KitchenAid Saves the Day

So now that I have been talking for so long about the problems with crisis managing through social media and all of the trouble that can be caused by it, it would be nice to have a good example of how to do it properly. There are plenty of companies that properly crisis manage over social media, which is why it has been so helpful to the public relations industry. It is always a companies worst nightmare to have something go wrong on social media and not be able to properly recover. One of the best examples of how to respond to a situation like this that I found in my search through was about KitchenAid and a mishap that they had on their twitter that was similar to a case I talked about earlier on this blog.

A couple of years ago a rogue tweet was sent out from their account that was obviously meant to be tweeted from an employee’s personal account: KitchenAid-Tweet-640.jpg

Of course after this extremely offensive tweet was sent out a huge Twitter storm broke out about it. People were calling the company out all over Twitter and many people were in an outrage about it. KitchenAid quickly took the Tweet down and sent out multiple apology tweets to their customers and even directed one specifically at Obama. They even made sure to respond to some of their customers on Twitter or Facebook and apologize. Not only did the tweet get taken down very quickly but they were able to personally communicate with a lot of their customers and help them understand how sorry the company was. The bigger point of this post is to talk more about what they did, in this case, is that they were able to follow certain points that all crisis communication through social media should follow.

The bigger point of this post is to talk more about what they did following the situation, they were able to follow certain points that all crisis communication through social media should follow. Not only following these events did they send out tweets to all of their customers, they were able to send our an official press release addressing the issue head on.

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In this press release, they were able to condemn the employee’s actions and distance the company from the individual’s actions. But along with doing this, the company was also able to claim full responsibility for the action and apologize again to the public. This press release gave them the perfect opportunity to do what all companies should do during a crisis, respond quickly and openly, humanize the brand and show compassion for the people affected. It also gave them the chance to tell their fan base what they were doing about the problem, which was firing the individual responsible for this tweet.

This example is very important to the history of crisis communication through social media. It shows companies how important it is to not only be timely in your response but to also be totally honest about how the situation occurred and what you as a company are doing to fix it. It also shows how important press releases still are even in the age of social media crisis communication. KitchenAid handled this situation very well and many other companies should take the tip from them and treat a social media crisis communication situation the same.

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.

How is PR changing?

Public relations is an ever changing industry that needs to continue evolving in order to survive. In order for it to be a relevant industry, it needs to keep growing and changing into something that fits the climate of the time. Once it stops changing and becoming something new it will be impossible for the industry to continue on. There are certain companies that really take the lead on pulling the industry out from the traditional and are making it into a more progressive industry day by day. Below I discuss some companies that I came across who are doing exactly that.

The first company is Influence & Co. which is a tech-enabled content marketing agency that companies hire to work with their employees to help create and distribute content all over the internet. This site helps their clients figure out and control their message, get placement in good publications and build industry influence. It uses a ton of data analytics tools to get this information and has a huge digital tool box for figuring out real value and finding measurable ROI. This is helping to progress the public relations field because it is getting around the problem that traditional PR have of not being able to get hands on measurable digital results that they can show to clients.

The next company that we are looking at is AirPR which is a company that provides businesses with PR management software to help them track the success of all of the work that they are doing. Like I mentioned above it is very difficult to be able to get real-time ROI and other tangible evidence of the success that a company is having with a certain campaign. The software helps companies see what campaigns and tactics have the most engagement and are actually delivering a solid ROI to the company. This is advancing the public relations field because it is making it easier for companies to figure out what tactics are worth their time and effort based on the actual return that they are receiving.

The last company we are going to look at is BAM Communications a company that specializes in tech and innovation for public relations companies. They make it easier for the companies that they work with to find their target audience and be able to communicate with them well enough to boost sales. They are so confident in their abilities to help the companies that they work with that they have a guarantee on their website that claims that is you do not see results within the time frame that was set, the company will do the rest of the work for free until those results have been met. This is important because more and more PR companies will realize that focusing on a certain industry and core competencies rather than the one size fits all full-service PR plan will make it easier to connect with their target audience and will boost returns and engagement.

Thankfully for the PR industry, there has been a big shift between just complaining about what is wrong with the industry and actually taking steps to rewrite the way that the industry functions as a whole. This is important because it means that the industry as a whole is evolving for the better as people figure out what they need from companies like the ones I mentioned above. Hopefully, this new innovation will result in more faith in the industry because there will be actual results for people to put their faith in, instead of just relying on the public relations companies and professionals.

Is Burberry confused?

