PRETTY LITTLE THING’S PRETTY BIG PR DISASTER

I am sure if you are a fashion follower of any sort, you will have seen that Pretty Little Thing products have been exposed….

The fast fashion clothing company Pretty Little Thing rarely ever has many scandals from what I have seen. They seem to just be constantly building on their reigning empire, gaining more celebrity collaboration, more customers and ultimately more money… until recently, when their empire hit a bump in the road, when they were subjected to a case of FAKE NEWS.

A Facebook post was published by a PLT customer who had a look through the company terms and conditions on their US website to find this…

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This post went viral, now having approximately 25k shares on Facebook and thousands and thousands of Twitter threads discussing the issue. 


When I first seen this my instant reaction was shock…I couldn’t understand why a massive company like Pretty Little Thing would have chemicals in their products that were known cancer, reproductive harm and birth defects, and why it was just point blank in the terms and conditions without anyone knowing of this before. 

Disgust spread across the Internet, with many people putting up their own social media posts expressing their concerns and spreading the word to ‘Boycott Pretty Little Thing’. 

However, others were quick to fight back and defend Pretty Little Thing. Those who looked further into the statement within the terms and conditions discovered the truth. 

The truth 

The truth is that this warning was required due to a new law in the California, called Proposition 65, which requires all companies in California must provide warnings of ‘significant exposure’ to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm. However, it is highly unlikely that PLT clothing could contain sufficient amounts of these chemicals to cause harm at all. 

In fact, it is not the only clothing company that has used this warning, ASOS and Fashion Nova also have this warning within their company terms and conditions. 

FAKE NEWS 

Due to the first post going viral, many other customers and non-customers of Pretty Little Thing now had a negative outlook on the company, so much so that they posted about it on their social media and so on so forth, until thousands of people now thought that their PLT purchases were going to cause them harm, and so were suggesting that people do not purchase from the company any more. 

This lead to many articles posted containing FAKE NEWS. 

Fake news can have irreversible effects to organisations, it can change consumers image of a company, it can make them lose custom and can reduce their stock price. 

Public opinion is vital for companies in general, but especially online brands, like PLT, who build their reputation up online and gain a following of customers who have a high impression of the brand. 

Fake news can destroy this reputation, and if the brand is not strong enough, can also bring down the company. 

Luckily enough, I don’t think this has had much of a significant effect to the Pretty Little Thing brand as they have continued to issue statements claiming that their products do not contain sufficient amounts of lead to cause the stated effects, however this may have planted a seed of criticism into the heads of consumers who may then go and shop at a competitor brand that does not have such warnings in their T&Cs. 

For me, as a shopping addict…I can safely say that I will be purchasing from Pretty Little Thing again without any hesitation. 

 

Siobhan McKerr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @Siobhan_mckerr, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-mckerr and Instagram: @Siobhan_mckerr.

#PRStudentScribbles: Crisis Communications

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Welcome! 

I am a full time MSc Student in Public Relations and Communications at Ulster University since the end of September. I am a law graduate from Trinity College Dublin (1997) and practised as a solicitor for the last 18 years.

Why do I listen to Podcasts? 

As I am a newcomer to the study of Public Relations and Communications, it is important that I identify reliable educational information online  and take notes old style!

One exciting development from a mature student point of view is the rise of Podcast Shows as a rich source of information. As someone who enjoys auditory learning, Podcasts are perfect as I can vary the speed, volume and pause the show regularly to scribble down key points! Podcasts help me to connect the dots between the theory, research and practice of PR and Communications. 

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#ThisWeekinPR 

In #ThisWeekinPR published by the PR Academy on 4 October,  I noted the recommendation of The Digital Download hosted by Paul Sutton with Kate Hartley: How to handle misinformation in a crisis [podcast] (1 October).

Crisis and reputation 

In Episode 2, Season 5, crisis expert Kate Hartley and Paul Sutton, Digital Communications Consultant and founder of The Digital Download Podcast and Conference discussed the rise of misinformation and how to handle all things ‘fake’ in a crisis situation. The podcast is of particular interest as Kate Hartley looks at psychology  rather than conventional crisis management. 

