedback, observe if there has been  a decline in sales,  survey reactions from stakeholders to ensure its business performance and trust among stakeholders and the publics is well maintained.

 Nestle - monitor


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The Three Pillars of Business Success in Social Web Program – AAA

Posted by hailumulatu on November 12, 2012

Action, attitude and attention are interlocking elements of the social web activity and, working together, they play a significant role in meeting business objectives.

Closer attention to what goes on the social web which is directly linked to elements that generate revenue, create value, and drive transactions in the sector is a very important component in meeting business objectives in the social web program. This refers to people and building positive relationships with people in business and other domains in the social web platform. Looking inward is not enough. There is a strong need for looking outward. The concept of outward social web relationships is multifaceted and includes clients, distributors, vendors, the media, the regulators, and even the government itself which are on social web platform.   As in life, business today relies on public participation; and managing public participation for business success makes up a relationship.

All eyes on the social web as the success of business today relies on public participation

Success in social web activity is all about attitude.  Slowly but surely, business leaders are shifting their attitude toward social web — from seeing it as a threat to discovering its very real opportunities. And their attitude matters a lot. Social media is about people, not technology. Its business value does not come from social software or a snazzy website, even one with a billion users. Its value stems from how business leaders, from senior executives to managers, use it to foster new collaborative behaviors that materially improve business performance.

Leadership attitudes, and the organizational culture they seed, are critical to social web success in meeting the desired objectives.  They are among a company’s most fundamental social media assets — or liabilities.

Such attitude offers a business the resilience to stand back when it falls down due social media crisis, to stay the course, in times of opportunity and challenge. This is essential for continuous business improvement and  it requires individuals and groups to demonstrate positive behavioural adaptation in times of great social web adversity. An attitude that both secures and pushes the limit to achieve the next level of success!

Attitude matters- social web is not just a threat – it  offers real opportunities.

A timely, honest and transparent action is of course the most crucial aspect of social web endeavour towards business success. The business needs to set off a chain action and reaction that infuses imaginations, communications, efforts, achievements and profile.  It is of paramount importance to infuse ethics into all aspects, activities, and achievements of an organization.

Analytical questions should be asked before they even arise and narratives that connect the dots and tell a story should be created. All actions undertaken are and should be geared toward creating a value. And the key to creating value is to keep a careful watch of the business horizon, spot potential changes, make note of the consequences and the opportunities they present for the business. The company needs to build a capable team who can sort out issues and prioritise, develop an effective action plan and perform an effective execution.

Issues need to be sorted out, prioritized and a carefully built plan by a capable team  should be effectively executed.

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Social Media Saves Lives

Posted by hailumulatu on November 1, 2012

A lot has been said how social media benefits businesses in promoting their products and services. Fortunately, many methods are available to help companies generate more traffic and eventually translate the lead generation to their target audience.  Consequently, social Media optimization has become   one of the most popular ways of promoting products online and augmenting its traffic in just a matter of ample time.

But are social networking sites limited to promoting businesses only? Perhaps not.  Social media has also a direct power to save lives. Just for a change, please allow me to share with you a true account of such power that I was fortunate to know as an employee of OneMatch – Canadian Blood Services.

Nearly a year and half ago on Good Friday,  Jennifer Smith, a 32 year old Scarborough single mom made a tearful announcement that she had found a bone marrow match from a total stranger and had renewed hope that she could beat the deadly disease Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

A year and half after announcing to the world that she had been given another chance at life, Jennifer has continued to fight to save others.  More importantly, she met the most special person in her life – her donor – at a special awareness event she organized on Easter Monday.

John Galt – her donor – is a Calgary man in his late twenties who registered as a potential donor about two years ago when he read Jennifer’s appeal for help on Facebook. Yes her appeal was on most social networking sites and her touching story had compelled many to join the OneMatch Network as a potential donor to help Jennifer and all other patients who need bone marrow transplant. Interestingly enough, John happened to be her match in just a matter of months.  Finding a donor for a patient is like finding a needle in a hay stack. This was like a match made in Heaven.

The meeting was indeed a very emotional moment. Jennifer was speechless to meet her savior. Equally, John was thrilled to meet the woman he gave a second chance at life. It was an opportunity and experience that changed his life too. Thanks to Facebook, Jennifer and John are a match made in Heaven.

