I’ll skip the ranting about what a ‘real’ crisis is (see also: Carnival, a brand I still like). Instead read Tegan Ford, whose ambitious thesis tries to make sense of how social media impacts a public relations crisis.
PR crises .. we’ve already forgotten?
Maybe not forgotten, but certainly not hot topics any more. Most of these things have a short shelf life, relegated to a few back links when the pundits dredge it up when hyping their latest brand “disaster” click bait story. That has no customers leaving, no stocks tanking, no mass exodus of employees. Ahem.
Pace. This fake Twitter fight of comic vs. automated responses barely qualifies as a blip in my book. Moving on.
Lesson: Nothing new – if you’re going to brand and market on Twitter, know what you’re doing and be prepared for anything, including having your brand jacked into a hoax.
Chick-fil-A. Atlanta is the backyard of this company and no one stopped going. No one. A blip on the 2012 radar, mentioned in context of activist groups lobbying against certain brands. I don’t recall any mass of franchisees leaving or customers permanently boycotting. It’s a product [some] people like, sold by a company [some] people respect and by all accounts, still thriving.
Lesson: Reputation. Values. Quality. Service. Start there.
Paula Deen. During the height of this I
joined eavesdropped a conversation of several women, most of them of color. The general consensus – surprising to me – was 1) she’s a different era blah blah 2) media needs to let it go and give her a break, giving the ‘victim’ claim legs and 3) they know if their sense of racial justice has been offended or not, so the press and pundits should stop telling them how they need to feel and think. The biggest concern: get to Walmart before they sell out of gooey cakes.
Plenty of advice out there, on what Paula Deen could do. Given the givens, I’d say Ms. Deen is a tell-all book, a ‘kiss and cry’ apology tour away from some type of comeback. She’s a known name, a brand; she probably won’t rebuild the full empire, but if Martha Stewart can do it I don’t see why not.
Lesson: Hire smarter; communication strategy is better when the legal, PR teams work together.
Home Depot. Bad joke, stupid tweet. Ugh. This one annoyed me for many reasons. I never heard one whiff of complaint from a ‘real’ not media/marketing person. Home Depot pulled the crappy “aim, point finger, fired!” excuse as they blamed their SM agency. Like so many other blink-and-you-miss-it mistakes, I neither saw nor read one story about a lasting negative impact.
Lesson: Crisis or marketing proof perhaps? They’re a giant brand and if they sell what people need cheaper than the competition, the cash registers will keep ringing.
Duck Dynasty. Are people still fuming or reverse fuming at Cracker Barrel? Not the first time that brand has caught media ire, but I hadn’t caught anything about them lately and the bruhaha about this show seems to barely have carried over to 2014. Or I just stopped paying it any attention.
While they get royalties from product licensing, A&E is in the business of making money by producing TV shows that sells cable TV ads. If they have enough of a target audience for marketers, and those marketers think they’ll gain more than they’ll lose, the show and advertising will go on – though with lower ratings.
Lesson: Media training. Know your audience, know your customers. No such thing as bad publicity – except when there is.
It’s not a mistake so long as you, me.. someone learns from it.
I suppose I came down too hard on PR smartie Gini Dietrich — sorry my friend, really was not my intention — when discussing the Home Depot crisis du jour. (FWIW it was so fly by night, I had to go back and look up what we were discussing.)
She’s right – the big lesson is that there ARE lessons we can learn from these events and that a well-written blog post or case study can help others avoid these kind of mistakes.
- It is helpful to study and follow these cases – with a qualified, critical eye.
- It’s important to understand the nature of the issues; look past the hype to properly gauge impact and access damage to the brand.
- Don’t make matters worse by over – or under – reacting; have strategy for a proportional response.
- Accept responsibility; don’t throw people – the ones you vetted and hired to do a job – under the bus.
- Apologize, be genuine, make amends, move on. Putting it on autopilot, copy and pasting the same apology, treating public relations and social media as ‘set and forget’ marketing – that’s asking for trouble.
- PR 101: Don’t screw up in the first place. But when you do, a foundation built of quality products and services, a carefully crafted reputation that comes from being a good company – makes it that much easier to weather any storm.
What’d I miss? Sure there were other flaps and foibles, other gaffs and mistakes. Please remind me – and what we can learn from them.
Photo credit: not hard to find many funny and many offensive memes for this post, that one from RollingOut.