The life of a big company is extremely fast-paced. Many assignments are being thrown around daily and when you throw social media into the mix, there is even more on people’s plates. For a big company social media is an entire job with every channel needing multiple posts a day to keep up with their following. Most companies like this have an editing chain even for their social media posts to make sure that no mistake slips through the cracks before being posted to a mass audience. But sometimes even through this editing chain mistakes are not caught which is exactly what happened to Burberry.

Early this year the Burberry Twitter account tweeted a picture that they thought was of actor Dev Patel wearing one of their suits on the red carpet of the Bafta awards. The tweet read “celebrating the ‘EEBAFTAs in London this evening, Best Actor in A Supporting Role winner #DevPatel wears a @Burberry custom-made navy tuxedo.” The problem with this tweet was the person actually wearing their suit was not Dev Patel but was actually rapper Riz Ahmed. Both men were in fact wearing the British brand at this event but Burberry accidentally added the wrong photo to the tweet sent out to their 7.6 million followers.

While Burberry was quick to delete the tweet and replace it with the proper picture it did not stop people from noticing the mistake and saying that the brand should be ashamed. It even let one Twitter user to accuse Burberry of thinking all brown people look the same because both men have sub-continental origins. Burberry has since apologized for the mistake and has said that they are checking their process to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. In spite of this apology it has still left many of their fans feeling extremely disappointed in the brand for this mistake.

From a crisis communications stand point Burberry did everything they could to properly correct the problem once it had already occurred. Of course, this situation should have never happened and was just one big mistake on Burberry’s part. I would assume that when they said they were checking their process, they meant the chain of editing that the tweet would have gone through before it was posted. Of course a company never wants anything like this to happen because it could have caused an even bigger scandal than it already did cause. There could have been an even bigger backlash from people calling the company racist like the one user that I talked about above did. Luckily Burberry handled it well enough after the incident occurred that the situation resolved itself and did not continue to gain traction and get worse.

Applebee’s what are you doing?

What happens when people don’t understand the way that information can spread on social media? People can post things that they do not realize will have a greater effect on the world outside of them just expressing themselves. People on all social media sites including Twitter, Facebook and Reddit are more than willing to call people out on the fact that we live in a publicized world. Once you publish something on the Internet if you cross a line people have no problem tearing you down.

This is exactly what happened when a waitress at a St. Louis Applebee’s lost her job for posting a receipt online from customer who refused to pay a tip. The receipt that she posted included a snarky comment from the pastor she served who refused to give a tip. On the receipt the patron had crossed out the automatic 18% tip charged for parties of more than eight and wrote “I give God 10% why do you get 18”. One of the colleagues of the stiffed server than posted the receipt online and she was fired because of it.

This whole scandal was only part one of the problem that Applebee’s encountered when it came to the receipt. When Applebee’s fired the waitress in question, Chelsea Welch, it angered many people on the internet and caused them to take up their only weapon against the restaurant, social media. There were numerous “boycott Applebee’s” groups that popped up on social media along with pages and people who wanted the chain to rehire the waitress. The first response from Applebee’s was to post this status update on their company Facebook page around 3 pm. By midnight there were more than 10,000 responses to this post, mostly negative.

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One of the main themes of a lot of these comments had to do with a picture that had been posted by Applebee’s a couple of weeks earlier and then taken down once this incident occurred. The picture they posted was of a note, which was later posted on the site If You Can’t Afford to Tip after it was taken down by the company, that a customer wrote praising how great the Applebee’s was. What was wrong with this note was that in the picture the patron is clearly identified, which goes against what Applebee’s is trying to say is so important about their guest’s personal information.

Now you may think that this is as bad as it could get for Applebee’s but the hits just kept coming for them. For some reason after 17,000 comments had poured in on this post, around 3 am someone decided to go onto the Applebee’s Facebook page and start responding to people’s comments. In response to all of the comments Applebee’s decided not to post another status update but to post a huge comment on the original post.

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After about 2 hours of people commenting on the original post and not seeing the comment, Applebee’s finally decided to take their comment and post it as a new status on Facebook. As of 5 am the original post had about 19,000 comments on it but then when people went to check on it the next day, the post and all of those comments had mysteriously disappeared. Now obviously Applebee’s deleted the content but the problem with that is the Internet and those 20,000 people that left comments on the post will not forget what happened, and deleting it just made the company look worse. The company then proceeded to deny the fact that  they had deleted any posts. Denial was obviously Applebee’s main strategy throughout this whole crisis and it did not work out well for them.

