What were they thinking?

Sometimes after a company is in the spotlight, they have a hard time figuring out how to respond to all of the attention they receive. Whether it is positive or negative a smaller company who was not getting that kind of media attention before may not know how to handle the pressure. With social media being so prevalent, it makes the life of companies that find themselves in the spotlight even harder because they then have outpourings of posts and comments on social media as well as the press. A great example of how to not handle being in the spotlight through social media was what happened to Amy’s Baking Company.

A few years ago Amy’s Baking Company, a local bakery from Arizona, was the subject of an episode of Gordan Ramsey’s show Kitchen Nightmares. For the first time in the history of the show, Gordon Ramsey walked out of a restaurant when the couples fighting became too much. Many things took place in this episode that caused the British chef to walk out including the couple pocketing the waitstaff’s tips and admitting to firing more than 100 people, picking a fight with a customer who had been waiting an hour for his food and serving pre-made frozen ravioli. All of these things are obviously horrible and when the show aired the restaurant was receiving a lot of flack on social media. Now the whole situation could have just blown over if they had responded to the hate properly and not made it worse, which is exactly what they did.

Instead of just ignoring the online hate or even responding positively the owner of Amy’s Baking Company took to their Facebook page to defend her restaurant from internet haters. The status updates were brutal to look through as shown by the examples below:

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After sharing these extremely offensive posts to their page and receiving more horrible comments and posts on their page, the company took they all down and claimed that they had been hacked. For many people, this statement was hard to believe especially when more posts starting cropping up on the page again that held the same tone as these original posts. Later on after this scandal, the company hired a PR firm to help them remedy the problems that they were having on their social media and obviously could not solve by themselves.

There are many things wrong the situation I have presented here when it comes to crisis communication. The company obviously figured out that they needed some assistance from a public relations professional and hired one to try and help them. The problem with this was that the public relations professional was hired a little too late after the majority of the damage was already done. Of course, the owners were upset that people were leaving horrible comments about their business and food on Facebook and Reddit, but this response should have never been the answer. The posts just riled people up more and convinced them more of what horrible people the owners of this restaurant must be. This just encouraged them to continue to post more and the whole situation just went into a tailspin. The company should have hired a public relations professional from the beginning and avoid commenting on anything or talking to anyone about the situation until they got some more sound advice from a professional. This is an example of how out of control a situation can get when social media crisis communication is done wrong by a company and how much better it could have gone if the company had handled the situation properly from the start.

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