Did Disney do all it could from a PR perspective following the fatal gator attack on 2-year-old Lane Graves at its Disney World property? How about the Cincinnati Zoo’s handling of the incident where Zoo employees killed Harambe, a rare, 450-pound lowland gorilla, after a 3-year-old child fell into the animal’s moat? And don’t forget the Academy Awards and #OscarsSoWhite.
For a brand that so aligns itself with happiness and childlike wonder, it must be difficult even to address the tragedies that have occurred on and near its property recently. But since addressing them is necessary, brevity has been the name of the game when it comes to official messaging from Disney.
It’s the equivalent of spraining your ankle during warmups for the big game: Lots of people are expecting something great from you, and you fail to deliver. Sunday night’s Game of Thrones episode, “Battle of the Bastards,” was one of the year’s most highly anticipated, but when they went to log on to HBO Go or HBO Now, the GoT network’s streaming services, would-be viewers across the United States were greeted with error messages.
When Volkswagen sputtered in September with dieselgate, we had little trouble finding PR pros to opine about how VW could use the crisis to remake the brand through trust and transparency ( PRN, 9/28/2015). Similarly, trust and transparency were in play during a crisis management competition at PR News’ Digital PR & Marketing Conference on June 8 in Miami Beach. Crisis pros Pia De Lima, VP, corporate communcations, Western Union, and Allison Steinberg, communications strategist, ACLU, formulated a fictitious crisis scenario (below) and judged several teams’ crisis plans. The teams had 30 minutes to concoct their plans in pursuit of a $1,000 prize that PressPage—a sponsor of the conference, along with Business Wire, Cision and LexisNexis—provided.
Sometimes brands respond to an issue with a statement. Other times a good response is to monitor the situation and work behind the scenes. For most brands, it’s barely noticeable when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers decides to eschew milk and cheese to gain strength, reduce inflammation in his joints, lose weight and extend his career. If you’re a Packers fan, who affectionately dons a cheese headpiece on fall Sundays, such intolerance for lactose is a concern. Should you happen to be from top U.S. cheese maker Wisconsin, whose license plates declare it the Dairy State, well, the 32-year-old’s oath could be tantamount to an affront to good manners. After all, for years Sargento, the family-owned, Wisconsin-based cheese maker, has been kicking in $1,500 after every Packers touchdown to charities feeding the needy.
For the Cincinnati Zoo, a horrible accident swiftly escalated into a full-blown crisis as animal rights activists and social media users were quick to criticize the zoo’s decision to take the life of the endangered animal to save a 4-year-old boy who fell into the zoo’s gorilla enclosure.
The media shouldn’t feel too badly medical-testing firm Theranos is ignoring it ( PRN, Dec 21, 2015). Even Walgreens, which has a deal to set up thousands of Theranos blood-testing sites in its drugstores, received a cold shoulder. The pharmacist never even got a proper look at Theranos’ main testing device, Edison, The Wall Street Journal reported May 26 in a page 1 story.
There have been several years where the San Diego Padres haven’t been tantamount to futility in baseball. Founded in 1969, the club has managed 14 winning seasons and captured the National League pennant twice.
Still, reputations die hard. The Padres, who once played in embarrassing-looking chocolate-brown uniforms, did themselves little good over the weekend, botching an ostensibly positive show of diversity. The incident contains a plethora of PR lessons.
There have been lots of opportunities for McDonald’s to throw a legal wrench in the film about their founder and his questionable business ethics, if only to slow down or harass the filmmakers. But director John Lee Hancock says that McDonald’s has “made no attempt to interfere” with the movie. If your brand were undergoing a withering examination on the big screen, how would you react?