Fake news and propaganda have existed for decades, if not centuries. But with social media algorithms reinforcing confirmation bias and with the advent of deep fake technology, misinformation has reached unprecedented levels. As a result, trust has plummeted and corporate crises are becoming ever-more common.

In this episode of the Digital Download Podcast, I talk to Kate Hartley from crisis simulation platform Polpeo. Kate has recently written a book called Communicate in a Crisis that takes a detailed look at why people behave the way they do on social media, how misinformation spreads as a result and how companies can best handle this.  -Paul Sutton 

The Podcast 

My Podcast Scribbles  

  • Outrage has become currency for some people on social media. Accordingly, fake news can be circulated in crisis situations. 
  • Crisis planning is now essential for every organisation. 
  • Brands should react to information online by being the source of truth in a crisis.  
  • Be the individual, company, brand that people come to when something goes wrong.
  • Be the trusted voice of authority so that people believe you. 
  • Look at psychology rather than conventional crisis management. You cannot respond effectively in a crisis if you don’t understand how people are behaving in that crisis. You have to understand how they are behaving and how that is changing because some of the old crisis responses just don’t work any more. 
  • You cannot wait for the next news cycle to come out. Think about people’s need for immediate information as people can spread fake news about your brand in the crisis and deliberately share misinformation.  
  • Some industry bodies are trying to move away from the term “fake news” to the term “misinformation.” 
  • Some people accidentally spread misinformation because they believe it to be true. Other people deliberately spread misinformation as they have some sort of malicious intent.
  • The pressure that consumers are putting on brands means they have to be more honest and transparent than they ever have been before. 
  • Be the source of truth.  Be the source of truth. Be the source of truth! NO2

     

    Recommended Books

    • Communicate in a Crisis by Kate Hartley
    • Crisis Communications Management (PRCA Practice Guides) by Adrian Wheeler
    • Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins by Mark W. Schaefer.

    Nóirín O’Neill is an MSc Student in Communication & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @Noirin0Neill and on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/n%C3%B3ir%C3%ADn-o-neill-426b91110/

     

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Damore You Know, The Less You Think

Damore You Know, The Less You Think

I don’t believe this to be a sexist rambling, nor the defence of a sexist rambling. This was rather intended to be an exploration of modern societal and political forces on free speech, decision making and potentially clever PR. I’d love to hear any thoughts on this one.

On 7th August 2017, James Damore was fired by Google for a “sexist memo” that he posted on an internal message board that depicted women as being “inferior”. I remember reading the headline. For me, it was another mundane day in a remedial office job where I thought – wow; prime-time idiocy. As if letting go of the dream job and become public enemy number one on the same day wasn’t bad enough – how could this sexist pig really believe such a thing? Disgraceful, I know.

But maybe I didn’t know. James Damore being sacked was percieved as a good move by an appalled public who couldn’t fathom what possessed him to post such a sexist memo. This was seen as a feat for equality and politically correct behaviour and thought. But at the core of the scandal-turned-viral, were Google really as moral, as progressive, as forward-thinking as it may seem?

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What Happened (as we know it):

This whole mess began with one simple meeting. Google, like they often do, held a diversity meeting which, amongst others, James Damore was invited to attend. Damore, in an interview with academic marmite Jordan Peterson (You either hate him or you love him), recalls that Google didn’t record this meeting – the only instance of this that he can rememeber during his time with the Lords of the ‘Net. Damore believed that Google’s methods of inclusive hiring which they were discussing that fateful day were arbitrary and possibly crossing the line into illegal, which would explain the lack of documentation.

They’ll listen to us all through our phones but won’t listen back to their own ideas? Proof that nobody likes the sound of their own voice on record!

Damore states that he felt uneasy at the mention of the secretive positive discrimination tactics of hiring. Once the meeting had wrapped up, Damore along with all other partcicpants were encouraged to give their feedback on an internal message board – a central convention in Google who strive for improvement wherever possible. Damore compiled a ten page memo explaining why he felt the proposed hiring methods may not be a good idea and posted it on the aforementioned message board. Big mistake, Jim.

