Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: Corporate Crisis Mismanagement

April is proving to be a difficult month for corporations, with a new set of crises appearing on the damage control radar. This month, communication professionals at a variety of large corporations are feeling the heat due to missteps made under their brands’ names. From employee disputes and insensitive headlines to poor crisis communications strategies and more, many corporations are going into damage control mode to manage these looming crises. No crisis is ever the same, and these examples offer opportunities to gather insight on the best and worst practices when handling potentially damaging situations.

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five”– an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary – we look at the latest crises surrounding big brands. Comcast’s second win of an unflattering title, major McDonald’s mishaps, Self’s controversial photo caption and negative backlash towards Veet’s new campaign are all covered in this week’s post. We also look at takeaways from Malaysia Airlines’ crisis communication strategy.

Comcast earns ‘Worst Company in America’ designation—again (PR Daily)

In keeping with the March Madness trend, Consumerist created a bracket of its own with its area of expertise. The outlet created a bracket for “The Worst Company in America,” which included 32 companies squaring off for the top (or bottom) spot. Comcast ultimately “won” the title, Friday Five Logobut the company had to beat out major names like Walmart, SeaWorld and Bank of America to be named the winner. In the final round, Comcast’s score of 51.5 percent beat Mansanto’s score of 48.5 percent.

This isn’t the first time Comcast has won the title however; the company also won in 2010. The company “took an active role in making sure it didn’t happen again the following year,” an article on Cnet claims, by sending the message to its staff to “vote with your heart to tell America that we are proud of our company.” Despite its efforts, Comcast was unable to escape the title in 2014. For more companies in the bracket, or to view Consumerist’s bracket, visit the article.

More #McFail: Managers Admit to Stealing Employee’s Money (PR Newser)

McDonald’s recently found itself it hot water when two elderly customers were kicked out of one of the restaurant’s locations for sitting too long. To make the situation worse, the chain faces a lawsuit for slave labor. McDonald’s now faces another crisis: two McDonald’s managers admitted to the worker advocacy website Low Pay is Not OK that they were “forced” to steal employee wages. The article includes a video of McDonald’s managers’ accounts of the wage dispute.

Lakia Williams, a manager with six years of experience, explains: “My GM was sitting at the office desk and notified me and four other managers that there was a crew member that went over 40 hours. She was going to take the rest of those hours and put them on the following pay period.” She went on to share that workers with stolen wages “were the 30-to-40-something mothers working multiple jobs at the time where they couldn’t get a full-time work status.” Visit the article for more about McDonald’s crisis.

Self Magazine Editor and Publisher Both Exit at Conde Nast (Advertising Age)

Following the major foul that allowed the printing of a piece calling a cancer patient’s marathon tutu “lame,” Self editor Lucy Danzinger and vice president and publisher Laura McEwen have stepped down. After the photo was published, public outcry ensued, and Danzinger issued a public apology to Monika Allen, the marathon runner and cancer patient being mocked in the article. According to the article, “The controversy had nothing to do with [Danzinger’s] exit, according to a Conde Nast employee with knowledge of the situation.”

Despite the resignation, “Self has been embroiled in a controversy after it ridiculed a new running trend in which women wear tutus using a photo of brain-cancer survivor Monika Allen as she ran the L.A. Marathon. The photo choice sparked an outcry that drew national attention and provoked promises to cancel subscriptions on Self’s Facebook page.” Cosmopolitan executive editor Joyce Chang will replace Danzinger as editor in chief. More about Self’s crisis can be read via the article.

Veet Pulls Its Ad After Creating Hairy Controversy (Mashable)

Veet’s latest tagline, “Don’t risk dudeness,” and its accompanying video ad weren’t well received by audiences. In the commercial “a clean-shaven man wakes up, shocked, next to hairy guy with a woman’s voice — meant to imply that women should shave to avoid looking like hairy dudes.” The video, originally posted on Monday, has been removed from both the company’s website and its YouTube channel after it received backlash on social media and through YouTube comments.

The article includes tweets from men and women firing back at Veet and the campaign. One user posted: “If you concentrate misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and overall wrongness into 30 seconds, you get a #Veet ad.” Another tweeted: “Thank you #veet for reinforcing the idea that women need to shave in order to be deemed wanted or attractive #veetcommercial.” For more about the controversial campaign, and to view the commercial, visit the article.

Malaysian officials out of their depth in MH370 crisis management (The Telegraph)

This article highlights the major missteps made by Malaysia Airlines in the wake of the tragic disappearance of Flight 370. The poor crisis management began when the airline was hesitant to release that it had lost contact with the plane. It was previously reported that the news was shared one hour after contact was lost; however, the information was actually shared five hours later. Family members of the passengers were brought to a Beijing hotel room to await information, which was often unconfirmed or incorrect.

Between the misinformation, seemingly insensitive treatment of relatives and frequent lack of transparency, the Malaysia Airlines crisis showed poor PR performance in many areas. The article offers speculation about how the crisis communications was handled. Editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.com, Geoffrey Thomas, discussed how “the lack of international experience among Malaysia Airlines’ public relations was a problem.” He explained: “Their PR department has been missing in action. It’s when something like this happens you really need them,” he said. Visit the article for more takeaways from the airline’s communication strategy.

Faith Goumas is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.

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