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Friday Five: When Flawless Isn’t Good Enough

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You brainstorm for the worst crisis scenarios you can imagine. You discuss situations that your company may encounter and then you plan a crisis communication strategy that is impeccable. When that worst-case scenario comes true, you implement your plan flawlessly. Yet, even the best crisis communication may not save a brand’s reputation, especially when it is a repeat offender.

In this week’s Friday Five – PRSA’s take on the week’s biggest news stories – we’ll take a look at Petco’s crisis communication response and discuss four other PR lessons we learned this week.

Here’s what we learned this week:

1. Instagram is Launching an Ad Platform with Shopping Links

If your company or clients have been avoiding Instagram, now may be the time to reconsider. This week, Instagram is launching ads with action buttons such as “shop now” or “sign up now” along with targeting tools and new ad styles. There is also a new API that lets communication professionals automate their ads, as well as track and measure their campaigns.

With more than 300 million users, Instagram may be the perfect platform to capture your target audience through images. Image-rich content can be a boon for brands; especially those who rely on pictures to capture audience attention, such as travel and tourism and sometimes technology. However, as debated in the past, Instagram users may not be thrilled with the prospect of seeing more ads in their feeds, especially those prompting them to shell out money. As more brands give Instagram ads a test drive, we will be sure to see the results of using this new platform and (maybe more importantly) what it means for Instagram’s engagement numbers.

2. Sometimes Even a Flawless PR Response to a Crisis Isn’t Enough

This week, a Virginia Petco was under fire for causing the death of a dog due to the negligence of one of their employees. After dropping her two-year-old pup off for a routine grooming, Allison Marks was heartbroken to learn that Colby had suffered from heat exhaustion in a drying unit at the store because the employee attending to him left to attend a graduation.

Many people consider their pets a part of their family, so it’s understandably heartbreaking when a pet dies, especially in a preventable accident. As a company that specializes in pet care, Petco’s response to the incident was both caring and sympathetic to the owner. Although Petco implemented textbook crisis response methodology in this incident and took full responsibility, it will take much more than an apology and a promise of an investigation to halt this crisis for the company.

3. Combating a Diversity Problem Takes Time (Even for Google)

Last year Google admitted that the company struggled with a lack of gender and racial diversity among its employees. A year later, Google has made progress, but not as much as you’d think. For example, the percentage of women working at Google increased one percentage point to 18 percent, but the percentage of African Americans and Hispanics held steady at one percent and two percent respectively.

While Nancy Lee, vice president of people operations, told USA TODAY that the company is seeing “a lot of positive trends” there is still a long way to go before Google’s workforce represents the diversity of the public. In order to do so, the company must invest in the education of women, African Americans and Hispanics at a young age. If they stay committed to this goal, they may eventually reach it, but only after many years and many dollars spent. For a project that may simply provide a PR boost, this may be a hard sell to management. As for the immediate future, Google should reconsider their tactics now that they see miniscule results after one whole year of work.

4. TLC Finds Itself in Hot Water as Reality Stars Behave Badly

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar broke their silence about their son Josh Duggar’s molestation of five young girls when he was still a teenager, but not as you might expect. The Duggars appeared on Fox News’ “The Kelly File” to say that the victims “didn’t know or understand” what happened because it happened while they were asleep. The Duggar parents also aimed to downplay the situation by saying “this was not rape or anything like that.” I don’t know if it’s possible to generate a talking point that is any worse.

Regardless of how you feel about the Duggars and this revelation, from a PR perspective TLC’s response will have to be clear, concise and direct. While the station has already pulled the “19 Kids and Counting” program from its lineup, they apparently have been discussing a spin off featuring a few of the Duggar daughters. It could be predicted that such a move might create a backlash that could result in additional negativity towards the network. At this point TLC has also yet to make an official comment on the situation, which is an inexplicable way to handle a crisis.

5. GLAAD Helps the Media Discuss Caitlyn Jenner

As Caitlyn Jenner’s debut evolved into a media frenzy, one group took the opportunity to share dos and don’ts with journalists to assist with their reporting on the topic. According to PR Week, GLAAD sent tips to journalists for how to properly cover Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover.

When there’s a story as big as Jenner’s, we often see inappropriate “brand-jacking” at certain times. Yet, GLAAD took this opportunity to educate journalists, and in turn, educate Americans, a vastly more effective strategy than others have tried in the past. Jenner’s visibility has allowed the group to inform the country through the media, which is especially important in this case since only eight percent of Americans personally know someone who is transgender. We hope that other PR and communication pros are taking notes.

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.

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