What he Said (Well, not exactly. But the jist of it):

Damore’s core belief in his memo was that there is a biological difference between men and women that may impact a corporate reality. His musings were a review of existing modern personality and individual differences literature that found that, in its simplest form, men are more likely to be attracted to object related professions and women to people related professions (heavily linked to studies surrounding testosterone levels – don’t @ me). He even mentioned that he is an advocate of diversity and inclusion. However, he didn’t help himself in suggesting that these Biological differences “may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership”. This may be a review of exisiting literature, but he surely could have sugarcoated the bleak academic truth in this point. Manners cost nothing James (in fact, a lack of them may have cost you your job).

My Name is Sue (How Do You Do?):

Damore responded to his dismissal by choosing to sue Google, which further enraged an American public that viewed him as the biggest inidvdiual threat to feminism in the U.S. since the man who actually runs the country. Damore accused Google of intolerance of white male conservatives; three majority categories that we can assume recieve little sympathy from the “politically correct”.

Damore told the New York Times that he has “a legal right to express (his) concerns about the terms and conditions of (his) working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what the document does.” It must be highlighted that Google’s decision to fire Damore is perefectly legal. Even within Damore’s right to free speech, an employee can be lawfully fired for being seen to violate an organisational code of conduct, which Google believed they saw. While some forms of employee speech are protected by US Labour laws, the Constitutional right of free speech is not extrapolated to the workplace.

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Triggering Time:

I’m exploring this at the risk of coming across as sexist or non-progressive here which, as a young, caucasian, heterosexual, Catholic male in Northern Ireland, is quite politically and socially charged. As I play the role of the drawn-out, eye-rolling “Devils Advocate”, many of Damore’s arguments were grounded in scientific research up to this point. While this may change in future, many believe that we as a society must place our fundamental trust in the processes of science. The “feedback” from Damore suggested that Google’s attempts to neglect suitable candidates for an engineering role in favour of a less suitable candidate who fits into a particular race, religion, or particularly gender may ultimately impact upon job performance. The media picked up that Damore views women as “inferior” to men when really, from what I can decipher, he was merely highlighting that, statistically speaking, there are less women who interested in the field of engineering than there are men.

Personally, having worked in the recruitment division of a large technology firm, I have seen the process of hiring females with a less desirable skillset than their male counterparts purely based on their gender. The extent of Google’s actions compared to my own experience can’t quite be compared, as Google’s actions remain fairly secretive. While I fully advocate initiatives such as “women in tech” applied by my former employer and their industry competition, the gender-decisive hiring process was an aspect that I struggled to support fully. In this respect, I do agree with Damore. In writing this, I have been concerned with coming across as sexist in a hyper-sensitive era. But ultimately, I believe that people should be afforded an opportunity in a professional context based on their ability to perform the job role and all that it encompasses. From the technical elements of a role to the level of interpersonal skills required. These selections should not be made based solely on your gender and frankly, if you disagree, I don’t see how you aren’t supporting equal rights (@ me this time if you want).

Tin Foil Hat Time:

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist – is it possible that Google, amidst an initial attempt to play fair, were afraid of possible repercussions of their positive discrimination methods and were able to shift the focus to Damore’s comments through a tactically calculated bet on how biased journalism might pander to the overly-politically-correct online consumers of today who often fail to scrutinize the validity of anything they read despite copious accounts of fake news? As I catch my breath, my mind casts to Benoit’s theory of image repair. The 14-option response kit of crisis management (devised in 1997) remains popular in today’s corporate world. Google seem to have employed the tactic of transcendence; aspiring to reframe their actions by placing it in the context of Damore’s; a more publicly detestable set of thoughts and actions.

Social Justice Warrior’s would have picked the carcass of James Damore clean in a vulture-esque fashion, if they weren’t all stage 5 vegans.

Failure to question the legitimacy of sources or the potential partisan of individual journalism is a monstrous issue in the modern digital age. Nicholas Carr in his book “What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” discusses that, while the modern consumer has a better skillset for scanning, we pay the price with a diminishing capacity for concentration, reflection and contemplation. This alteration in mental capacity and skillset is particularly relevant in a modern age where Fake News has become practically unextractable from online media. Hence, it’s plausible that a mixture of shallow-level reading and the unattainable expectations of modern political correctness shaped Damore as an international sexist villain.

