How to Respond if You Find Your Brand on Consumer Reports’ ‘Naughty List’ this Season

Santa-Naughty-ListConsumer Reports released its annual corporate Naughty & Nice List this week. It highlights who it thinks are the best and worst holiday retail and service providers—and it's a list that carries a lot of weight, thanks to Consumer Reports' reputation as an arbiter of consumer value.

Companies that made this year’s “Nice” list included Citibank, Lands’ End and Southwest Airlines. Conversely, some of the brands that will receive coal in their stocking this year will include Amazon, Best Buy and QVC.

It’s no secret that this is the biggest week of the year for retailers, and every company wants to be positioned on the top of the list when people begin their holiday shopping.

That means, of course, brands want to avoid any negative attention leading into Black Friday, and want to keep that momentum up until December 24. Therefore, an appearance on Consumer Report’s “Naughty List” is not ideal.

Still, brands have a few options if they find themselves on any black list:

Ignore it. Depending on the knock, it may be in a brand’s best interest to let it go. While it’s extremely important to be responsive and nimble when customers aren’t happy, remember to consider the source and what they are saying. Consumer Reports may not necessarily reflect the views of your stakeholders, and the same is true for any other media outlet. So, sometimes your best bet is to move on as if it didn’t happen.

Issue a statement. If you feel as though a critique is unfair or it overlooks an important characteristic of your brand, then consider issuing a simple statement. Don’t make this about the list or the publication specifically, instead offer brief counterpoints to what got you on the list, and point out positives that were overlooked.

Actions speak louder than words. Statements are great for deflection or reflection, however directly confronting and resolving problems can pay the biggest dividends. It may be difficult to make some changes on the fly based on a list, but sometimes it’s worth considering. For instance, Amazon made Consumer Reports’ list because it raised its Super Saver Shipping minimum from $25 to $35, meaning customers will need to spend an extra $10 dollars to receive free shipping. More than likely this isn’t a make or break proposition for Amazon or its loyal customers when it comes to holiday orders, however the company could perhaps benefit by backing off this policy and showing a little holiday spirit.

Follow Caysey Welton: @CayseyW

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About Caysey Welton

Caysey Welton is Associate Editor at PR News and Folio: Magazine. He spent more than a decade as a chef and restaurant professional before switching tracks to pursue his passion for media and communications. Caysey has a deep interest in converging media landscapes and ecosystem disruptors, public relations and crisis communications. He holds a BS in Media, Culture and Communications from New York University.

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  • Jon Fingas

    Best thing you can do: fix the problem, if it’s something that you can address quickly. News outlets can easily tell when you’re trying to justify a fundamentally bad product, and the ethical publications will call you out on it.

    If it’s something you can’t fix quickly, tell the truth and say what the company can do (if anything) to offer a stopgap solution. And if you have to issue a statement, make sure that you’re only taking issue with real problems. The media knows when you’re simply trying to downplay weaknesses, or when you’re overselling the positives of what’s undeniably a negative story.

    Be careful to avoid knee-jerk reactions; there will always be someone who doesn’t like what you’re selling. But you will have to accept that your client is not perfect, and it’s better to be humble than show excessive pride.