By Emily Thole
In the restless and brutal sea of social media, taking a risk could leave a company struggling for air. You may have noticed from recent events, Nike decided to jump into the water head first by tackling a highly controversial topic in the U.S. With immediate response, the internet both attacked and commended Nike for taking a knee on a political subject that many brands and organizations avoid.
Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49er’s quarterback who inspired player protest throughout the NFL, tweeted a photo marking him as the newest face of Nike.
The photo shared stated, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Since Kaepernick’s first protest in 2016, where he kneeled during the national anthem against police brutality, he has received backlash from the NFL and people around the country. His actions ultimately left him without a spot on any team, but Nike decided to endorse him anyway. In the early stages of the “Just Do It” campaign’s 30th anniversary, they made a statement.
As a result of the partnership, Nike made headlines. Celebrities including Jamie Lee Curtis, Serena Williams, Russell Crowe and COMMON were praising the brand on Twitter alongside Americans throughout the nation.
But with the good also comes the bad, and even ugly. Multiple individuals took to social media posting images and videos of themselves burning their Nike products, and cutting the swoosh logo from their socks and apparel, voicing that they will never shop with the brand again.
Nike isn’t the first brand to tackle a controversial issue. Many other companies have taken a stance on social issues as well. Dick’s Sporting Goods protested gun violence after the Parkland, Fla. massacre by saying they would no longer sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and also prohibit the sale of guns to customers under the age of 21. Airbnb shot back at President Trump when he closed the borders to refugees in a campaign called, “We Accept,” by voicing their company’s acceptance of other races and nationalities in a time when the biggest figurehead of the nation was saying the opposite. When the U.S. pulled out the Paris Agreement, Ben and Jerry’s started a campaign called, “Save Our Swirled,” focusing on the topic of climate change. Each of these brands were criticized for becoming politically involved, just like Nike.
For a brand with popularity around the world, what form of success can come from this controversial partnership? Through all the back and forth of praise and hate, will either party prosper?
It depends on how you measure success, and from my research, numbers don’t lie. According to the Washington Post, after an initial drop when Kaepernick shared the photo, Nike online sales went up 31 percent. The incident got people to talk about the organization, and, whether positive or negative, the Nike brand was pushed to the forefront of their minds. According to Bloomberg, the company received over $43million in media exposure in the first 24 hours, and that continues to grow.
Risking your brand’s reputation is scary, but if it is something you believe in, take a knee and show the world what you stand for.
By Adriana Vivas
Since August, our part of the hemisphere was devastated with multiple class 4 and 5 hurricanes in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and closer to home in Texas and Florida. Additionally, two earthquakes have rocked southern parts of Mexico just days after the first 7.1 earthquake in Mexico City. Many people have lost everything they own in the destruction from these natural disasters. As a PR person, knowing how to respond to natural disasters and connect people in times of devastation is key. Here are some tips on how you as a PR person can help:
- Let people know of your support.
Even if your company/organization was not directly affected by the natural disaster, showing support can demonstrate to your audience and those affected your knowledge of the situation while also adding to your public image. However, try not to overdo brand building in the event of a natural disaster.
- Try to connect your audience with ways they can help.
Posting a link your audience can access to donate toward relief efforts can make a huge difference. Either linking to your company/organization’s website or social media can create awareness your audience might otherwise not have seen. More awareness equals more donations and some donations don’t have to be monetary. Water, food and other goods are being requested by the governments and relief teams who are helping.
- Focus on the communities affected first.
If your company/organization decides to respond, make sure the focus is community first and business second. While it is not wrong to create a better public image of your brand, doing so before directing attention on the community and people affected by the natural disaster can create a negative response.
With these tips in mind, you and your company/organization can not only create a more positive image for your brand, but also make a REAL difference in the lives of those affected by these terrible natural disasters. And remember…
“ We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone” – Ronald Reagan
Before writing this blog, the writer, Morgan Anderson, would like to extend her deepest condolences to the victims and families of those affected by this national tragedy. For the privacy of the victims, names have been omitted.
