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Five Examples of Big Brands Averting a PR Disaster

Submitted by on July 5, 2012 – 8:05 amNo Comment

Five Examples of Big Brands Averting a PR Disaster

A product recall, lawsuit, or serious accident is many a brand manager’s worst nightmare. All it takes is for one thing to go wrong, and a lifetime of reputation building can be undone in just moments; especially now that the Internet makes it possible for consumers to communicate with each other instantly, sharing good news and bad with the entire world with just a few key-presses.  However, with crisis management training, it is possible to recover from PR disaster.  Take a look at the following examples of how big brands used their crisis communications skills to turn things around.

1. Drunken Tweets and the Red Cross

When a Red Cross employee sent a tweet about how he was #gettngslizzerd at a party on DogFish beers, the Red Cross responded by deleting the tweet and then tweeting to say “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”  The beer brand mentioned in the tweet encouraged people to donate to the Red Cross.  So, in a couple of messages, the Red Cross injected humour (and a warning about drunk driving) into the situation, and turned things into positive PR.  That’s a great example of crisis management training in action.

2. Justin Bieber

When Justin Bieber was accused of being the father of a fan’s child, he responded promptly and decisively by denying the accusations on TV, and taking a paternity test.  He did not attack the fan personally, he simply said that he knew his fame would make him a target, but he would not allow himself to become a victim.  He kept his clean reputation intact, and responded in a professional way.

3. Taco Bell’s Beef (or Lack of It)

When a customer tried to sue Taco Bell, claiming that their tacos contained less beef than advertised, the company responded with a counter-suit, a video campaign, and a public statement from the CEO.  The customer responded by dropping the lawsuit, leaving Taco Bell in a good position – with free publicity and a sound reputation.

4. Starbucks and Facebook Page Defacement

Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing when it comes to crisis communication and user posted content. Delete too much, and you’re accused of censorship.  Respond too slowly to offensive postings, and your brand suffers because they’re seen by too many people.  When racism and hate speech flooded the Facebook page of Starbucks, that’s the position they found themselves in.  The company responded by cleaning up every offensive post on their page within a few hours of the defacement attack starting.  So far, most people are glad the offensive content is gone, rather than complaining about censorship, so it seems they did the right thing.

5. Odwalla Juice and E-Coli

This incident happened in the late 1990s, but it is still remembered by many people.  Juice company Odwalla saw their reputation plummet when their unpasteurised juice was found to be the cause of an e-coli outbreak.  The company responded by confirming the risk, recalling the juice, paying the medical bills of the people that fell ill after drinking the juice, and changing their juice making process to one that involved flash pasteurisation, to make sure that the incident never happened again.   Their brand eventually recovered, and is no longer thought of as “the apple juice that killed someone”.

This post was written by James Harper on behalf of Insignia Communications, experts in crisis management training and crisis communications. Click here for more info.

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