Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: More Brand Reputations at Risk after a Week of Crises

This week has been chock full of public relations crises, desperate attempts to repair reputations, and chaos caused by the viral nature of social media. A crisis usually descends upon brands without warning. It begins to spin out of control, taking on a life of its own. Even if brands invest big money on managing their reputation, when a crisis hits brands are often left completely unprepared.

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary — we look at five brands that have been hit by crises, are scrambling to do damage control, and are trying to regain some semblance of a solid reputation.

AIG Launches PR Campaign on YouTube in Hopes of Repairing Public Image (The Washington Post)

It’s no secret that American International Group (AIG) has had to deal with a full plate of damaging reputation issues recently.  It seemed a little ironic when the company announced last year that it would offer reputation insurance for companies experiencing similar public relations disasters. This past week AIG launched a public relations campaign with the hopes of repairing its own reputation. The company posted several YouTube videos declaring that AIG is proud to be an American corporation. The campaign is still too new to know whether it will help change the company’s image. AIG’s YouTube ads convey the story of AIG’s return from the pit of the financial crisis. Watch the new YouTube videos and share your thoughts. Is this enough to help the company redeem themselves from a tragic public relations crisis?

Holy Cow, What a Mess: Chick-fil-A and Its Public Relations Crisis (The Huffington Post)

Last Friday the company behind beloved shows such as “Fraggle Rock,” “Labyrinth,” and “The Muppets” severed ties with Chick-fil-A due to comments from the fast food chain’s CEO’s, citing his opposition to same sex marriage. Huffington Post contributor Mark Pettit, president and CEO of Creaxion, analyzes the crisis from three angles: he loves eating Chick-fil-A, he is a public relations expert with 20 years of experience working with companies and CEOs in crisis, and he is an openly gay male. Pettit explains that in order to move forward from this crisis, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy needs to make a public apology for his recent anti-gay marriage comments. While Chick-fil-A is a privately held company, it is publicly supported. The big message in this whole mess is that “brands need to realize that at some point, they become bigger than the CEO.”

Athlete Apologizes for Tweet that Got Her Expelled from Olympics (Ragan’s PR Daily)

How long will it take for people to realize that social media can be viewed by just about anyone and once you post you are accountable for your words? Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou issued an apology on Wednesday, July 25, after her nation’s Olympic committee expelled her from the London Games because of a tasteless tweet sent out just days before. Papachristou issued an apology expressing great regret for her online actions. According to numerous reports, her uncouth comments went viral, offended thousands, and provoked a ton of backlash via social media responses.

Burger King Employee Makes a Whopper of a Mistake (The Drum)

A Burger King Ohio employee posted a photo on the online image board 4chan of someone in black pants and black shoes standing atop two tubs of Burger King lettuce. The photo included a caption which said, “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King.” Shortly after the photo was posted, users had extracted GPS data from the photo and were able to determine the location of the employee’s Burger King franchise, located in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Burger King issued a statement saying, “Food safety is a top priority at all Burger King restaurants and the company maintains a zero-tolerance policy against any violations such as the one in question.” The three employees involved were terminated.

The WSJ’s James Taranto Has a Provocative Thought About Aurora! (New York Magazine)

Four of the victims in last week’s Aurora movie theater massacre were killed while shielding their girlfriends from gunfire with their own bodies. The Wall Street Journal ‘s James Taranto tweeted his thoughts on this act of bravery and ignited a fire storm of negative response. His tweet read, “I hope the girls whose boyfriends died to save them were worthy of the sacrifice.” The response over this tweet was too heated for Taranto to remain quiet. He therefore apologized and acknowledged that the “failure of public communication is the fault of the public communicator.”  Taranto also offered an explanation for what he meant by his original tweet, but it seems it may have fallen on deaf ears.

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

1 Comment

  • Good (chilling) recap, Nicole, of a week filled with “exciting” examples of how social media can help…and hinder a corporation’s or an individual’s chances of success.

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