The Internet can make things more difficult for a business that is in the midst of addressing a crisis. For instance, if a company provides a less-than-satisfying response to a problem, its lackluster PR will make the rounds on the Internet virtually overnight. With that in mind, we take a look at some recent public relations gaffes and what can be learned from them.
Don’t Shift Blame. When Lululemon founder Chip Wilson was asked about quality problems with the company’s new yoga pants, he laid the blame on fat people. Essentially, he stated that heavy women were wearing pants that were too tight and “quality problems” were instead, fat thighs rubbing together.
Don’t Antagonize Consumers. Daiquiri Factory, a bar in Spokane, Washington, recently named one of its drinks, Date Grape Koolaid. This sparked thousands of dislikes and comments on its Facebook wall, as many people were incensed that the name made light of date rape. Rather than responding sensitively, the owner took to Facebook, making light of complaints and suggesting that people were overreacting and not “smart enough.”
Don’t Be Thoughtless. Ironically, PR executive Justine Sacco created a major blunder when she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Within hours, her tweet had spread worldwide and her employer called it outrageous and offensive. Not long thereafter, she was let go from her job.
Don’t Practice Deception. After Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said that the company opposes gay marriage, a PR crisis ensued. The situation continued to grow more troubling for Chick-fil-A as its happy meal toy supplier decided to sever its relationship with Chick-fil-A because of its stance on same-sex marriage. This compounded Chick-fil-A’s PR problem and some believe that the company then created a fake Facebook account to defend itself in the media. (Note: although the company denies this, the Facebook account in question had only recently been created, used a stock photo, and only commented on issues concerning Chick-fil-A ).
Don’t Be Indifferent/Remorseless. For 13 years, Lance Armstrong vehemently denied taking performance enhancing drugs. When he finally appeared on Oprah to admit that he lied, many said that his apology seemed forced and he appeared to lack remorse.