Crisis Management

Marketing Needs PR: Handling Crisis

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more of a convergence between marketing and PR. The shift comes, I feel, as a result of the increasingly blurred lines between advertising and public relations as I mentioned in a previous blog, but also in part because marketing is so much more in the public eye than ever before as a result of personal brands.

As marketers today, it’s not uncommon for us to look at influencers, sponsor social content, and engage bloggers with opportunities to invest our marketing budgets. These approaches, one could argue, would typically have been part of a PR campaign, but with this paradigm shift many of us in marketing are taking note and making sure our marketing strategies include public relations.

The need for PR as part of your marketing can be highlighted in a situation of crisis. We see it almost daily: big brands make headlines after a bad social media post or a viral video, and because now bad social means bad PR and bad PR can mean a loss in customer and brand loyalty, these PR crises can become marketing nightmares.

As marketers, we need to have resources at hand to handle any scandal or branding nightmare. It’s important to have a plan in place should a crisis develop. In true PR fashion, but with a marketing twist, here are my tips for handling a branding crisis.

 Act quickly- but not recklessly

Once you’ve heard the bad news, it’s important to gather your team and address the situation. Find out what went wrong, and how you can fix it. If you speak first, you control the story, but it’s important that you have all the accurate information you need before you release any information to the public.

Take responsibility

While you might not feel like this was your fault, if your company was in any way responsible for this crisis, it’s important to take ownership. Shifting the blame around just makes consumers think you are dishonest and untrustworthy.

Create a solution

After you have received all the information needed and have accepted the fact that you need to apologize to the public for what has transpired, you need to come up with a solution. People want to know that you see where things went wrong, and you know how to fix it. After apologizing for your company’s wrongdoing, outline how you are going to ensure this never happens again. Once people know that you are fixing the problem, they will begin to move on.

 Rebuild

In the moment, it feels like this situation will completely ruin your business, but it’s important to remember that eventually, a new scandal comes along and people will forget about your organization’s indiscretion. In your effort to rebuild your brand, focus on creating positive buzz for your company, especially if it counteracts the original scandal.

I hope scandal never erupts in your business, but better to be prepared, which is why I advise clients to have a crisis PR plan in place as part of their marketing strategy. This will allow your business to act quickly and effectively, making sure your organization and brand comes out unscathed.

Case Study: How Strategic Crisis Management Can Save Your Brand

tylenol

Good brands are not immune to disasters, and disasters have the capability of ruining relationships you have spent time and money on building with your customers (such is the case with Jian Ghomeshi’s personal brand right now!).

Although there have been many large brands that have suffered brand crisis’s, I wanted to highlight Maple Leaf Foods and Johnson & Johnson’s because I particularly liked the way they handled themselves in brand crisis’s that had the potential to seriously damage their businesses.

The two case study’s below underscore the need for having a successful brand management strategy in place to help you navigate your brand out of whatever sticky situation you may be in.

Maple Leaf Foods

On August 23, 2008 a Toronto Maple Leaf Foods plant was involved in the outbreak of the food-borne illness, Listeria, caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. One day later, Maple Leaf recalled 23 of its products that were distributed the previous week, and the company estimated the recall would cost it at least $20 million.

So what did Michael McCain, the CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, do to help repair what brand damage had been done? He held press conferences and posted a public apology on the company’s website. Another spokeswoman from Maple Leaf Foods hosted interviews with a wide range of media, and they ran TV spots and advertisements in newspapers. Their strategic approach reassured customers that the risk was gone, and that they could feel confident in Maple Leaf Foods once again.

Johnson & Johnson

In Chicago in 1982, the leading painkiller medication in the United States at the time faced a horrible crisis when seven people died after taking extra-strength Tylenol that had been laced with Cyanide. Bottles of Tylenol were tampered with and once the connection was made between Tylenol and the reported deaths, public announcements were made to warn people about consuming the product. As a result, it’s market share decreased.

Pretty bad, right? Well, it could have ruined their business, but Johnson & Johnson was quick to respond and immediately removed the product from shelves across the US, which accounted for about 31 million bottles, and a loss of more than $100 million. They also stopped all advertising for the product. After, they reintroduced their product to the market with a three-way, tamper-proof bottle. They offered customers a $2.50 coupon on the purchase of their products, and over 2250 sales people made presentations for the medical community to restore confidence that had been lost. Within a year, they had regained their market share.

What’s your brand crisis management strategy? How important do you think having a strategy in place is? To be a tad controversial and push the limits: Do you think there is anything Jian Ghomeshi can do to repair his personal brand? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and insights in the comment section below.