Interestingly (yet nothing more than coincidentally), Carr’s book came as a result of a widely celebrated article he wrote for US magazine Atlantic Monthly, entitled; “Is Google making us stupid?” Nice one Google. You just don’t quit- Do you? You big untouchable B****rd” (cries the writer, as he types in his Google Keep notes, processing every shred of information in this salty article from Google Chrome).

Benoit’s Image Repair Theory may be the academic grounding I need to support my argument that the dismissal and public shaming of James Damore was both a tactic of crisis management and a case of good publicity for Google as a diverse, progressive organisation. But as the case of Damore Vs Google indicates, sometimes science won’t prevail.

As I conclude, I know I took the scenic route on this one. There are issues on media consumption, disproportionate journalism, sexism and political correctness that I simply can’t condense in to one rambling article. If you can take one thing away from this – question your sources. Consider, contemplate and reflect. Don’t simply skim and absorb. And don’t hate on the concept political correctness. Lets just aspire that Social Justice Warriors would stop moving the damn goalposts every time anyone attempts to hit the target.

Eamon Daly is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Twitter – @EamonDaly5 ; LinkedIn – linkedin.com/in/eamon-daly-608780137

NEVER STOP LEARNING

Lecturers always plug extra-curricular activities, don’t they?  It’s easy to nod along in agreement, making a mental note to respond to the university’s countless invitations by email but when they land there’s a deadline looming and you’re left weighing up the value of said event versus research/writing/reading.

We have the rest of our lives to learn from other PR & Comms specialists, right?

As a mature student, trust me when I say there is always something looming, that’s life. However, there won’t always be a queue of industry experts willing and ready to meet you and share their expertise.  With that in mind, I’m very glad I took @ConorMcGrath up on his invitation to attend a discussion with Alex Aiken, Head of the Government Communication Service (GCS).

I expected two things on the day of the discussion: firstly, for the event to be cancelled in lieu of the Prime Minister’s highly anticipated announcement that evening; secondly, I assumed that if it did go ahead, our guest would be sticking to a strict script, deflecting any difficult or Brexit-related questions.

I was wrong on both counts…

Alex was extremely down to earth and spoke to us candidly for over an hour; he laid out a compelling case for communications to be seen as an integral lever for transparent, responsible governance and a hugely important function within public services.  Good news for those of us that are too aesthetically challenged to make a living out of Instagram, even better news for those of us that are constantly wrestling with their conscience when it comes to considering graduate jobs outwith the voluntary sector.

Over the course of the evening we gained a fascinating insight into the GCS and crisis management – yes, that included Brexit.  We learned of the difficulties surrounding the GCS’s response to the Salisbury ‘Novichok’ attack – namely the difficulty in disseminating information to the press and public without jeopardising classified sources; we heard about previous campaigns – ‘the good, the bad, the ugly’ – and we we were privy to the contents of national address! We were given advice on GCS strategy and the modern importance of creating a story with characters and a conflict, stories that audiences can connect with, as opposed to the historical ‘who/what/where/when/why’ of the traditional press release.No alt text provided for this image

Most importantly, we were awarded the opportunity to put questions and observations to Alex; I had a list as long as my arm but settled on raising the dilemma of ‘spin’ – do communicators run the risk of fuelling tensions in society, especially in this climate, by creating a ‘story’ for their audience?  My understanding of the answer is ‘no’, providing the intentions of the author are not to mislead or misrepresent.

Alex laid out 8 key challenges for the GCS in 2018, one being to “maximise the role of government comms in challenging declining trust in institutions through honest, relevant and responsive campaigns”.  I felt that parts of the discussion were a rallying call to humbly acknowledge public mistrust and harness its existence as motivation to prove the positive impact that communications can have in our society; as someone that is leaning towards a career in some form of public service, but often cynical about the integrity of certain institutions, the call was welcomed and now that I’m writing this, I’m reminded of an exchange that has resonated since.

