Here at Integrate we love to share a good success story, but we also believe it is important to learn from the mistakes of others. Today we want to take a look at some PR disasters to avoid when handling issues your own brand may encounter. So here are some do’s and don’ts to avoid bad PR situations. Some of these brands learned the hard way; you don’t want to be next in line for that lesson.
Nestle goes on the Defense
When handling ordeals on social media, the first thing you want to remember is not to get defensive. This behavior not only jeopardizes how a company is perceived, it goes against the voice you have created and spent time branding. Nestle made this mistake last year after a Greenpeace campaign used the company’s Facebook page as a launch site for a protest against Nestle’s use of palm oil. The campaign opposed Nestle’s supply of palm oil, accusing that they were destroying rainforests Nestle’s initial response to the campaign was a less than professional tone. They argued with their opposition and sent out warnings not to alter their logo. Later on, Nestle came back and apologized for their reaction. The key message here is to never insult your publics. If you do, they will immediately stop listening. Even after Nestle’s apology and public announcement that they were dropping the supplier, their Facebook page was inundated with rants from followers. Not only is your message lost, but you also now have to work to re-build the brand image that you lost.
Speaking of Insulting…Double Check that Message
We all remember the controversy with Groupon’s Super Bowl commercial back in February. A few years back, Motrin also caused some huge waves when it implied that women who carried their babies in slings did it to be fashionable. These brands obviously didn’t set out to offend or insult anyone, their intentions got lost in translation. Make sure to think through exactly what message you are trying to send. Once you develop that message, run it by a variety of people to gauge the response you receive. When generating ideas, you may be so focused on how you perceive it, that you may not realize how it comes off to others. Taking the time to think it through and then shopping it around can save you from having to clean up a mess later.
The Internet is a Powerful Double-Edged Sword
While the Internet is a great tool that allows us to network instantaneously in ways we were previously unable to, it’s not always roses and sunshine – when used improperly, scratch that, unprofessionally, the Internet’s power can be used used against a brand. Stories of angry intern tweets and lawsuits over what employees say on social networking sites are rampant. In 2008 Dominoes saw an overnight shift in public opinion after employees posted videos of nasty uses of ingredients like stuffing pizza cheese up their nose, during slow periods at work. Unfortunately, often times these issues are unforeseeable, but it’s still important to be aware of who is representing your brand’s voice online—whether officially or unofficially and monitoring it continuously. Knowing that you can’t control all content on the Internet, make sure you have plans in place on how to respond to crises like this. The best way to avoid a PR disaster is to prepare for a swift response and action when the Internet is used against your brand.
Each of these cases offers something to learn by. You don’t always know when issues like these may arise but it is important to know how to best respond to them. Tone and timing are EVERYTHING. By planning ahead, you are able to develop a response and plan of attack with a clear head and long-term strategic planning, rather than in-the-moment, HOLY SH*T thinking.
Integrate PR founder, Allie, thrives on crisis mitigation and strategic crisis communication. Yup, it’s her favorite part of public relations. And we have a lot of experience with it. So feel free to contact us when both IN the middle of a crisis, or in advance to plan for what could happen.