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President’s Point: Beware of Blunders

President’s Point: Beware of Blunders

PR doesn’t always go according to plan. This is especially true if your team doesn’t put enough time into weighing all of the potential outcomes.

With careful preparation and consideration to the execution of a campaign, it becomes much easier to anticipate the outcome. Even if you couldn’t possibly imagine a poor response, you must be prepared for any situation – otherwise, you just might end up with a PR nightmare on your hands.

Fortunately for us, unfortunately for those who suffered through them, there are plenty of well-meaning campaigns that we can learn from. Here are a few with important learnings for us all.

Blunder #1: Build-A-Bear Workshop’s “Pay Your Age” Day

In July 2018, Build-A-Bear Workshop held a special Pay Your Age event to kick off its new celebration of birthdays. The concept is as simple as it sounds – the sale for a plush toy equals the age of your child. The event created a frenzy at American malls when more people showed up than expected, leading to massively long lines and tons of media attention. Eventually, the retailer had to start distributing vouchers, closing stores and turning disappointed customers away. 

The Lesson

Don’t underestimate the traction of an event, especially one with a heavily discounted offer. While the idea of the event was good, it lacked the proper forethought and operational execution, which resulted in unhappy customers. Always have a backup plan, consider as many contingencies as possible and create a way to make it up to stakeholders in the event things go south.

Blunder #2: Neymar and Messi Mastercard Campaign to Feed Starving Children

In 2018, Mastercard announced on Twitter that it would donate 10,000 meals to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for children in Latin America and the Caribbean each time professional soccer players Lionel Messi or Neymar scored a goal. While the company likely expected a universally positive reaction, the pledge quickly backfired on social media. Some branded the event as a “horrible” and “morally wrong” PR stunt that meant the fate of starving children rested in the performance of two soccer stars.

The Lesson

As one Twitter user put it, “Don’t let the fate of starving children rest on multimillionaire footballers.” If your company has the means to donate money or contribute to a good cause, don’t create any fancy hoops or stipulations for publicity – especially when child hunger is involved.

Blunder #3: McDonald’s #MeetTheFarmers Campaign

In 2012, McDonald’s rolled out a 24-hour Twitter campaign to share positive supplier stories. The campaign used the hashtag #MeetThe Farmers and was intended to focus on the brand’s organic potato farmers so that people would think “healthy” when they thought of McDonald’s. As the campaign failed to gain traction, McDonald’s introduced a second hashtag, #McDStories, which caused the campaign to blow up and turn into a channel for customers to share negative stories about the brand. 

The Lesson

Any social media campaign, especially one that encourages the use of hashtags, opens two-way communication between a brand and its customers. Social media can be very unpredictable, so don’t underestimate its reach and have a crisis plan to anticipate negative feedback, especially in the event that your hashtags get hijacked.

Jamie Izaks is the president of All Points Public Relations, a franchise-focused PR agency based in the Chicagoland area, www.allpointspr.com.

 

President’s Point: Maintaining Trust

President’s Point: Maintaining Trust

Now, more than ever, consumers are scrutinizing the companies, people and brands that they have either have done business with or are considering to engage with for products and services. They’re seeking out and re-connecting with businesses that will help them feel safe and supported during this time of uncertainty and unrest. Consumers want to align with companies committed to doing their part in rebuilding society.

In fact, Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer Report has found that brand trust is the second most important factor in purchasing decisions, topped only by price. For 53% of 22,000 respondents across 11 markets (South Africa, Brazil, US, Canada, UK, India, Germany, China, France, Japan and South Korea), brand trust was ranked before company reputation, performance, how they treat customers and how easy it is to find and buy. 70% said that trusting a brand is more important today than it was in the past.

Of course, when considering how trustworthy a brand is and how companies establish trust, most of these other factors – especially company reputation and treatment of customers – are naturally determining factors.

So, how can businesses maintain and strengthen trust with customers? I’d say that it mainly boils down to authenticity. To be authentic is to ensure that our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values – not an imitation. What good is a strong mission statement or a post on social media proclaiming your societal commitment if they’re not acted upon when action is needed most? This is the time where authenticity can shine and your company’s beliefs and values should be at the forefront of business operations.

If community is a core value for your brand, for example, consider how you can best recognize your employees, support your corporate team and give back to your local communities to show your appreciation. Associate your brand with content that alleviates anxiety and relates to your audience on a human level. Now is not the time to pursue marketing initiatives solely for commercial benefit – consumers will be quick to recognize your authenticity and true purpose.

Finally, it’s important to be as empathetic and transparent as possible. The world is in a vulnerable state, and being open and honest about how you’re keeping your employees and customers safe and following through on your pledges, even in these uncertain times, is essential in solidifying trust. No matter what your strategies may be moving forward, there’s no avoiding the importance of the trust you build and the authenticity of your actions and long-term commitments.

Jamie Izaks is the president of All Points Public Relations, a franchise-focused PR agency based in the Chicagoland area, www.allpointspr.com.