Each PR issue has the potential to gather velocity to become a brand-damaging crisis. Our research reveals that 2018 saw 15.6% of issues detected on social media being flagged as a high PR risk to the brand’s reputation. Sometimes, it is the brand that is deemed to be at fault for such incidents. A self-made crisis may take the shape of a product recall, outspoken CEOs, or social media misjudgements, and responsibility lands directly in your hands.
In our latest ebook, PR experts who have experienced such events share best practice on how to prepare your team, so that you are able to emerge from a crisis not only unscathed, but stronger. Here, one PR professional tells his story of managing the brand value of a boutique children’s t-shirt brand, Just Add A Kid, when it was accused of racism.
by David Oates, Principal of PR consulting and training firm, Public Relations Security Service
“We had a situation where a single Twitter user sparked an international PR issue. They had posted a photo showing one of the company’s t-shirt designs, which featured the body of a monkey holding a banana. The issue was that the t-shirt was placed on hangers with the face of a black child on them. It sparked a journalist’s interest and we knew we had to react fast.
“Within an hour of receiving the call, we went to work, distributing an official statement by Just Add A Kid’s CEO apologizing for what was an act not of their doing, but no less unacceptable and offensive. The statement also shared the company’s immediate actions to remove the display and take steps to ensure such instances never happen again.
“But thanks to the prep work in advance, the story didn’t last. By the next morning, the story hit all major news networks in the United States, as well as TMZ, the UK Daily Mail, the Associated Press and others.
“We also put similar messages on Just Add A Kid’s social media accounts, automated an 800-number greeting and website. Not stopping there, we proceeded to answer every email, voicemail and social media post that came in with the same message. Within 48 hours the story had died and the company was able to return to normal operations.
“It just goes to show how one tweet can spiral quickly. But, by being equally fast in our response, we were able to limit the damage to the brand”.
Self-made crisis management strategy
David Oates’ experience shows the importance of communicating early to show people you are aware of the situation whilst expressing regret for the impact it has had. It is also useful to monitor social media and the wider web to understand how people are responding to the issue, nip it in the bud if the issue reignites and gather data to share with internal stakeholders.