By Morgan Anderson
On October 1, at 10:08 p.m. local time shots rang out at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. The current total of those injured as of Monday, October 2 at 2:00 p.m. is 515 people injured and 58 deceased. CNN has said, “By the time [James] Paddock was dead, it was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.”
After the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, social media was flooded with information ranging from trying to find any connections to terrorist groups to videos of the tragedy taking place. One group of videos with the hashtag #prayforlasvegas has been shared over 55,000 times on Facebook, and contains graphic video of the shooting, including victims lying down on their stomachs screaming with their necks covered.
On Twitter, tweets are going viral for those looking for loved ones at the concert. Multiple tweets have been issued out by the Las Vegas Police Department on how to find loved ones who were at the concert.
On Snapchat, their news account, “Discover,” has released the snapchat stories of individuals at the concert in a video labeled “Las Vegas Shooting.” This video also had pop-up facts about what happened during each snap. The user-submitted snapchats were edited and compiled by Snapchat, and then released.
This is not the first time that Twitter has expanded its use to help those in need. During Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia and Maria, Twitter was used as a way for people to contact local police and volunteers to get to safety when emergency lines were overflowing.
During times of panic and terror, people turn to social media now more than ever. Twitter gives users the ability to contact anyone, anywhere and get a direct answer quickly. Facebook gives us the ability to connect with family and friends from all over the world. Snapchat gives us the ability to talk to friends and have fun doing it.
These three social media accounts provide the world a new way to deal with disaster. From natural to horrific, social media has grown through the worst events in this century.
I wish I could tell you how hard it was to write this blog. I should never have to write a blog titled “How Disasters Have Expanded the Use of Social Media.” I shouldn’t have to write about how hurricanes and mass shootings have evolved social media, or how instead of calling 9-1-1 because the line is full, they move to Twitter and Facebook begging for help from others.
The truth is, 58 families lost a loved one. Over 20,000 people who attended this concert had their lives changed, and not for the better, and more people know about it because of social media.
Innovative PR extends our deepest condolences to the victims, their family and friends, and everyone impacted by this horrific tragedy.
By Cole Braun
As you go through your Facebook news feeds, there is sure to be headlines for a variety of topics. Many of them are hilarious, or maybe even scary. But you, the public relations professional, know better than to believe everything. But what about your clients you represent, or your own family? Do they know how to differentiate what is based on fact and what is made up for the sake of increasing click-through reports? You can help them with this guide to addressing fake news and how a professional should deal with it.
The first thing to understand is that PR professionals have no business adding fuel to the fake news fire. We all know it has become a problem which is why we must take a stand against it. The Public Relations Society of America addressed fake news with an official statement in January, 2017 saying that, “Truth is the foundation of all effective communications. By being truthful, we build and maintain trust with the media and our customers, clients and employees. As professional communicators, we take very seriously our responsibility to communicate with honesty and accuracy.”
PRSA & The Code of Ethics
If you are familiar with PRSA, or the student organization, PRSSA, you know this organization established a code of ethics that members take seriously. The official statement on alternative facts, reflects on the organization’s code of honesty, saying that members, “adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” If you wish to know more about the PRSA Code of Ethics, please follow here.
The PRSA Statement on “Alternative Facts” was released in January by the organization’s Chair of the Society for 2017, Jane Dvorak, APR and Fellow PRSA. After addressing how the society values its Code of Ethics, she finished by saying, “PRSA strongly objects to any effort to deliberately misrepresent information. Honest, ethical professionals never spin, mislead or alter facts. We applaud our colleagues and professional journalists who work hard to find and report the truth.”
One of the first things we as professionals must do is research. When dealing with information, we must ask, ‘Where did this come from?’ ‘Where does this link back to and who said what?’ You never jump into strange waters without a life preserver, or in this case, the facts.
A Rule of Three
Check your story three times before you take it seriously and hit the share button. You need to see how many people are saying the same thing and, if it is coming from a credible source. If the topic is breaking news, more than one publication will be telling the story.
