|Learning from Past
Public Relations Crises
Prime examples of what -- and especially what not -- to
media allow for consumers to be in constant communication about
people, products and events.
As social networks continue to grow, they are
incorporating more people across the globe each day.
than ever before, it is important for PR professionals to be
involved and aware of the constant chatter. When people get
angry, they take to the web.
The undeniable truth about consumers
in the 21st
century: They trust their peers. With each bad tweet or Facebook
post comes (not a thousand) thousands more. Once started, if not
handled correctly, that small instance of rage that originated
in a small town in Idaho can quickly to travel to China and
India. That’s when it begins to have a lasting effect.
For this reason, it is important that PR
departments understand a social media crisis when they see one.
Furthermore, PR professionals need to know how to handle such a
Consider a few of the most famous examples a PR
department had to face because of a “network outbreak” of
complaints, and then consider how it should have been dealt with
by the company:
3 Famous Social Media Crises and Their Solutions
On April 15, 2009, two Domino’s Pizza employees placed prank
videos on YouTube that showed them (of) stuffing cheese up their
nose at work. They proceeded to place the contaminated food back
on the sandwich made for a customer. As you can imagine, they
were breaking health code violations left and right. These
videos that disgusted millions of YouTube viewers went viral.
Within days twitter was lit up with customer complaints. Though
Dominos placed their own president in a reactionary YouTube
video to provide an apology, the damage had been done.
Domino’s Pizza – Why Fast Reaction Is Important
This is a key example of social media use that can quickly
become destructive. In this particular situation, Dominos
reacted less than great. Most were wondering if strict
were in the future, but they didn’t hear back from the company
for two days. Furthermore, most of the complaints were happening
on Twitter, but the apology was happening on the mainstream
press. This caused the issue to continue far longer than
Toyota’s recent recalls, from which many people were injured or
killed, sparked a flurry of social media uproar. Outraged
customers, expressing their anger and resentment of the brand,
caused a widespread attack on the company.
Toyota – Why “Being One of Them” Matters
The first step to avoid these social media PR crises is to get
into the conversation. Toyota took to the conversation after the
fact, but had lost the ability to redirect the conversation when
it needed to most: in the middle of the storm. Lacking a twitter
handle potentially cost Toyota innumerable amounts of valuable
customers. They were left scrambling to create a
that people would accept.
On September 30, 2008 Motrin released an ad portraying a new mom
carrying her baby in a sling. The point they hoped to get across
was that new moms could look like a “cool” new mom wearing her
sling, and then they could help ease the eventual back pain with
Motrin. Immediately, every woman who saw or heard about the
advertisement felt as though Motrin was poking fun at
motherhood. Taken to the internet as the hash tag #MotrinMoms,
the destruction was already done.
Motrin – Know the Intricacies of the Social Networks
Twitter is more than simply a platform to speak your mind. It
allows people to use features such as “retweet” and “#” (also
known as a hashtag). If the hash tag symbol is placed in front
of a word or phrase, it can then be clicked on, directing you to
other tweets sporting the same hash tag. When one hash becomes
popular, it is said to be trending. Motrin was trending, in a
very bad way. If Motrin had any sort of presence on Twitter, or
knowledge of how the platform works, it could have joined the
#MotrinMoms conversation for the better. It’s therefore
important to understand the ins and outs of all social media
networks if you expect your company to react properly.
What It Means for Your Company
These case studies present a clear vision of what a social media
PR crisis looks like. The three presented here are only a few,
and the number is growing with each new ad campaign and YouTube
A crisis involving social media is not out of the
question, and is in fact a reality for any company doing
today. If your agency or PR department isn’t ready for the power
of social media, take some worthwhile time to go over some of the best
ways to handle a crisis.
Although these examples were large,
smaller scaled crisis can still hurt.
It is important to remember that the internet is the perfect
platform for any consumer to speak their mind—and without
hesitation they will.