A small group of us headed to the Harp Bar after the discussion, and along the way, Alex praised Police Scotland’s tackling of knife crime via the campaign to treat violence as a public health issue.  Well this obviously sent me off on a tangent about whether it’s appropriate for police forces to use social media tools (yes, the laughs never stop when I’m around).  I was giving it big licks about certain public services ‘cheapening’ their reputation by endorsing PR tactics, when it was put to me that any measure with a proven ability to reduce the numbers of people being stabbed on our streets was a positive one.  Who could argue with that?

So take it from me: if anyone is reading this and thinking about skipping a relevant talk or event in lieu of a library session, then catch yourself on.  We are extremely privileged to have these opportunities and the confidence that comes from making your voice heard among the current leaders of PR & Comms, and learning from them, is more valuable than a book chapter.*

Don’t just rely on invites from your lecturer, either.  Find out for yourself what’s on offer.  For those in or near Belfast, !MAGINE! FESTIVAL has a fantastic line-up of events and discussions between 25th to 31st March 2019.

*don’t @ me for any academic decline

Fay Costello is an MSc in Communication & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @fay_costello. 

Celebrities in Crisis: Is all PR really good PR?

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘Crisis’ is composed of two characters: One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” John F. Kennedy.

This quote pokes the bear in the great debate about Celebrity PR scandals, and as we move away from the archaic belief that “All PR is good PR”, it’s clear to me that one critical element of Public Relations remains; Crisis Management.  Feel free to disagree, but from my experience the two go hand in hand and every PR campaign should have an element of crisis built in, just in case the “What if?” situation becomes the “What now?” situation.

What has really grabbed my attention over the past year is the amount of crises I have seen in the celebrity world amidst the huge Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Harvey Weinstein has really piqued my interest in this area over the past and I along with the rest of the developed world have watched as the dramatic, complex, and undignified scandal unraveled before our eyes.

In case you missed it (or have been in a coma for the last year) back in 2017, Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood mogul always pictured at glamorous Hollywood parties pictured with many famous A-List stars was slammed across all media channels after a number of different women came forward claiming they were sexually harassed by the now former film producer.

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In the early hours of the scandal, The Weinstein Company released a statement to the media saying that they were launching an inquiry into the allegations,  which translated in PR language means “give us some time to try and come up with a wordy statement that doesn’t answer any of your questions but makes it look like we know what to do in this situation and has been picked apart by our lawyers to ensure limited legal liability.”

After 13 more women spoke out, celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and George Clooney condemning him, his lawyer resigning, his wife leaving him and the inevitable dismissal from his own company there really was no scope for any kind of crisis management plan. Weinstein could only deny the allegations but the mass effect the media coverage had on this huge scandal meant his reputation had no hope of a recovery.

The Weinstein case seemed to cause a ripple effect in the celebrity world and soon enough many PR practitioners representing many different celebrities, business people and even government officials were facing this unprecedented crisis.

Another case that caught my eye was The Spacey Scandal…

Kevin Spacey was one of Hollywood’s most decorated actors and personally starred in one of my favourite Netflix tv series- House of Cards.

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So, naturally when this crisis came out I was stunned.

A grand total of 30 men claimed that Spacey, made a sexual advance upon them dating back to 1982.  Kevin Spacey’s response?

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Personally, I found his response quite interesting in terms of crisis management. He doesn’t try to deny the claims like Weinstein, he also doesn’t admit that he did it. But he tries to protect his image by apologizing and revealing something very personal about his life. In terms of PR one could raise the question… is Kevin Spacey revealing his sexuality as a PR spin? Is he trying to deflect from the situation? Who knows. But, a common tactic especially for PR Spin Doctors is to bury bad news in bad news, so it could be argued that this is a tactical move.

Anyway, it’s not all about sexual allegations when discussing PR scandals in the celebrity world. Comedian Kathy Griffin faced a huge media crisis when a picture was released of her holding a decapitated head of Donald Trump (look away if you are squeamish).