CNN Correspondent, Brian Stelter said in his report, The plague of fake news is getting worse — here’s how to protect yourself, from October 2016, that there are three general categories related to misleading online information sites.
- Hoax Sites: completely fake
- Hyper-Partisan Sites: Some truth involved but stretched for the sake of the parties involved.
- Hybrid Sites: A mix of fake and fact combined to make a good story.
Whatever their purpose, these sites are not going away anytime soon, so learn to recognize them. Here are some tips found in the same article from CNN, shared by the Sunlight Foundation’s Alex Howard in a tweet:
- Search the source link on Twitter
- Google it
- Check Snopes
- Consider record of source
These are all excellent tips, and you can take it a step further with a Google search of the author’s name to see if they are credible as a reporter.
Open the Floodgates of Positivity
When it comes to combating the fake news epidemic, there are multiple recommendations on what to do.
If you have prepared for a crisis already, you probably have a pre-written response to a situation like this; that’s good! In February 2017, an article on How PR professionals should handle the fake news phenomenon appeared in Agility PR, written by Director of Media Insights Jim Donnelly. Donnelly conducted an interview with Hofstra University Professor and Bloomberg contributor Dr. Kara Alaimo on handling fake news. One question specifically addressed these situations with two or three rules to keep in mind. One positive measure is to have a response ready in advance, because when it comes to experiencing a crisis, every minute counts.
Alaimo also points out making sure you are keeping your client’s values in mind while communicating. If this is something you have been consistently doing before this incident, then it will be no hassle to reference back to, showing your clients’ interests are a priority.
A common question is when is it best to respond?
That answer seems to vary across multiple professionals. In the end, it just depends on the situation. For example, when it comes to internet trolls, it is best to just ignore them so they move along. But when their story trends, then answer with the truth, do not allow yourself to get flustered because that only feeds the trolls.
Alaimo share as well that, “you need to monitor carefully. The time to respond is if a social media post is starting to gain traction amongst stakeholders who are important to the company, such as customers, employees, investors, buyers, or board members.”
Another form of combating fake news is to “flood the media with a positive narrative.” In a November 2016 article for PR Week by Ilyse Liffreing, So your brand is the victim of fake news. Now what? Liffreing shares that you need to embrace the crisis and make the best of it, reversing the dialogue to positive content about what is happening with your brand. Share the truth and back it up with more positivity. If you don’t counter with good news, you could potentially open yourself up to more fake news.
The question now is, where are we headed as a profession in this new era of alternative facts?
The first thing to remember is accountability. Dan Guttridge from Ragan’s PR Daily notes in his March 6 article, PR pros’ role in the fake news epidemic, that we need to hold journalists accountable and “check credibility through facts and sources.” We can even take this a step forward and hold ourselves accountable for what we say to people and how we represent our brand as we traverse this terrain of fake news.
Guttridge shares some more amazing tips as you continue through his article. Here are some other key points we should consider as PR professionals,
- Do your own research.
- Stop reading headlines as facts.
- Expand your world.
That last tip is fascinating because he makes the argument to find some reputable journalist to read and take the time to learn more about what is happening. Speak to people who challenge your views and make you think.
We as PR professionals can provide the cure for the fake news virus. Know that if we keep our integrity and credibility, public relations will thrive in this fight.
By Hali Mieser
Public relations has many different definitions but it all comes down to being “the voice behind the voice.” But what if you were the “voice behind the voice” during a crisis? As a public relations professional, crisis communication is one of the many jobs we take on for our organization.
What is crisis communication?
Crisis communication is the dialog between the organization and its publics prior to, during, and after the negative occurrence. During a crisis, PR professionals must create strategic messages to inform an organization’s key publics about a crisis that has occurred within the organization. In today’s world, social media is an important factor that plays a huge role in the circulation of information. Traditional media outlets, however, are still valuable depending on an organization’s key stakeholders.
