A social media SNAFU by Scottish Shopping Mall

As a dad took a photo of his daughter eating an ice cream in a Scottish shopping centre, little did he realise the social media snafu and #PRfail he was about to unleash

Chris White was accosted by security staff after photographing his five year old daughter in Braehead Shopping Centre, Glasgow.

The police were called and he was warned his actions fell under anti terrorism legislation.
He took to Facebook to complain about his treatment:

Boycott Braehead

Boycott Braehead – Father confronted by police for taking a photo of his daughter in a shopping arcade – Description: Dear Evening Times Newsdesk Around 4pm this evening I took the attached photo of my 4 year old daughter looking cute on the back of a vespa seat at an ice cream bar inside Braehead shopping centre in the middle of a shopping trip.

Among the first mainstream media to pick up on the story were sister titles The Firm (legal magazine) and The Drum (marketing, advertising and digital communicatiion). Each published reports on Sunday, October 9.

News : Facebook campaign to boycott Braehead gains momentum as Terrorism Act cited against dad and 4 year old daughter : THE FIRM : SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENT LAW JOURNAL

A campaign to boycott the Braehead Shopping Centre on the outskirts of Glasgow has gained momentum over the weekend after an account of an incident in which the Terrorism Act was cited against a father who took a picture of his 4 year old daughter on a novelty motorbike was posted to Facebook on Saturday night.
Facebook campaign calls for boycott of Braehead Shopping centre over photography restrictions – News

A social media campaign calling for people to boycott the Braehead Shopping Centre has begun to escalate, after its organiser was detained by security for taking a picture of his daughter.

Followed by STV news, which also published a story on its website on Sunday, October 9.

STV had been working on the story from the previous day, but took a clear editorial decision not to run the story until they had actually spoken to Mr White – the only reason they published slighly later than The Drum and The Firm:

Shopping centre guard calls police over father taking ‘illegal’ photographs of his daughter | Glasgow and West | STV News

A father who was allegedly questioned under the Terrorism Act after taking photographs of his four-year-old daughter enjoying an ice cream at a shopping centre has demanded an apology from Strathclyde Police. Chris White claims a security guard told him that the pictures, taken at the Braehead centre near Glasgow on Friday afternoon, were "illegal".
As the incident gathered steam online, Braehead used its official Twitter Channel to help spread its reaction – with a promise to ‘set the record straight’.
Braehead would like to set the record straight on an incident involving a man taking photographs of a child in the mall http://bit.ly/pHSql5
October 9, 2011
Judge for yourself whether the tone was right for social media – or any other media platform:
Braehead Shopping Centre

Following various postings on social media websites and stories in the traditional media, Braehead would like to set the record straight on an incident involving a man taking photographs of a child in the centre, on Friday October 7.
RT @thelifecraft: The Boycott Braehead page now has nearly 2100 likers. Epic PR fail, @Braehead #BraeheadFail Do the right thing and apologise! Profusely!
October 9, 2011
By Monday, October 10, a slew of other mainstream media picked up the story, including the Daily Record, the Scottish Sun – and most notably the mighty BBC:
Row over photo in shopping centre

A Facebook campaign is calling for people to boycott a shopping centre after claims a man was questioned by police for taking photographs of his own four-year-old daughter. Chris White took a picture of Holly eating an ice cream in the Braehead shopping centre, near Glasgow.

Arount this time, a dedicated Twitter hashtag started to take off – #braehead fail – although it was started some time earlier on the weekend.

