Yorkshire Tea faced major backlash on Twitter this week, after the Chancellor Rishi Sunak posed with a bag of the company’s teabags for a tweet, leading users to assume it was endorsed by the brand.
The Chancellor shared a photo of himself posing next to a large bag of Yorkshire Tea with the caption: “Quick budget prep break making tea for the team. Nothing like a good Yorkshire brew”.
Despite the fact the post was not sponsored and was posted by the Chancellor on his own accord, Twitter users in their masses condemned Yorkshire Tea, forcing it to confirm the image posted by Sunak was not endorsed by them in any way. Trying to make light of the situation, it tweeted: “there’s no way we’d intentionally stick ourselves in a Twitter storm on a Friday afternoon. It’s nearly hometime!”
Unfortunately for Yorkshire Tea, the online criticism continued over the weekend.
The following Monday, it addressed the uproar once again, posting: “So it’s been a rough weekend. On Friday, the Chancellor shared a photo of our tea. Politicians do that sometimes (Jeremy Corbyn did it in 2017). We weren’t asked or involved – and we said so the same day. Lots of people got angry with us all the same.” The tweet was accompanied by a screenshot of Sunak’s original tweet, Yorkshire Tea’s original response and the responses from unhappy Twitter users.
The thread continued, claiming the company had “spent the last three days answering furious accusations and boycott calls. For some, our tea just being drunk by someone they don’t like means it’s forever tainted, and they’ve made sure we know it.
“It’s been pretty shocking to see the determination some have had to drag us into a political mudfight. But it’s been lovely to see others speak up for us – we’re so grateful to everyone who’s done that in a civil way (and gutted to see some use it as a reason for more nastiness).
“Speaking directly now, as a person who’s been answering these tweets, I know it could have been much worse. It’s easier to be on the receiving end of this as a brand than as an individual. There’s more emotional distance and I’ve had a team to support me when it got a bit much.
“But for anyone about to vent their rage online, even to a company – please remember there’s a human on the other end of it, and try to be kind.”
Quite surprisingly, PG Tips, one of Yorkshire Tea’s biggest rivals, was quick to show support for the brand and replied to the thread saying: “just wanted to let you know that I’m here for you. DM me if you fancy a cuppa”.
Yorkshire Tea’s human response to online trolls is unusual for a high profile brand and comes at a time when the public is increasingly being urged to be mindful of the impact of negative comments online. It follows the passing of Love Island presenter, Caroline Flack, who shared a post on her Instagram saying: “in a world where you can be anything, be kind” before her untimely death.
The tragedy prompted thousands of social media posts using the hashtag #BeKind to encourage users to think before they post.
These recent events and sentiment could mark a turning point for both brands and social media users and sends home the message that even faceless accounts are run by humans who have the capacity to feel. Whether or not it brings public shaming on social media to a halt completely is yet to be seen, but it’s a step in the right direction.