With the rapid flow of information, PR professionals have to be “on their toes” at all times. The “golden hour” has now turned into the “golden few minutes” when it comes to disseminating crucial information about an organization’s crisis.
Now you know what a crisis is but how do you handle a crisis?
Crisis management is the process of removing some of the risk and uncertainty from the negative occurrences that an organization could be exposed to which allows the organization to be in greater control of what happens to them. Another thing that allows an organization to be in greater control, particularly during a crisis, is creating and maintaining positive relations with their key publics.
Why are good relationships important?
A positive relationship with the media is imperative when it comes to a crisis. Having a good relationships with the media ensures that they know you are ethical, professional, reliable and accurate in the information you provide.
It is important to maintain a positive relationship within the community in which an organization resides. In the scene of a crisis, the organization knows it can rely on its community and vice versa.
What better way to keep an organization afloat than its employees? Building solid and supportive relationships with an organization’s’ employees and internal publics is important because it makes employees feel a part of the organization and helps them feel valued.
The final group to create positive relations with is the organization’s consumers. It is important to create a mutual bond between the company and its customers. Building this relationship can be as simple as return policies, sales advantages, educational material, open houses, and a complaint system.
Many public relations professionals say it is not a question of if an organization will experience a crisis, but when. Be prepared for these challenges, understanding that being able to add “crisis communication specialist” to your resume will serve you well in the job market.
By Molly Olten
Fine Brothers Entertainment, a popular YouTube channel, recently launched into crisis mode. The creators, known for popular videos such as Elders React to Dubstep and Kids React to Old Computers, announced plans to allow other video makers to “franchise” the brothers’ video formula. These plans also include trademarking the word “react.”
This is where the issues start.
The response from the YouTube community has been overwhelmingly negative. Creators feel threatened that trademarking a vague term like “react” could create numerous problems for other YouTube users and ultimately hinder creativity. Their fears were immediately confirmed as numerous videos were taken down for infringement. Ironically, several YouTubers have made their own reaction videos to the news.
So what can PR professionals learn from all of this?
The Fine Brothers are essentially dealing with a crisis. Although quick to respond, their strategy has not met the needs of the affected audience. Here are three lessons PR professionals can take away from this situation.
Listen to your audience
When their plans to trademark became public, the brothers’ substantial 13 million subscriber audience began to voice its opinions – loudly. In the early stages of the update a dialogue began between the brothers and their audience,
however, eventually as the situation worsened, the brothers backed out. They began deleting negative posts and questions. Bad move.
This amount of backlash deserves to be properly addressed. An audience wants more than anything to be heard. By silencing negative responses, the outrage will only grow. The conversation will be taken somewhere else – somewhere a brand cannot adequately communicate.
Clarify and then clarify some more
Part of the problem with the Fine Brothers’ announcement was their lack of clarity. They didn’t understand the fears of the YouTube community or how this would threaten their creative freedoms. Because of this misunderstanding, the Fine Brothers employed side-stepping language and vague examples. They tried masking the intentions of their initiative. This fueled speculation by concerned audiences and left the consequences up for interpretation.
Although a company may have been planning a change for months, when the announcement is made public, the information is totally new to audiences. There will be plenty of questions, and organizations need to have answers. If they do not receive adequate responses to their questions, the audience will make its own assumptions and this can add to the problem. Clarity is key.
After the storm of protests just a few days after the initial announcement, the brothers uploaded an update video. Despite the fast response, the creators seemed rehearsed and not genuine. It seems that the Fine Brothers still think their audience considers them to be just a couple of guys making funny videos, but this is not the case. Their channel essentially functions as a business, and the viewers know this. Many of those who responded to the update commented on its forced nature and rehearsed appearance.
Audiences know when an explanation is coming from a place of sincerity or insincerity. An obligatory, seemingly forced “sorry” will not suffice when the audience is deeply connected to the issue.
Know your audience, respect it and own up to the mistake.