If you’re angry at this FB post about shocking treatment of a mum and young daughter at #Braehead today on.fb.me/pYwSBy pls RT #Braeheadfail
October 8, 2011
Top read story at the moment I see. RT @virtualewit: I see #braehead #fail has made the BBC http://t.co/08ANfIR6
October 10, 2011
Among the most active people criticising Braehead was communications specialist Michelle Rodger – who saw several of her Facebook comments removed from Braehead’s Facebook page (a real social media no-no):
@ScotExpress Sure. My tweet from yesterday: here’s my post yfrog.com/h8pxhcqj and then it vanished yfrog.com/h71y5wsj
October 10, 2011
Luckily Michelle caught images of the comments on the site before and after they were deleted:
Now you see it:
Now you don’t!
Michelle also shared details of other Facebook users who were blocked or deleted trying to express their displeasure at Brahead Shopping Centre
@ScotExpress Others experienced deleted FB posts – @stephenwill was actually blocked, @rachelhair said they were deleting every neg comment.
October 10, 2011
On Monday morning the story became one of the main talking points on BBC Radio Scotland’s phone-in show – Call Kaye. One woman (around 53 minutes) told how her child was photographed/filmed by two strangers the day before the Chris White incident. There was no intervention by security staff.
Call Kaye: 10/10/2011

Kaye Adams brings a human touch to the stories making the news, seeking out the personal stories behind the headlines and inviting her listeners to help shape the agenda. Kaye Adams brings a human touch to the stories making the news, seeking out the personal stories behind the headlines and inviting her listeners to help shape the agenda.
At lunchtime I pitched in with my own blog take on this:
Braehead Row Puts Scotland on the Map for PR and Social Media Disasters

Some people shouldn’t be let loose on PR and social media. Particularly during a crisis or a major reputational issue. Today giant Scottish retail outlet Braehead Shopping Centre finds itself at the centre of a damaging controversy. A father photographed his daughter eating ice cream and was accosted first by security staff and then by police.
And it wasn’t long before the satirical p***-taking started:
Scottish police praised after foiling Al Qaeda toddler ice-cream plot

Strathclyde police have been praised by Government officials after foiling a plot by Al Qaeda terrorists to take photos of a three year-old eating ice-cream in Glasgow’s Braehead shopping centre. The plot, which detectives suspect might have been in the planning stages for up to eight minutes, would have seen a photo of the small child circulated to literally dozens of Facebook users.
One of the early movers on the story – The Firm online – revealed how it had covered a similar story a year earlier, with a different outcome.
@scottgdouglas The Firm broke a similar story last year. http://t.co/8hjATsUV
October 10, 2011
@scottgdouglas Interestingly, in that case the shopping centre involved offered an apology. http://t.co/S8gawIz6
October 10, 2011
Before 3pm on Monday the parodiy/satire was spreading, as the first spoof Twitter account appeared:
Young man subdued after loud bang heard in vicinity. Turned out to be bubblegum. #bettersafethansorry #braeheadfail
October 10, 2011
CODE BLUE – all agents to information stand, they are handing out MAPS that could be used by terrorists. #bettersafethansorry #braeheadfail
October 10, 2011
As well as the first tongue in cheek blogs:
Massive ice cream-related terror attack foiled in Glasgow shopping centre | BitterWallet

The war against terror is a serious business and intelligence is one of our most powerful weapons. We need to be vigilant about any potential threat, no matter how small and insignificant it seems. You know, like little girls eating ice creams in shopping centres.
Meanwhile, more bloggers began to express their opinion on the matter:

A shopping centre’s worst nightmare is happening now live at Braehead. Over the weekend a man taking a photograph of his daughter on the mall was stopped by a security guard – the situation escalated and the police were called. The reason? You are not allowed to take photographs on the mall.
Now the story gets the gravitas treatment, as a blogger from the high brow Telegraph weighs in:
Family photos, paedophile scares and the Stasification of Britain — Telegraph Blogs

No doubt you’re as shocked as I am by the story of the photographer in Scotland questioned by police after taking pictures of his 4-year old daughter eating ice-cream in a shopping mall: Staff at an ice cream stall in Braehead shopping centre, near Glasgow, became suspicious when they saw Chris White taking pictures of his four-year-old daughter Hazel with his mobile phone at around 4pm on Friday afternoon.
This blog has recorded that the number of Likes on the protest Facebook page have far exceeded the number on the official Braehead page:
A tale of two social media outcomes | Florizel Media Ltd