Now obviously this example is one of the most extreme that you can find because it was handled so poorly. This situation got completely out of hand because of how poorly Applebee’s handled the backlash on social media, because they did not really seem to have a crisis strategy. Although the server never could have known how out of hand this situation would get, she never should have posted the photo in the first place because of how quickly things spread through social media. Regardless of that, Applebee’s should have had a better strategy to deal with this crisis through social media beyond just denial because that obviously did not work.

Is social media the cause?

Throughout this whole blog so far, I have been talking about how social media can hep companies and people control a crisis quicker and easier than they were able to before social media was around. But what if in some cases social media is actual the cause of the crisis in the first place? Sometimes something slips and it can cause a giant problem for the company in question completely by accident. This is exactly what happened to the American Red Cross back in 2011.

An unfortunate incident occurred on the Red Cross’ Twitter account when an employee accidentally fired off a a personal tweet on the companies account. This kind of slip up can happen very easily when someone is using Hootsuite on a mobile device, which is exactly what happened here. This obviously is every company’s nightmare and something they would never want to happen. The tweet in question read “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”. Now obviously most people would see this tweet and automatically know it was a mistake but the way that the Red Cross responded diffused the situation in the best way they could.

They first started by deleting the aforementioned tweet. Now depending on the situation this move could come across as sketchy to a big audience that is very perceptive. But in the case of the Red Cross after deleting the tweet they immediately send out another acknowledging that yes the tweet was sent out and has now been deleted and explained that it was all a mistake.

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Because of this witty tweet that recognizes the situation to the Red Cross’ audience, the tweet never turned into a major crisis. The Red Cross even went beyond this though by turning the potentially harmful tweet into an opportunity to engage better with their target audience. They then took to their corporate blog to explain the situation to their audience, show how human they were and engage with their fans. The situation was made even better by the fact that the person who sent out the tweet fessed up on their own personal Twitter with the same kind of humor that the company did.

There are two lesson to be learned from this incident with the Red Cross. The first is that although social media can usually be used in a positive way to help control a crisis or a situation faster, it can also cause one if you are not careful. This situation was obviously a complete accident but it was something that was entirely caused by social media. The second thing to be learned from this crisis is that if you respond honestly and openly to your audience, they will hear you out and most likely understand. The best way to get in touch with your audience is to show that you are not just a company but that there are humans behind running the company. If you show your humanity people are more likely to understand where you are coming from and not be so upset about a little mistake.

Where would PR be without Twitter?

How did public relations work before social media was available to the public? Now so many people and companies get news across to their audience by using social media to communicate that we can’t remember what it was like before social media. Would the public relations field have grown in the same way if it were not for social media or would it have become stagnant? Social media has completely changed the way that we live our everyday lives in general but it really has changed the public relations field drastically.

We currently live in a world where people are glued to technology and their social media accounts. People are constantly connecting with each other and companies through social media and it is how a lot of the younger generation get their news and information. Everyone is always pushing and pulling information in and out through social media outlets and technology. Twitter is one of the most used social medias especially for getting news and having companies connect with their audiences. Because of the growth of social media, public relations is a hugely growing field, which it would not be otherwise. So if it were not for sites like Twitter, would public relations survived?

According to this website that tracks Twitter usage every second there are about 6,000 tweets sent out, which averages out to about 500 million tweets per day. The sheer amount of tweets being sent out everyday is massive and the number is kind of hard to wrap your head around. Now obviously no all of these are sent out for the purpose to public relations or advertising, but a lot of them definitely have that underlying message behind them. Public relations professionals want to use social media to be able to convey something about their client and convince their audience to buy their product, use their service or do whatever else they are promoting. Companies can also use social media to see what their competitors are doing that is working well with clients and to meet new potential clients and audience members.

The problem here is as much as Twitter is a great tool for social media public relations, it may not last forever. Social media is ever changing and you cannot rely too much on one social media site, you have to be able to adapt. So the question is, when Twitter changes or there is a new social media site that is being used more, how will that change how public relations professionals do their jobs?

Many public relations professionals feel that although they enjoy Twitter and feel like it is useful, being adaptive and open to change needs to be second nature to a public relations professional. If it was suddenly no longer around people in the public relations profession would have to be able to find a new way to be able to connect and communicate with others in the community and their audience. Of course public relations was already a field before social media took off so many feel that they would just go back to doing things the way they did before social media. It is always interesting to look at how social media has affected different parts of our lives and the public relations field is no exception.