You’ve probably been there before… You made a mistake or someone took something out of context, and next thing you know—you have a public ‘situation’ on your hands. I’m talking about bad PR. Great, now what? Is your world turned completely upside down with nowhere to go? No, definitely not.
We found some examples of businesses who have recently dealt with PR disasters and gathered some things we’ve learned from each company to ensure that when a crisis strikes, you’ll know how to handle it with poise and grace — because sometimes bad things happen to good people (and brands).
US Airways’ NSFW Tweet
Last month, US Airways had an incident on their hands when a social media manager, in mid-response to a customer’s angry tweet, accidentally tweeted a lewd image from the company’s Twitter account. The employee, who has not and will not be fired, was in the process of flagging the offensive image that was tweeted at the US Airways account by a user, when the photo link was instead included as a response to a very unhappy customer. US Airways quickly took the photo down and responded that they would be investigating the situation.
We apologize for an inappropriate image recently shared as a link in one of our responses. We’ve removed the tweet and are investigating.
— US Airways (@USAirways) April 14, 2014
As the world becomes more digital, there seems to be more room for careless errors — errors made simply by the click of a wrong button. The ease of which one can make such detrimental mistakes gets a lot of brands into trouble.
On the other side of the spectrum, the New York Police Department thought it had a great idea on its’ hands — ask users to post photos on Twitter of them with NYPD officers. How harmless could this idea be? All people would post are photos of the NYPD helping people in need, right?
The PR and marketing departments of the NYPD could not have gotten this one more wrong. Instead of users posting their photos of officers helping citizens, photos of police brutality littered the Internet accompanied by the official hashtag: #MyNYPD. As the Associated Press put it: the hashtag turned into a “bashtag.”
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 22, 2014
So, what can we learn from these brand’s mistakes?
For one, make sure to apologize—this doesn’t however, mean that you apologize right away. Take a minute to gather your thoughts so that your apology is sincere and made with a clear and rational head. And remember, sometimes silence is okay. After you make the apology and own up, you don’t need to keep making excuses just to fill the void.
That being said, don’t claim something that isn’t true. With the US Airways example, they did not claim to be hacked, because they were not in fact hacked. Apologize for your mistakes, and take responsibility for your actions—don’t blame someone else.
Don’t feed the trolls—leave the negative remarks alone, and release a general statement. Adding fuel to the fire will only leave you and your company in the ruins.
Communicate clearly and consistently with the press and media. This can eliminate even more slanderous remarks.
After all is said and done, rebuild your brand in the public eye by hosting community events and service projects.
And most importantly, listen and take the situation as an opportunity. Maybe the negative PR illustrates that your company needs a better way to handle customer service. Take the negative, and turn it into a positive change. We are after all, only human.