I’ve seen two very different experiences of the power of social media this weekend. One I experienced personally and the other I’ve witnessed over several channels. The first took place in Notting Hill, London. I’d been down on a business trip and had some free time on Saturday morning before I took the plane home to Scotland.
Well known Scottish media trainer and crisis management specialist, Paul Murricane, blogs about the situation:
Take one customer, call him a pervert, then a terrorist. Result? Instant Hero. « Media Training | Realistic training courses from Media Mentor

Today, Monday 10th October, started like any average Monday for the head of PR at Breahead Shopping Centre outside Glasgow. Dull. As I write this at 4 pm the sky is lit up, metaphorically, with the flames of a classic PR disaster highlighting the wreckage of their reputation.
Almost 48 hours after breaking, the story gets the BBC treatment again – this time on the 6pm news
Oh dear oh dear the @Braehead story made the BBC News at Six. Over 10,000 backing his Boycott Braehead group too.
October 10, 2011
Another 2,500 boycotting Braehead in the last hour. Now up to 13,500: very definition of a PR crisis. @Braehead
October 10, 2011

It was only a matter of time before the inevitable apology (had this been issued 36 hours ago, might a lot of bad PR have been avoided?)

Braehead Shopping Centre

We have listened to the very public debate surrounding our photography policy and as a result, with immediate effect, are changing the policy to allow family and friends to take photos in the mall. We will publicise this more clearly in the mall and on our website, and will reserve the right to challenge suspicious behaviour for the safety and enjoyment of our shoppers.
And here’s the resulting coverage – on both the BBC and STV:
Photo row centre issues apology

The shopping centre which called in the police after a man took photographs of his daughter eating an ice cream has apologised for any distress caused. Braehead Shopping Centre, near Glasgow, also said it was changing its policy on photography. In future, it will not try to prevent family and friends taking pictures of each other in the mall.
The dad at the centre of the entire row is still pretty fed up and says: “we’ve lost all perspective on common sense”:
Braehead apologises to father at centre of ice-cream storm | Glasgow and West | STV News

The shopping centre near Glasgow says it has changed its policies to allow photographs of friends and family. Braehead Shopping Centre has issued an apology to a father who was asked to leave its premises for taking photographs of his four-year-old daughter.

The story even made Newsnight Scotland – the BBC’s flagship, show for heavyweight analysis of the day’s biggest news stories.

If you have access to the BBC iPlayer, you can watch the report here (from 10 mins 35 secs):

Newsnight Scotland: 10/10/2011

Comprehensive coverage of the day’s important national and international news stories presented by Glenn Campbell. Comprehensive coverage of the day’s important national and international news stories presented by Glenn Campbell.
At this point the story was also being talked about by communications professionals globally as an example of a public relations and social media misfire, including this article on the PR Daily
Father-daughter ice cream date ignites a social media firestorm | Articles

Facebook has turned Chris White into a folk hero and vilified the Braehead Shopping Centre in Glasgow, Scotland.

A report about the Brahead situation also featured on the highly-respected podcast, For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report.

This weekly podcast looks at the biggest communications and PR stories from across the world.
You can listen to the Braehead section in Episode 620 (from 48 mins 15 secs):

For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report

Content summary: New FIR content posted: Speakers & Speeches Google+ Hangout panel discussion with Chip Griffin and Jennifer Wah on Steve Jobs and Apple, Speakers & Speeches with Shel on content curation, FIR Interview with SunLife of Canada’s Darin Diehl is up, FIR Video Interview with Toby Ward on IABC intranet study is up; no report this week from Michael Netzley in Singapore; News That Fits: posting your own terms of service on Facebook; Dan York reports on Apple announcements and Steve …

By this point, moving into Tuesday, October 11, international news organisations began to pick up the story. Here are a few examples, including Fox News in the US:

