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CMU Beef Of The Week #143: Ex HMV staff v HMV management

By | Published on Friday 1 February 2013


Things had gone a little quiet in the world of HMV by yesterday, we were all just waiting around for some more concrete news about a buyer. And waiting is boring. Luckily, someone recognised that the excitement was waning and decided to sack 190 people at the company’s HQ in one go.

Now, in this here modern age, if you were an administrator for or executive at a collapsing company about to axe a third of its back office operations, you might think it a good idea to change the passwords to your social media accounts first, perhaps then handing such communication channels over to the duller corporate PR agency that is usually the last to be sacked off in these scenarios.

But given HMV is in its current mess partly because of the general inability of those at the top to work out exactly how this new fangled web-er-net fits into their business, it probably comes as no surprise that no such precautions were taken before a “yeah, I’m keeping my job” director swung the axe.

So, before administrators Deloitte could cut and paste the “we’ve been working hard/difficult decisions have to be made/job cuts necessary” template from their files into an email to the media, the world already knew about the falling axe at the retail firm, as some more web-savvy underlings narrated developments in HMV HQ as they happened on the firm’s official Twitter feed. At about half past two yesterday afternoon someone tweeted from it: “We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!”

I suspect they were being a bit sarcastic about it being “exciting”. It was quite exciting for us, but probably a bit rubbish for them. Anyway, they continued, over a series of tweets: “There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. Sorry we’ve been quiet for so long. Under contract, we’ve been unable to say a word, or – more importantly – tell the truth”.

“Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask ‘How do I shut down Twitter?'” came the next update, proving our earlier assumption that HMV’s management are a bit behind the times when it comes to the internet. Perhaps, as with their download store, HMV should just hand its social media accounts over to 7digital and hope the web eventually goes away.

Anyway, with time clearly running out, the rogue tweeter continued: “Under normal circumstances, we’d never dare do such a thing as this. However, when the company you dearly love is being ruined and those hard working individuals, who wanted to make HMV great again, have mostly been fired, there seemed no other choice. Especially since these accounts were set up by an intern (unpaid, technically illegally) two years ago. So really, what have we to lose? It’s been a pleasure folks! Best wishes to you all!”

With that final sign off, the tweets were deleted. Then Twitter seemed to go down for an hour or so. Whether or not this is what HMV’s Marketing Director meant when he said he wanted to “shut down Twitter” isn’t clear. If so, I may have to retract what I said about the company’s internet skills earlier.

Now, you could argue that people who “dearly love” a brand might recognise that their job (no matter how much they want it) may have to be sacrificed in order to save it. And also, that announcing that the company has been involved in “technically illegal” activity probably isn’t the way to help get it back on its feet. But then, no one’s ever marched into my office and told me and everyone in it to bag their belongings and fuck off. You can see how emotions would be high.

Shortly afterwards the person who had taken over the Twitter feed revealed herself to be Poppy Cleere, HMV’s Online Marketing & Social Media Planner, who began at the company as an intern two years ago (you may have heard about her unpaid work for the company before). Subsequently tweeting from her personal account, she said: “I would apologise for the [HMV] tweets but I felt like someone had to speak. As someone without a family to support/no mortgage I felt that I was the safest person to do so. Not to mention, I wanted to show the power of social media to those who refused to be educated”.

She added: “Just to set something straight, I did not ‘hijack’ the HMV Twitter account. I actually assumed sole responsibility of Twitter and Facebook over two years ago, as an intern. When asked (this afternoon), I gladly provided the password to head office. I also set another member of staff up as a manager on Facebook, and removed myself from the admin list. I didn’t resist any requests to cooperate”.

Commenting on her two year struggle to “show the power of social media to those who refused to be educated”, she said: “Since my internship started, I worked tirelessly to educate the business of the importance of social media – not as a short-term commercial tool, but as a tool to build and strengthen the customer relationship, and to gain invaluable real-time feedback from the consumers that have kept us going for over 91 years. While many colleagues understood and supported this, it was the more senior members of staff who never seemed to grasp its importance”.

Whether or not they have remains to be seen, although Cleere’s most recent tweet suggests perhaps it might take a little more time. Sent to the official HMV account this morning, it reads: “You need to go to ‘settings’ and revoke my account access as an admin. I’m still able to switch between accounts”.