Eventually, the Fine Brothers realized the error of their ways and decided to back down from trademarks. In an effort to save their reputation, they released a statement recanting all their future plans. Despite this gesture, the brothers’ YouTube channel has suffered significant subscriber loss and serious damage to follower loyalty. Overall, this was the best and only move the brothers could make.
The bigger picture: While this crisis brings up serious questions about trademarks and fair use, PR professionals can take a few notes from the struggle. Know your audience, be clear and be genuine. This is solid advice for nearly any situation, but it’s especially important in crisis situations.
by Nikki McClaran
If you got your iced caramel macchiato at Starbucks last week, you probably found “Race Together” written on your cup. No, this was not a challenge to initiate a store-wide coffee drinking competition, but Starbucks’ attempt at a social awareness campaign about racial inequality.
The idea: Initiate conversation about diversity through your cup of Joe.
The outcome: Serious backlash, a shut-down Twitter account, and the halt of the campaign the week of its launch.
This was not Starbucks first dive into social issues, the Starbucks Foundation being a large part of the global corporation. So, how did this campaign manage to fail so miserably, even with such good intentions? Looking from a purely PR perspective, Starbucks’ committed two missteps that really burnt the beans.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Racial inequality has been a serious topic in the news this past year with headlines from the Ferguson, Mo. crisis and Eric Garner’s death. Unlike Starbuck’s past campaigns that addressed AIDS and jobs in America, this social issue stands out in that it is at a peak of tension with two distinct sides. Making customers believe that Starbucks was truly invested in the issue rather than being financially opportunistic required thorough planning- something Starbucks failed to do.
Planning comes at all levels, and not only did the corporate executives not know how to handle the situation (spoiler: that’s next), the baristas didn’t either. Videos of baristas being unaware of the program or not wanting to discuss it began popping up all over the web.
Starbucks, I get that you’re a big company and it’s hard to get everyone on the same page, but with such a heated topic, better preparing the ones who are primarily responsible for executing the campaign might be a good idea, especially since you were just accused of creating gentrification. It could prevent you coming off as a money-hungry corporation, seeking to capitalize on sensitive issues.
Brew up a crisis plan, and actually follow it.
Social media is like coffee. It has the ability to brighten your day and energize all of your efforts, but it also has the capability to give you really bad breathe before that 8 a.m. meeting. As an active social media beast, you would think that Starbucks is prepared for the negative consequences social media can bring, but that didn’t seem to happen. Almost immediately after its launch last Sunday, Starbucks began receiving serious Twitter backlash.
— Cameron Gray (@Cameron_Gray) March 17, 2015
Doing my part to #racetogether by saying “Django” when asked by the starbucks barista for my name.
— Desus Nice (@desusnice) March 21, 2015
Did Starbucks start their #RaceTogether thing yet? I’m about to get an iced coffee and need to know if I should bring my Baldwin quotes.
— Marquita (@MarqRobinson) March 20, 2015
I’m assuming (and hoping) that Starbucks had a crisis plan established, yet rather than follow it, they responded the worst way you probably could- they didn’t. Corey duBrowa, Starbucks’ senior vice president of communications, fueled the fire by supposedly blocking Twitter accounts that responded negatively to Race Together and deactivating his own account. Bad move, duBrowa.
— Brianna Leigh (@raininblack) March 17, 2015
And now Starbucks’ chairman and CEO, Howard Shultz, is defending that the halting of the campaign as planned and intended. I hope this is true, rather than a last-minute attempt to justify the company’s actions.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to visit Starbucks for my soy, no foam latte. Honestly, Starbucks has done a great job with social media engagement and humanitarian events in the past. This just wasn’t Starbucks’ cup of tea and from it we can see the value in proper campaign planning and crisis management. Want to espresso your thoughts? Comment below.
by Jordan Rafferty
Facebook and Apple are two leading competitors in their industries, always staying one step ahead of the game. Apple recently released a new iPhone and iPad, while Facebook has surpassed 1.35 billion active users. Both share a competitive nature, so it’s no surprise when they both make the same announcement, creating quite a stir.
