When the sales or marketing department comes up with a feasible idea that they believe is a terrific way to create “buzz,” increase sales or encourage website traffic, management may not think twice before giving the project a green light. However, before announcing this idea to the world, the public relations leadership must be involved in the planning process. While some executives may see this as unnecessary, there are many examples that prove the opinion of a good public relations professional may prevent unforeseen crises and avert irrecoverable damage to a brand’s reputation.
In this week’s Friday Five – PRSA’s take on the week’s biggest news stories – we’ll discuss how good public relations strategy could’ve prevented #PrimeDayFail for Amazon and share four other lessons for PR professionals.
Here’s what we learned this week:
1. Even Beloved Giants like Amazon.com Can Fail Spectacularly
I’ll admit it; I was excited to take advantage of the “bigger than Black Friday” sales on “Amazon Prime Day.” Like many Amazon Prime members, I loaded my wish list and waited for the sales to pop up. Instead of massive flat screen televisions and top of the line appliances, Prime members were greeted with inexpensive and seemingly random items at small discounts. After a few hours of lackluster sales on even more lackluster products, people took to social media to complain, using the hashtag #PrimeDayFail.
— Matthew James Morgan (@MattMO2Go) July 15, 2015
Still, after what felt like endless droves of criticism, Amazon’s sales were up. But I must ask, at what cost? Yes, Amazon Prime Day most certainly drove web traffic and sales, but it also disappointed the company’s most loyal customers. From a public relations perspective, you have to wonder if this stunt hurt Amazon’s reputation. Will customers ultimately lose trust in Amazon or be willing to take a chance with another promise? One day of increased sales may hurt the online retailer in the long run.
2. If You Deserve an Award, Don’t “Buy” It
Even some who supported Caitlyn Jenner through the past several months were scratching their heads at ESPN’s decision to give her the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the network’s annual ESPY awards ceremony. Many angry viewers took to social media to complain about the selection including legendary sports announcer Bob Costas, who respectfully criticized the decision calling it an “exploitation play.”
As it turns out, Costas may not have been wrong. According to Radar Online Jenner’s PR team negotiated the award as a part of a package exclusive that included the memorable interview with Diane Sawyer. When negotiations for the award broke down, Jenner’s team reportedly threatened to pull out of the high-profile interview. In 2015, I can’t fathom a media environment where the news wouldn’t be leaked. While I personally recognize the amazing courage it took for Jenner to go through this process publicly, knowing that this was a negotiated stunt cheapens the award and the Jenner’s evolving position as a public advocate. I venture to say that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Let me know in the comments.
3. Uber Goes On the Offensive and Takes NYC Mayor on a Rough Ride
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, someone who has had his fair share of PR snafus, is now under attack from Uber. DeBlasio is looking to limit the number of official licenses that are made available to Uber drivers and other similar ride-hailing companies, but Uber isn’t going to go down without a fight.
According to PRNewser, the popular yet controversial company debuted a television ad calling DeBlasio a “job killer” and updates to its mobile app showing what Uber’s service would look like in New York City under the Mayor’s proposed regulations. (Spoiler Alert: there will be no Uber cars available). Through the new app feature, they ask users to email the Mayor to oppose the new bill. Uber isn’t the first company taking to social media to get public support to fight government regulations and definitely won’t be the last. Only time will tell if this strategy will be successful. Visit PRNewser to view the video and to see a screen shot of the app.
4. Presidential Campaign Not Above the “Blame the Intern” Excuse
While on the presidential campaign trail, Donald Trump tweeted a collage image with the hashtag #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. At first glance, the image looked fine; yet, the social media world soon uncovered that one of the images used in the collage wasn’t of United States soldiers, it was (according to Mother Jones) “the Waffen-SS, the notorious military wing of the Nazi SS.” Oops.
The campaign mentioned that Trump was on the road and blamed the mistake on an intern that created and posted the image without noticing the uniforms. While this seems plausible, when running a campaign that has been as controversial as Trump’s, it’s important to have better oversight and triple check everything that will be made public. This latest mistake from the Trump campaign brings to question the candidate’s credentials and abilities if major public decisions are being made by an intern with no oversight. If Trump’s goal of becoming president is truly a serious venture, his campaign must treat it as such.
5. When Reddit Attacks, It Hurts
If you’ve ever had a blog post or image go viral on Reddit, you understand the power of the site. One successful posting to Reddit can mean more pageviews and engagement than you may have ever seen before. Yet, if you’ve felt the wrath from the Reddit community, you or your clients likely would question why you were there in the first place.
Now, according to PRWeek, PR professionals are further questioning the decision to be on Reddit. Victoria Taylor, a very popular Reddit employee and coordinator for the site’s Ask Me Anything sessions (AMAs) was fired and the community immediately went after interim (and controversial) CEO Ellen Pao in a gruesome manner. PR professionals are rightly advising their clients to be a bit more cautious when using Reddit until the company has stabilized, as backlash can be quick and powerful and a brand cannot have thin skin when involving itself in this highly engaged community.