Today, between the speed of the news cycle, the polarization of the populace on big issues, and a generation of consumers who, thanks to social media, are much more aware of environmental and human right abuses, trying to fix a bad reputation with a good charm offensive won’t work.
Stories by Katie Paine
Many have suggested that Bud Light and Regina Canada didn’t do enough research for their recent campaigns. Contributor Katie Paine argues that the brand crises would not have been prevented by better research, as the target audiences were not driving the backlash in either instance.
Few thought 2022 would eclipse 2020 and 2021 as a year of PR crises. Wrong. Fortunately, 2022 brought useful lessons for 2023. So, begin 2023 correctly: measure reasonably, use appropriate platforms and own your mistakes promptly.
In a PR crisis we know time often is your enemy. Preparation and prompt action are your friends. As such, ‘what took so long?’ is a question you don’t want asked. Unfortunately, it arose for Adidas and its tardy Ye reaction. And it was asked about the slow removal of Beyond Meat’s nose-biting COO.
The advantages of promptly addressing PR crises are apparent. Yet, some people and their companies just don’t learn.
This month we compare two crises. In both cases, the actions behind the crises had people wondering: What were they thinking? In one case, though, fast action protected the brand and helped make the issue go away. In the other, the crisis is at the very core of the business. Implications for the brand are much longer lasting.
Several congressional hearings prove companies aren’t heeding crisis communication basics. The results are awful.
Two recent crises hit close to home for the PR profession. On February 16, Keith Kelly broke the news in Crain’s New York Business and AdAge that Ronn Torossian, CEO of the 5WPR Agency, secretly purchased an industry newsletter, Everything-PR, and used it to hype his firm and bash rivals. At the same time as Kelly’s article appeared, the war rooms over at CNN were busy. The issue was dealing with revelations of misconduct, ethical lapses and a widely-known-if-never-acknowledged affair.
Thanks to advertisers and the media’s focus on engagement as a key metric, crises have surfaced and been amplified at a far higher level in 2021 than they were in 2020. Because they bump up engagement numbers, the plague of misinformation, disinformation, rumors and lies skyrocketed to the top of everyone’s news feed and we all got angrier at everything. And, since anger drives engagement and engagement bolsters advertising revenue, the cycle will just get worse in 2022. But there are lessons we can take with us into the new year from all the messes that CEOs made, and PR pros were asked to clean up.