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Could Social Media ever be More Trouble than it is Worth?

Posted by hailumulatu on October 31, 2012

Brands and businesses are certainly making a stronger push than ever on social media, which makes sense – and it gives companies a voice and a way to communicate with peers, customers and potential consumers. Simply put, social media carries a lot of value with if it is done right. Equally, one can argue that social media, if it is not properly handled, could do more harm than good to a company.  

What McDonald’s faced not so long ago is a case in point. When McDonald’s launched its corporate social responsibility blog namely ‘Open Discussion’ a few years ago, it undoubtedly signaled the company’s readiness to engage with the blogosphere.

A few months later, however, it faced a massive criticism for the limitations of that engagement: when critics posted comments to the blog about the company’s decision to include toy Hummers in the restaurant’s Happy Meals, they noticed the company was too slow to publish their comments and respond to their criticism. Turning a blind eye wouldn’t solve the problem.

You may turn a blind eye to avoid a problem but the problem will not avoid you.

Environmentalists who criticized the toys on substantive grounds such as for promoting high-emission vehicles were joined by social media critics who attacked the company for its failure to live up to the “open for discussion” promise.

For McDonald’s, the open discussion  blogosphere   was intended to be an opportunity to engage customers, but it turned out to be  an opportunity that brings new pressures for transparency and responsiveness. Simply because it was not well prepared to respond to its customers and engage them in a positive way.

Needless to say that social media did not create these problems for McDonald’s. It probably has made them a lot more visible and pressing. But the solution is by no means locking the social media gate as customers will find somewhere else to have the conversation going which is even worse.  In this era of social networking sites, the golden rule will be to fully embrace social media, evolve and succeed.

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Images and Content Strategy – One Look is Worth a Thousand Words

Posted by hailumulatu on October 15, 2012

Research  shows that   infographics predate writing as a means of disseminating information – cave drawings are probably the earliest known example. People were also creating and using maps before the advent of written language.

The famous cliché “An image  is worth a thousand words” has been used for centuries.  Primarily referring to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image, it also appropriately characterizes one of the main goals of  visualization making it possible to absorb large amounts of data quickly.

Records indicate the famous expression “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” first appeared in a 1911 newspaper article quoting newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane discussing journalism and publicity.

In his book Father and Sons, the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, wrote “A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound.”

In this era of social media, the role of image in content strategy has  become increasingly valuable.  

Save my Life

The image below is used by Canadian Blood Services to raise awareness on the strong need for unrelated more bone marrow donors to help save the lives of hundreds of Canadians. It conveys a very powerful message that patients needing a bone marrow transplant have little chance of getting a matched donor from their own siblings and rely on the generosity of total stranger to save their lives.

Unlike blood donation which cross boarder of ethnic lines, ethnicity is very important in matching a donor and a patient: the best chance of finding a match comes from within a patient’s own ethnic group.

The patient depicted in the image with imploring eyes for help to save his life – since none of his siblings are a match for him –  has inspired thousands of people, specifically Black Canadians,   to join Canadian Blood Services OneMatch program as a potential donor.  

Mother’s eyes, Granfathers’s nose, Fathers’ smile, None of their stemcells

Child Labour

The image below shows child labour  in real time and place in a pottery factory in  Egypt. Child labour is rampant in Egypt as it is most developing countries in the world.  Instead of going to school, the children have to join their parents who work long days  at the pottery factory. If the children did not work, then there would not be enough money to put food on the family’s table.

Bathed in the scorching late afternoon sun, dirt on her arm and caked onto her dress, this non-staged   image is very touching  and squarely brings anyone into the grim reality of child labour. Although she is not looking at the camera, the sad emotion in her eyes shows vividly.  It tells a story worth a thousand words. Arguably far better than a newspaper article on anti-child labour advocacy would tell! 

Unforgiving sad eyes


Bitter Coffee – Deforestation of Forest Coffee

 The last image we see below depicts the alarming forest coffee deforestation in Ethiopia. The south western forests of Ethiopia which are known to be the origin of coffee have insurmountable historical significances. The forests have over the years accumulated immense and priceless bio diversities. They are also a home for different types of coffees which can’t be found anywhere else in the world

Because of the   deforestation the last few decades, the world is losing the genetic pool of all Arabica coffees.  In the past 50 years alone, the south western highlands of Ethiopia have lost 85% of their forest coverage.  Scientists believe and predict that if the situation continues like this, the world lose the forests along with the original forest coffee.  The image shows this scary yet imminent fact!

