Content Rescues Brands From
The Edge Of Disaster

When a PR disaster strikes, brands are quick to turn to social media — particularly Twitter — to extinguish the flames. But that 140 character limit can be prohibitive when dealing with an emotionally-charged situation.

Bank of America felt it in early July after responding to tweets from the anti-corporate activist group Occupy L.A. with dozens of seemingly automated responses. Taco Bell felt it this summer when a rogue employee licked a taco shell and tweeted about it. British Airways experienced the wrath of a customer so outraged that he spent $1,000 to complain via promoted tweets.

In the aftermath, many blame brands for being unsympathetic or careless , but that’s often not the case. Brands are simply adjusting to a world where communication with consumers is growing more complex. Social media is a good place to start fixing a situation, but often, a brand needs to tell a longer story. That’s where having a strong brand-publishing practice comes in handy.

Long-form content allows brands to be more thoughtful. They can blend perspectives from a myriad of stakeholders and point audiences towards resources, clear explanations, and constructive solutions. And if the brand publishing and legal teams are in sync, that content can be created, distributed, and approved before a situation reaches Def-Con 4.

Just take a look at the following three examples:

In 2011, a video went viral of a FedEx employee throwing a fragile package over a fence. Needless to say, customers were pretty unhappy. The incident warranted an in-depth explanation and apology. And that’s exactly what FedEx provided through a blog post and video that explained how they were remedying the situation.

What is even more commendable is the fact that almost two years later, the apology is still online. A similar incident happened to FedEx several weeks ago, when another video of a driver carelessly tossing packages emerged. Yet again, the company responded with a thoughtful video apology.

By explaining the situation and the actions being taken to rectify it, FedEx successfully reminded consumers of its commitment to quality.

In 2012, JetBlue ran into PR trouble when a pilot lost his cool and started screaming about bombs, Iraq and Afghanistan on a full flight from New York to Las Vegas. The company responded to tweets about the incident with links to a blog post that kept people updated on the flight’s status. That allowed the airline to take charge of the situation and reduce the chance of crazy rumors running wild.

And in 2010, Graco initiated a widespread product recall of unsafe cribs. Rather than keep the information quiet, the company created a hub of in-depth information about the recall and aggressively directed consumers to that information via social media. Recalling 1.2 million strollers certainly hurt Graco’s bottom line, but the brand survived.

If you think that this can’t happen to you, remember that even the most beloved brands experience PR disasters. Look no farther than Lululemon’s see-through-pants debacle. In such a situation, two things can help: a PR disaster plan and a strong brand-publishing infrastructure.

(But if worst comes to worst, you can just tweet out pictures of your CMO in sheer stretchy pants!)


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