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Friday Five: 5 Brands in Hot Water

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When their products fail and communication goes sideways, it’s usually easy for PR practitioners to predict when a company will likely face a crisis situation. Unfortunately, not so much for the companies themselves; some business leaders don’t seem to realize that they’re being cooked until the water is already boiling.Friday Five Logo

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five”– an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary – we look at five brands that are in hot water over incidents which have the opportunity to tarnish their reputations. We’ll look at FAFSA’s insensitive tweet, GM’s response to yet another recall, KFC’s response to social media backlash and Lululemon’s founder causing even more problems for the brand. We’ll also look at another yeah of less-than-desirable level of customer satisfaction for McDonald’s customers.

FAFSA Cracked An Awful Twitter Joke About Financial Aid Applicants Being Broke (PRNewser)

Student debt has been a greatly debated hot topic in the past few months. Current college students and graduates alike are often angered by the amount of debt they face due to college loans. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many of the followers of FAFSA Twitter feed were  offended when the Federal Student Aid program tweeted a photo of Kristen Wiig delivering the famous “Help me, I’m poor” line from the movie Bridesmaids along with the caption “If this is you, then you better fill out your FAFSA:”

The author of the article, Tonya Garcia, believes that the agency missed the mark with their tweet because they ignored their overarching business goals. “Nobody told FAFSA they had to be funny,” she explained. “All they have to do is encourage college students to apply for financial aid, make sure they get information into the right hands and generally be nice to stressed out parents and co-eds who are confused and overwhelmed.” Read the full article on PRNewser for more and FAFSA’s apology.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra: ‘We failed our customers’ (Ragan’s PR Daily)

It seems that nothing can go right lately for General Motors (GM) and its new, but well-tested, CEO Mary Barra. This week GM stopped selling 2013-2014 Chevrolet Cruze models due to issues with possibly defective air bags. There are also rumors that on top of the stoppage of sales, there also will be a recall of the vehicles already sold.

Had this been the only story involving faulty GM vehicles this year, it probably wouldn’t be such a media spotlight. However, millions of GM vehicles have already been recalled throughout this year. One of the recalls involved a faulty ignition switch, which reportedly caused many more deaths than the 13 reported. In response to media and consumer scrutiny, Barra told Today show anchor Matt Lauer, “Clearly this issue took too long to find. In this case, we failed our customers. We failed them with these vehicles.”

Read the entire story on PR Daily and let us know what you think of Barra’s response in the comment section below.

KFC Suggests Story of Scarred Girl Booted From Store Was a Hoax (Time)

Last week, the internet was abuzz with a story about three-year-old Victoria Wilcher, who, due to the scars on her face resulting from being mauled by pit bulls, was reportedly asked to leave a Jackson, Miss., KFC restaurant because her appearance disturbed other customers.

In response to the increased social media backlash against the company, KFC made a $30,000 pledge to assist with her medical bills. However, now the company is suggesting that the incident was a hoax. Nonetheless, they are standing by their pledge. “As soon as we were notified of this report on Friday, we immediately began an investigation, as this kind of hurtful and disrespectful action would not be tolerated by KFC. Regardless of the outcome of our investigation, we have apologized to Victoria’s family and are committed to assisting them.”

Read more about this topic via Time Magazine.

Lululemon’s Founder Is Causing Problems for Lululemon’s CEO (BusinessWeek)

Here’s a story nobody should be surprised about: Lululemon’s founder Chip Wilson is causing more problems for the company. Lululemon past issues, caused mostly by Wilson, aren’t helping, either. “The company hasn’t really recovered from its transparent pants fiasco last year and recently called its assortment in stores ‘suboptimal.’ Sales this year won’t be as good as it had hoped. Competitors are taking advantage of its troubles.”

According to the article, Wilson may be trying to regain some of his power within Lululemon. His bizarre activity includes voting against the reelection of two board members, including the chairman that replaced him, and complaining that the board is focused on short term results “at the expense of the product, culture and brand and longer-term corporate goals.” The board responded by reelecting the two directors anyway.

Read more about Wilson’s latest antics the article.

Not-so-happy meal: McDonald’s satisfaction lags (USA Today)

For 20 consecutive years, McDonald’s has ranked last in customer satisfaction in a survey of patrons of 12 fast food chains. The survey was completed by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Apparently, the results may not be as terrible as they look for Ronald McDonald and his pals. “McDonald’s has gone from being way lower than the nearest competitor to within striking distance of the rest of the industry,” says Forrest Morgeson, director of research at ACSI. “The bottom is not where you want to be, but at least they’re getting closer to the thick of things.”

McDonald’s claims that they take the survey very seriously, but often blame their size and scope for the results. Do you agree? See how the other fast food brands fared by reading the full article.

About the author

Rosanne Mottola, APR

Rosanne Mottola, APR, is public relations manager for the Public Relations Society of America. She is an adjunct professor of public relations at St. John’s University, Staten Island. Mottola obtained a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from New York University in 2010. You can connect with her on Twitter @RoeMoPR or on LinkedIn.

1 Comment

  • All richly deserve to be in hot water, but only the consumer can express their outrage and disappointment. Stop consuming their products.

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