How to Prevent a Live Q&A from Turning into a #BrandFail

Should live brand Q&As be put to rest given their not-so-stellar track record? Not necessarily. Here are a few tips to make sure that your live Q&A doesn’t turn into a cautionary tale.

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Hyatt recently introduced World of Hyatt, the hotel operator’s new loyalty program, and the brand did a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) to showcase its features and answer questions from members. The brand made its SVP of Loyalty available for the live Q&A. And they were trolled. Hard. Here’s one example:


And another:


Responses like that are not exactly what a marketing or corporate communications team envisions when they pitch a live Q&A to boost engagement and build trust with customers and prospects.


Hyatt is not the first brand to watch a live Q&A veer way, way, way off track. For example, Google’s Site Readability Team did a Reddit AMA, too, in 2014. Unfortunately (thanks to hilarious timing), Gmail crashed during the AMA and the whole event spiraled into a mess of complaints and insults.

There are countless other similar stories, and a lot of PR nightmares in recent years have started with a poorly thought out #Ask[InsertBrandName] on Twitter.

So, should live brand Q&As be put to rest? Not necessarily. Here are a few tips to make sure that your live Q&A doesn’t turn into a cautionary tale.

Use a Platform that has a Moderation Queue

As with many things in life, moderation is key. Moderate all questions and comments before they are published for the whole world to see.

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Moderation is especially important for brands that have less-than-satisfied customers by nature of what they do – internet/mobile service providers, financial institutions, and public transit commissions come to mind.

This doesn’t mean that brands shouldn’t respond to unhappy customers. They definitely should. Unhappy customers with legitimate complaints deserve acknowledgment through thoughtful and helpful responses (whether on- or offline given the tone/theme of the Q&A). It’s the trolls that need to be weeded out.

Twitter and Reddit are great engagement tools when used properly, but the openness and lack of moderation capabilities leave brands vulnerable to trolls and PR disasters when it comes to Q&As.

Pick a Theme for Your Q&A

Opening a live Q&A to any question can and will get chaotic. Instead, pick one theme or topic per Q&A. This will help keep the session cohesive and on track.

For example, airline Ryanair is one of the rare case studies in which #Ask[InsertBrandName] works on Twitter.

The brand’s regular Twitter Q&A, #AskRyanair, is an hour-long live chat/customer service initiative hosted every week. A different member of the Ryanair team is featured for each Q&A, and every team member has a specific area of expertise, which lends itself to be the event’s theme. Before each Q&A, the Ryanair team member’s bio and picture are shared, making the theme/host known to attendees. Bonus: these types of live customer service Q&As give a brand some personality and reduce support tickets.

Put Someone on Camera

Live video Q&As are becoming an increasingly popular communication tools for brands. Birchbox, for example, is doing great things with Facebook Live. Birchbox is a subscription service that sends its customers a box of beauty products every month.

Live video Q&As have proven to be a great asset in the brand’s marketing strategy because customers have a lot of questions about how different products are supposed to be used – and video is a great medium for tutorials. The Birchbox team has reported that their live video Q&As have brought in the highest engagement metrics they’ve seen.

Putting a face on camera also makes a Q&A more personable and engaging. Added bonus: some live video platforms allow you to hide viewer questions from the stream. The only questions viewers will see/hear are the ones that the host chooses to answer – so no trolls!

In Conclusion

The simplest and easiest way to ensure that a Q&A doesn’t go the way of Hyatt’s AMA is to moderate all participants’ questions and comments. If you’re worried that your Q&A will go awry, stay off of social tools that prevent any form of vetting. Don’t be the marketing/communications team crying in a corner during a live event.


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