Both companies announced a new employee “benefit” for women. They offer female employees $20,000 to cover the cost of two rounds of freezing their eggs. Apple released a statement saying, “We want to empower women at Apple to do the best work of their lives as they care for loved ones and raise their families.”
My first reaction to these announcements was a positive one. I commend them for being ahead of the game (or so I initially thought. A few other companies offer similar benefits). Women are now having children much later in life because they want to focus on their careers or finding the right partner. Facebook and Apple noticed this trend. Yet, 43 percent of women leave their careers because they have children (according to theatlantic.com). By offering to pay for the delay of children in a female employees life, they are able to keep their staff longer, and it’s enabling women to rise up to higher positions because they stay with the company for longer periods of time.
Social media reaction
So, I am really excited about this announcement, and then I get on Twitter, Facebook and Google News. Some people do not like this one bit. There has been far more backlash than either company anticipated. Here are a couple tweets I saw on my feed:
People are concerned that Apple and Facebook have the ulterior motive of forcing women to put the company first and a family last. This is a concern that could address by communicating to their publics on the issue. Some are also concerned with the health risks of the procedure itself.
I went from excited to sad for Apple and Facebook in a matter of minutes. In my heart I believe the companies are trying to do the right thing, but I can’t help but think that they should have done the research to anticipate the negative reaction. Remember the first step of the RACE model? Research, Research, Research. You never know what you will come across. The smallest detail could make or break you.
I read a number of the articles on Google News and,according to alternet.org, hyperstimulation of the ovaries (the freezing process) uses what some see as an aggressive and potentially dangerous hormone therapy that uses non-FDA regulated drugs. Those opposed believe a number of things can go wrong with this process, like punctured ovaries or organs, abdominal bleeding and other complications. Bloggers and Twitter users alike are concerned with the risks to the procedure and are questioning why Facebook and Apple even agreed to offer such a thing to their employees. Some feel that by offering to pay for this the companies are basically saying that families are not important.
Communicate with your publics
I searched to see if Apple or Facebook ever responded to the negative reactions, but so far I haven’t found a thing. The fact that I haven’t seen a response concerns me. Sure, there are other things going on with the companies, but they should be communicating with their audiences. As a PR specialist I would suggest responding early. Tweet back to those concerned and reassure their audiences that they do, in fact, care about families. They are just offering to pay for the procedure, and not every female employee has to do. Like Apple said in their statement when they made the announcement, they are empowering women. There are women who want to hold off on having children, and Apple and Facebook are making that possible.
by Amanda Plachte
After almost two years of legal disputing, the Beastie Boys and Monster Energy have settled their copyright infringement case with $1.7 million awarded to the former. Following Monster Energy’s 2012 release of its promotional video for the annual snowboarding competition, Ruckus in the Rockies, the Beastie Boys discovered the unauthorized use of some of their songs. Not only did the two surviving members of the New York-native trio, Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, consider this stealing but they feel that the video also implied an endorsement for the energy drink brand on the band’s behalf. Formed in 1981, the Beastie Boys agreed long ago to never permit the commercial use of their work.
As mentioned in this Chicago Tribune article, Monster Energy’s attorney, Reid Kahn, acknowledged his client’s erroneous infringement but claims that the error falls upon an individual employee whom mistakenly believed to have obtained the permission. In response to the allegations of an implied third-party endorsement, Kahn says the claims are “contrary to common sense” and the band is spinning a “tale of an insidious corporate conspiracy”.
Representing the Beastie Boys, attorney Kevin Puvalowski says of Monster, “They didn’t care if their employees were stealing.”
Because you can’t, you won’t and you don’t stop
…Defending your good name, that is. In many ways, situations like this just become a giant mess of “he said, she said,” So, what can an organization such as Monster do when its name gets associated with a crisis?