Bitter coffee




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Indeed it is Foursquare!

Posted by hailumulatu on October 1, 2012

Foursquare is undoubtedly a household name and an everyday tool with some social media geeks. As for me, I barely knew the term until guest speaker Jonathan Laba explained it all. Another classic example of living in the same world but belonging to different generations!  

In an attempt not to lag behind far more than I already have, I quickly registered on foursquare. I have to admit it took me a little while to complete the registration. Once I checked in, however, the experience was phenomenal.

As I started playing with Foursquare, I tested it with an in honour blood donor clinic I was organizing last week in downtown Toronto. It was interesting to observe how quickly and easily a blood donor community can come around together. Moreover, it appears to have that feature of attracting media which in turn will further promote the cause.   

As in some other industries, I now fully realize the importance and advantages of having a Foursquare strategy for my organization. It is obvious that blood donor clinics and similar events will not gain publicity through this social networking site only. But I have little doubt that my company can incorporate it into its overall social media strategies.

Pleasantly inspired by its results, I have now decided to take Foursquare a step forward as an important promotional tool to publicize the Get Swabbed university challenge my organization is having in November. As a tool of bringing   a community with similar characteristics and demographics together, I recognize its potential in bringing university students to registration events on campus next month. In utilizing Foursquare as possible platform for public relations, I intend to accomplish, among others:

  1. Creating an opportunity for student champions within and among universities to promote the get swabbed bone marrow and blood donation challenge.  
  2. Creating a forum to hear what students are saying about the event / challenge in “real time.”  It is widely known that social networking has allowed establishments to hear what people think, and respond if needed. Why not learn from what we are doing and enhance the experience for next year and years to come.  
  3. Building a virtual community for this national cross country campaign. As social networking is all about building a community, this will be the perfect opportunity to connect students with common interests.

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Light! Give me Light!

Posted by hailumulatu on September 17, 2012

I had mixed feelings at my first day social media class: it was both humbling and comforting. Humbling because quite many in the class were masters and regular users of social media tool. It was comforting too because I realised I was not alone.   There was some comfort in discovering that there are others like myself who are further away from the sphere of social networking sites in this era of social media.

As I was getting ready for my first class that afternoon, I had to ask myself several times if I was ready to sit in social media class.  My heart told me I was but my mind otherwise.

In an attempt to save myself from embarrassment  in front of my classmates and have comfort in claiming I  am on social media,  I reactivated  a facebook  account my wife had created for me a few years ago but  never used it.   

The truth is I have long dreaded using social media tools. I have always avoided them.  But why? Is it a privacy and security issue?  I am aware that although they greatly vary in the levels of privacy, social networking sites have privacy settings to protect users from harms. Besides, I consider myself a very social person with huge social network that I interact on regular basis. My life is like an open book for any passer-by to read. Most of my friends have keys to my house and are welcome anytime even in my absence. Seldom would a weekend goes by without visitors who stay overnight at my place.  Or is this not a good analogy?

Could it be the notion that social media is time consuming and can have a negative influence on my productivity and can have   a serious detrimental outcomes on my mental and physical health?    And yet I know people who use social media tools moderately and productively.

How about the risk of negative comments to my blogs and other posts that a wide range of audience would see and may   negatively affect my reputation.  Negative comments for which I may not have the time or discipline to respond to quickly and   rectify? But no individual or organization is immune to negative comments.

Or is it because I am social media illiterate but I refuse to admit it and never made an effort towards literacy?

Well I have now!  After several weeks of deliberation, I have finally made it to the social media class.  I have made a sound judgement to get light around social media and learn all about it.  I am positive the class will address my concerns and alleviate or even eliminate my fear of social media – the fear of the tangible white darkness.

Am I the only one who is tormented with these dreadful thoughts about social media?  Perhaps not.

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Hello world!

Posted by hailumulatu on September 16, 2012

Welcome to WordPress.com! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!

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