Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: Brands Recover from Crisis Situations

The news cycle never sleeps, and the bar for what is considered “news” continues to be lowered. One negative article, blog or tweet can snowball and company reputations that have taken years to build can crumble in an instant. And while the success of any business, utility or organization rests firmly on its reputation, some unforeseen crisis is all that’s needed to throw a wrench in a well maintained, honest to goodness reputation.

This week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest PR and business news and commentary — explores some of the methods behind coping and responding to brand crises. The posts we’ve curated examine the significant role that strategic crisis communications planning plays in restoring a brands reputation and how that can increase positive consumer engagement.

JetBlue uses blog to answer questions about pilot (PRWeek)

JetBlue has turned to social media to proactively respond to the recent crisis where one of its pilots had a meltdown onboard during a flight. Clayton Osbon, a pilot at JetBlue for 12 years, was restrained on Tuesday after illustrating “erratic behavior,” causing the plane to make an emergency landing. JetBlue is handling the situation well by being transparent and open with media and consumers. The airline posted a link to its corporate blog on its Twitter and Facebook pages. The blog has 10 of the most asked questions about the incident and answers to them. Rising to the occasion, JetBlue is looking to strategic crisis communications platforms and in return maintaining good brand reputation.

A crisis management plan is your best insurance (Crain’s Chicago Business)

Jake Siewert was on his second day as Goldman Sach’s new corporate communications chief when Greg Smith wrote a scathing op-ed for The New York Times about the financial giant as well as his former employer, as he was on his way out the door. There are a number of views out there about how Goldman Sach’s should be responding to the recent incident. Some think keeping silent is exactly what they should be doing. While others believe taking a stance against Mr. Smith and showing how they put customers first is the right response. Goldman lost $2.15 billion when the stock market took notice of the media storm. Goldman Sach’s responded with a somewhat defensive statement that piled on more criticism. Silence rarely is the best defense in a crisis situation. A crisis management plan is your best insurance, to ensure that all communication senior leaders and staff know what to say and don’t react defensively like Goldman Sachs did.

Skittles, Arizona Iced Tea Caught in No Man’s Land in Trayvon Martin Case (Adweek)

There is such a thing as bad publicity. Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea are two brands on the receiving end of massive amounts of unwanted attention for their cameo appearances in the death of Trayvon Martin. This incident has driven the brands into a divisive, racially charged vortex. Protesters march with the product’s packaging nailed to their signs and are demanding brands to speak out about the situation. Consumers flood Facebook and Twitter accusing these brands of profiting from the publicity. This has now created a colossal image problem. So, what’s a brand to do? Adweek’s David Gianatasio writes his prescription for brands facing unique crises and imaging issues. This spotlight’s not dimming anytime soon, and it’s important for the brands to step up. “The circumstances are unprecedented — so, break precedent,” writes Gianatasio. “Social media is supposed to be about engagement — so, engage. Not doing so in a more humane, forthright and expansive way suggests the brands don’t care, and that erodes equity.”

Toyota Gets Drivers — Of Reputation, and Cars (Forbes)

Reputation is something that is both fragile yet resilient, and Toyota is a perfect example of this resilience. In the last three years, the automaker has recalled more than 10 million vehicles. The most recent was announced earlier this month. Issues leading to the 2009-2010 recalls (related to pedal/floor mat entrapment and accelerator pedal mechanical problems) were widely reported, implying that the company that had built its reputation for quality products actually produced unsafe ones. In efforts to repair their plagued by recall reputation, Toyota has played on that personal relevance card in some very creative, but — more importantly — highly transparent ways. Forbes takes a closer look at some of Toyota’s recent campaigns that solidified Toyota’s efforts to improve their reputation by means of creative honesty.

Apple’s Tim Cook Faces Leadership Challenge on Labor Issues (Post Leadership/ The Washington Post)

The Fair Labor Association, a monitor group, investigating of the working standards at Foxconn, one of Apple’s major suppliers, released a new report Thursday, March 29, which documented at least 50 issues related to the organization’s code of conduct and Chinese labor law, namely the number of hours worked per week by Foxconn workers. Both Foxconn and Apple agreed with the report’s findings and said they would work to implement the Fair Labor Association’s suggestions. For Apple’s Tim Cook, implementing the changes will bring a host of new challenges, too. If Foxconn follows through with the report’s recommendations, it’s hard to see how equipment costs won’t go up — and potentially trickle down to consumers. If that’s the case, Cook could face the wrath of shareholders who, no matter how well they’ve done by Apple, won’t want to see prices on the company’s products increase.Cook’s company leads the industry in brand reputation and breakthrough products, which is why it becomes a necessity for him to lead the industry on this issue as well, urging competitors to follow suit and establishing best practices with suppliers for others to emulate.

 Nicole Castro is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.

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