Mall apologises for ‘no photo’ policy after scrutiny

Published: 7:44AM Tuesday October 11, 2011 Source: ONE News Copyright © 2011, Television New Zealand Limited. Breaking and Daily News, Sport & Weather | TV ONE, TV2 | Ondemand It appears that public outrage has forced a mall to apologise to a Scottish man who was reprimanded for taking a photo of his daughter in the shopping centre.
UK man harrased at Braehead Shopping Centre questioned under ‘anti-terror’ laws by police

A FATHER was harassed by police and a security guard under "anti-terror legislation" after taking pictures of his own child.
Dad Taking Pics of Daughter in Mall a Terror Threat?

A father taking pictures of his daughter at a shopping center near Glasgow, Scotland, says he was banned from the mall and threatened with having his camera phone confiscated in the interest of preventing terrorism when he refused to delete the photos.
As the heat began to die out of the issue, The Drum (one of the publications which first broke the story) helpfully published a series of tips on crisis management for the management at Braehead Shopping Centre
10 crisis PR tips following Braehead Shopping Centre social media boycott campaign | The Drum

Much has been written, blogged, tweeted, broadcast and picked through about this weekend’s explosion of publicity at Braehead. There are lots of complex points but for me, the main leaning points are simple and the crisis could have been averted before it made the local paper, never mind social media commentators in the Southern hemisphere.
To rub salt into the PR wounds, The Independent’s diary section points out that Brahead Shopping Centre is supported by four PR agencies and asks: “What were they all doing?”
Business Diary: Drinking with the sharks

We’re big fans here of BrewDog, the Scottish brewer with an eye for a marketing gimmick (it recently sold shares in itself to its customers). Still, is Sunk Punk, its latest new brew, just a gimmick too far?
Police say Braehead photo row father complaint ‘has no basis’ | Glasgow and West | STV News

Police have taken the unusual step of issuing a public denial of accusations made by a father who claimed he had been questioned for taking pictures of his young daughter at a shopping mall. Chris White said police interviewed him at Braehead Shopping Centre near Glasgow because they thought he may have posed a danger to children.
Mr White responded to the police statment by claiming the force is conducting a smear campaign against him and promising to sue.
Photo row father to sue police

Chris White last night vowed to sue Strathclyde Police A FATHER at the centre of a row over taking a picture of his daughter at a shopping centre is to take legal action against Scotland’s largest police force.


7 thoughts on “A social media SNAFU by Scottish Shopping Mall

  1. Pingback: What’s been happening? « PR@Sunderland

  2. Hi Scott,
    A great catalogue of the event – thank you for taking the time to give a snap shot as they unfolded.

    Braehead are not untypical in their use of social media and lack of experience in dealing with negative online PR – all too often we see large, well known businesses fall into that trap of delete… then state “WE ARE IN OUR RIGHTS…” blah, blah – misreading public opinion or animosity by being too close to the situation and not knowing how to turn it into a positive – which was only too easy in this case.

    Here’s hoping they invest in some Crisis planning training!

    Braehead if you are reading this –
    Scott’s number is: 0131 561 2244 (HolyroodPR)
    Michelle’s is: 0141 255 0166 (TartanCat)
    Mine…: 07968 847 210
    We can all help… Braehead – make sure you ask for some now – so that next time… you’re better prepared!

    • All excellent points Colin.
      I do have a bit of sympathy for Braehead.
      This was a relatively minor customer relations incident which should have been resolved in seconds.
      However, as you point out, for that to have happened, they would have needed to invest in the basics some time back.
      I suspect its been as steep and harsh a learning curve for Braehead’s PR people as it has been for the centre management.
      Good luck to them all moving forward – with luck they’ll be able to put this behind them and move on positively.
      In the meantime, thanks for flagging up our contact numbers, as people who are already comfortable in this sphere.

  3. Pingback: Social Media ROI: Glasgow West Business Club Presentation | WardblawG

  4. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

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