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Her management of this crisis was completely different to both Spacey and Weinstein. In fact, she admitted she was wrong and explicitly begged her fans for forgiveness claiming she “went too far”. Interesting, but her career and reputation were still damaged, and she was pulled from a huge TV ad as well as having to cancel several comedy shows.

All in all, crises in the celebrity world are usually unprecedented, erupt suddenly with little time to figure out how to recover. PR has an important role to play in the world of celebrity, there are many different ways to manage the type of crises I have mentioned but no matter what, when stories are leaked in the media they are everywhere. Forever. Try as they may, it can be difficult for celebrities and top figures to comeback from these types of catastrophes.

So, can celebrity PR scandals be managed?  In my opinion, it depends. It depends on the context, the scandal, the fan following, the time, the circumstances and sometimes, just sometimes, these factors can create the perfect storm. They can be managed to an extent but evidently, PR teams cannot prepare for the types of crises that can implode on them out of the blue on a Monday morning.  Hats off to them for the effort!

Orlaith Strong is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @orlaith_strong and LinkedIn @orlaithstrong

Top tips for PR Crisis Management

Top tips for PR Crisis Management

Every organisation in the world is susceptible to a crisis, it’s how an organisation handles crisis that really shows the type of organisation they are.

Crisis can bring huge benefits to an organisation if handled correctly however, if an organisation does not have an effective crisis management strategy implemented, it can be detrimental to their reputation.

These top tips will help you on your way to creating one of the best crisis management strategies your organisation can have.

1. Be Proactive, Transparent & Honest

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An organisations response to a crisis needs to be quick, don’t let the media or online warriors get in there before you. After all, you are the most reliable source for your audience so be transparent and keep your audience in the loop. If the crisis is your fault, then own up to it. It’s how you own up to and deal with crisis that will help maintain and rebuild your reputation in the wake of a PR crisis. Listen to your audience, after all its them that you need to maintain your relationship with because, what’s an organisation without their audience?

2. Communication

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This can be one of the simplest mistakes an organisation can make. Keep your employees in the loop, it’s as easy as that. Keep them well briefed on upcoming campaigns and possible crises that may arise. Obviously, you can’t always know when a crisis will happen but having a well briefed team will encourage positive work ethic, trust and respect. If you don’t have this, it could lead to job losses, and they may even be the ones to speak negatively of the organisation if they haven’t been treated fairly.  As an organisation, you should have an elected spokesperson who will speak when a crisis hits, this is usually a CEO or an Executive member of staff, all employees should know how to respond to media enquiries in times of crisis.

3. Be Consistent

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In responding to a crisis, it is essential to keep your message consistent. Don’t let the crisis escalate into something it doesn’t need to. If you have different people giving out different messages, it’s just going to confuse your audience and display that your organisation clearly has very little skills regarding communication and lacks reliability. Have one spokesperson to speak on the issue, this will ensure a consistent message and reassure your audience.

4. Timing

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Timing is key! Be aware of what’s going on in the outside world. After all, PR is all about being in the know and keeping up to date with current events. If your organisation puts out something that clashes with current news, your organisation will instantly come across as insensitive and to be quite honest your audience will lose interest.

Adidas were the perfect example of this. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the mammoth mistake they sent to participants of the Boston marathon a few years back. It went a little something like ‘Congratulations, you survived the Boston Marathon.’ It makes you think, who in the right mind thought this was ok to send out? Considering the marathon had been bombed three years prior to this, it’s a perfect example of how an extra little bit of crisis control and being aware of the outside world can have a huge impact on your organisation.

5. Social Media is your best friend!

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Social media has transformed the dynamic of the PR industry, organisations now have a significant role in incorporating social media into their crisis management strategies. For many of us, social media is our preferred channel of engagement whether that be with friends, family or organisations. Therefore, in incorporating social media into your organisations PR strategy you will inevitably enhance relationships with your desired audience.

Besides this, if your audience is already highly active on social media, they will be more inclined to credit information they see online rather than through traditional methods, highlighting the importance of social media in crisis management.

6. Apologise, Apologise, Apologise

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Take responsibility for your actions, your audience will expect an apology so make sure you give one them one. We’re all human, and everyone makes mistakes, in publicly apologising and committing to being better your audience will stay with you. All you need to do is be open about the situation. Make sure you do whatever it takes to maintain or regain trust with your audience.

