Bradley Reid Byrd was just minding his own damn business.

His wife Nanette was just fired after 11 years of service to Cracker Barrel Country Store without much explanation as to why. Brad just had a question:

 

Poor Brad just wants an answer.

No response.

Now I’m not saying that every time a fired employee lashes out online that a corporate office has to respond, but this isn’t your typical fired employee situation.

Enter our hero. We’ll call him/her “The Internet.”

This “Internet,” which is really just a series of tubes, did what the Internet does. One guy goes to the aid of Brad’s wife demanding answers. Then another one demands an explanation.

 

Crickets.

Egged on by their non-response, the joksters and pissed off people come to the aid.

 

 

There may have been some angry people out there who were legitimately pissed off about the company’s non-response to poor old Brad and Nanette, but this is “The Internet.” The Internet, for those of you paying attention, is where everyone’s inner smart-ass comes to sow the seeds of smart-assery.

Image courtesy of Internet Hero @FrankieP614_

Image courtesy of Internet Hero @FrankieP614_

It’s also a place where bad and rigid social media earns the company dozens instead of millions of dollars.

So this Internet demanded answers about Brad and his dear wife. The company said nothing.

MISSED. OPPORTUNITY.

Ok, I get it. They decided last year after some nudging by a smart agency to enter the influencer and deep in the social game. Credit where it’s due. They’re speaking to their fans by connecting with what they like. They’re curating country music concerts and using the influencer thing to give value to their audience. Credit where it’s due, right?

Cool. Great work there. But this #BradsWife thing is beyond just social. is a HUGE missed opportunity to connect and underlines what’s wrong when big time brands forget why they’re on social media in the first place. Hell, it’s a missed opportunity to communicate why they’re in business in the first place!

It should be like shooting fish in a, umm, cracker barrel.

This is what happens when big companies get bogged down in agency thug life. Some brilliant young strategist at a top five agency leads the corporate office the path of social media bliss with cute campaigns, hot influencer endorsements and tasty product shots.

All of this is wonderful. Except for when it’s not.

In their haste to cover all the channels with shareable interactive stuff, these agencies and the companies they represent lose the speed and agility that it takes to respond without toeing the company line. So on one hand, they understand that social can be a good tool for communicating to younger audiences, which is why some cute and hip digital agency has their business. On the other, they’re completely forgetting that this needs to be a conversation. And that conversation doesn’t always get to be on the company’s terms.

Every misstep is an opportunity to show the customer that you know who they are. A company with a nimble CMO would take this and stroke it for all it’s worth, but not for the reasons you’re thinking. I’ll get to that later. In the meantime, here’s the point of the article:

My completely unsolicited advice for how Cracker Barrel Country Store can win the #BradsWife game.

  1. Approach Brad and his dear wife and apologize. Offer them an apology for not responding in a more timely manner and that they were probably wrong for firing her. Really work on this part, because the rest of the plan relies on them being cool with you again.
  2. Hire Brad and Nanette back. Put your best 24 year-old Snapchat hero on the case. Hire the pair to talk about why the Cracker Barrel is such a wonderful company to work for and how her eleven years in the company was such a wonderful family experience. Don’t filter it out much. Have them be brutally honest with the camera. Bruises and all. I don’t really care what the platform for this is, just that the story is good enough that the attention will come back. 100% authentic Brad and Nanette.
  3. Have the camera follow Nanette through her job almost 24/7 without disrupting service. Pin a camera on her and have her go through her service through the eyes of a dedicated server. This might take some coordination because of privacy reasons, but doing a Facebook Live of Nanette doing her thing could be enormous.
  4. Print all sorts of stuff that you can sell at your store and online.#WeAreAllBradsWife and all that. Co-opt all the hashtags and put your digital team on the case, responding to as many of those as you possibly can. Let your fans wear the meme. Own it.
  5. Create Snapchat Geofilters at all your locations with some sort of variation of Brad and Nanette’s photos in the filter. Not sure exactly how best to do it, but you’re a big smart expensive agency with smart people.
  6. Put Brad and Nanette on tour for the good of the company. Pay them both handsomely for this. Put him on Snapchat Stories and Instagram Live and ask people to stop by where he and his wife can sign autographs and take selfies.

Can you imagine the heights they could take this? Brad and his wife could become their spokespeople. They could take their profits to new heights. The Snaps alone could be worth millions by earning the trust of thousands of newer customers.

But that’s not why I’d do it.

I’d do it because DOING RIGHT BY YOUR EMPLOYEES IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

I’d do it because chivalry is the best kind of viral. There’s a reason Brad and his wife loved the company. It’s because it was a part of their family. A real extended family. They looked forward to their Christmas parties with the line cooks and 4th of July celebrations with the managers and bus boys. And yes, the money that she made helped support their family, but anyone who’s worked in a restaurant for a long period of time knows that these people fight the battles alongside you.

You learn to put up with their bullshit and hug them if they need it.

Do the right thing, Cracker Barrel. Give Brad and Nanette a hug.

We are all #BradsWife.

(For those of you out of the loop, here’s the full backstory: →> http://www.eater.com/…/brads-wife-fired-cracker-barrel-11-y…)

 

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