Author Dennis Bailey believes the key to handling a crisis is with a dark website. In his October 2012, post, Why a Dark Website Should be in Your Crisis Management Plan, Bailey explains that it is a web page or a website that is prepared well in advance of any crisis. It sits on the company’s server invisible to the public; however, should a crisis hit, the dark website is quickly modified and published, providing all the latest information concerning the crisis. Basically, it is a powerful PR trick up your sleeve.
The dark site should contain:
- All the available facts about the crisis – what happened and what specific steps the company is taking to respond.
- Special instructions telling those affected by the crisis what they must or must not do.
- Background information and an FAQ about the company and any relevant information that promotes a better understanding of what the company does and how the crisis occurred.
- Contact information and email addresses for the news media.
- Statements from the top company officials.
- Contact information for members of the public affected by the crisis (a 24-hour toll-free line is best, along with a Twitter feed and hash tag).
- Regular and timely updates.
When a crisis occurs, the company website is one of the first places that people will look for information. If there is no current information regarding the crisis, or worse, the website has a “business as usual” feel and it can make the company look bad. In the face of a crisis, an organization must make every attempt to stay on top of the situation. Having information readily available for the public is just one of the ways to do just that.
Not to pick on Monster, but Bailey uses them as a case-and-point example. After the deaths of several people were associated with the consumption of the highly caffeinated energy drinks, Monster’s website was still full of athletes, race cars and the signature “Monster Girls.” Although the company had released a statement defending its brand, Monster did nothing to provide up-to-date information on its website. This can only cause people to get their news elsewhere.
It’s not how you play the game; it’s how you win it
Unfortunately, no website, regardless of how much information is provided, is going to save an organization in the courtroom. A dark website would not have affected Monster’s court case with the Beastie Boys; however, in the PR world, we know that the court of public opinion can have a much stronger impact on the image of a company. Efforts such as a strong crisis management plan can be the saving grace in a situation like this. Maybe next time, Monster.
By Elissa Huck
Public relations professionals wear many hats and must be able to multi-task in order to fulfill several duties; they maintain media relations, internal and external communications and marketing functions. One significant responsibility of today’s PR professionals is crisis communications. A crisis is a major occurrence that could negatively impact a company. Any company in any industry can face a crisis and this week, American Airlines had to deal with an unexpected turn of events on Twitter.
A possible terrorist threat
Sunday, April 13, a 14-year-old girl with the Twitter username @QueenDemetriax and named “Sarah” tweeted at American Airlines, “hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye.” American Airlines responded, “Sarah, we take these threats very seriously. Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.” Feeling threatened, Sarah posted a frenzy of sporadic tweets expressing it was a prank and pleading for the company not to take legal action.
Her “social media meltdown” portrayed both her fear of getting in trouble along with insincere and questionable updates about her growing number of followers and more. American Airlines removed its response, and Sarah’s Twitter account was suspended, but not before garnering nationwide attention. “We took it down basically because it generated a lot of traffic,” American spokeswoman Dori Alvarez told the New York Daily News. “We took it down so we could better focus on our customers.”
The next day, Sarah turned herself in to the police in the Netherlands. She is being interrogated, and the exact intention behind her prank threat is being investigated. Many who witnessed the intense Twitter exchange believe that American Airlines was too harsh on the young girl, and others believe that she rightfully deserves her punishment. The public has taken to Twitter to fervently defend and condemn Sarah’s actions.
Evaluating the threat as a developing crisis
I learned in my strategic crisis communications class that crises have five stages: detection, prevention/preparation, containment, recovery and learning. Examining the situation from a crisis perspective, American Airlines detected the threat as a prodrome, or warning sign, to a potential terrorist attack and worked to prevent the crisis by responding in a firm, deliberate manner.
The company made efforts to contain and recover from the developing crisis by deleting the Twitter responses to stop people from encouraging the behavior so the posts would not get out of control. American Airlines can learn from the situation by evaluating the positive and negative outcomes in order to be prepared for a similar occurrence in the future. Whether or not the terrorist threat was real, the company took immediate necessary action in order to keep its customers out of harm’s way.
Photo courtesy of: http://www.PRdaily.com