7. Expected the Unexpected

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I hope you’re a fan of friends, otherwise this reference will be totally irrelevant. All jokes aside, expected the unexpected. As soon as one crisis ends, another one can start just as quick, so learn from your mistakes and rework your strategy to meet your organisation’s needs. Your audience engagement and following should show the benefits of this.

We’ve now covered quite a bit on crisis management, does your organisation implement each of these steps?

Take a step back, look and adopt these top tips for an easier and stress-free life!

You can thank me later…

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Sorcha Conway is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted through; Facebook: Sorcha Conway /  Twitter: @SorchaConway / LinkedIn: sorcha-c / Instagram: sorchaconway515

A Series of Unfortunate Events

“Any publicity is good publicity” not always true, right? PR wouldn’t be the same without the odd (I say odd lightly) reputation-damaging blunders right? There are endless amounts of contenders for the biggest PR disasters ever – however, we haven’t got ALL day – so I’m going to narrow this down to three – oh so many to choose from!

  1. Pepsi’ ad with Kendall Jenner

The internet was in uproar of April 2017 after a Pepsi ad featuring the ever so famous Kendall Jenner was aired. The short advert shows the model strolling up to a political protest – resolving it by simply handing out a can of Pepsi, however this advert was branded extremely insensitive, given the divided political climate which was going on in the United States at that time. Of course twitter went into melt down, ends on ends of tweets circulating the twitter world. Below are just some of the tweets which went viral after this tasteless ad.

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Just one day after the ad aired Pepsi apologised and removed it from the internet. You can view the famous ad that sent the twitter world into chaos on the link below.

The company released the following statement, “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologise. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are removing the content and halting any further roll out. We also apologise for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

However, Pepsi were hit with a stroke of luck, as United Airlines came along and stole the thunder with their own PR disaster, causing the wind to blow over on the Pepsi ad controversy and the internet’s fury to redirect to United Airlines – talk about perfect timing!

2) United Airlines

2017 seems to be the year of PR crises! United Airlines are never short of a PR crisis, I mean their practically professionals, from banning two girls from flying because they were wearing leggings to forcing a mother to hold her toddler in her lap for a full flight after giving away the toddlers paid seat to a standby passenger – however the worst has to be demanding an elderly doctor, David Dao, to leave their flight due to an overbooking, breaking his nose and knocking out teeth in the process – apparently! Understandably, when the video of the elderly man being forcibly removed from the aircraft by officers went viral in 2017, the public went into meltdown, some even still mentioning the Pepsi controversy – no-one ever forgets.

 

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz addressed the situation stating, “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologise for having to re-accommodate these customers.” He also called the doctor “disruptive and belligerent” which of course did not settle the public’s outrage, if anything it made it worse, resulting in many people calling for Oscar Munoz’ removal.

You would like to think that these crew members knew that when Mr Dao refused to leave the plane willingly, it was going to end Ugly with a capital U! Let’s be real, this was never not going to be caught on video and go viral! Shame on United Airlines.

3) H&M

H&M also hit a serious reputation crisis after the image of a black African-American boy modelling a jumper reading “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” hit social media. The company faced serious backlash with accusations of racism. Of course twitter users were quick to jump on to slam and shame the advertisement, many people had a lot to say, including New York Times columnist Charles Blow:

 

Although H&M did react quickly, pulling the ad and the jumper and issuing an apology, “We sincerely apologize for offending people with this image of a printed hooded top, the image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale. We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.” However, the damage was done and could not be undone. It caused the company to lose a huge brand collaborator, The Weeknd, as he vowed not to work with them again.

NC17

 

This incredibly viral – for all the wrong reasons – crisis certainly left people wondering why and how somebody with H&M did not spot that this advertisement of a black child in a hoodie with the slogan “Coolest monkey in the Jungle” may be seen as racist, still do this day I ask myself how?

 

Niamh Cosgrove is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-cosgrove-62b986131/Twitter: @niamhcosgrove