Lessons to learn from a content or PR crisis

Author: Philippa Lowe
Published: 16th April 2019

Lessons to learn from a content or PR crisis

The world of content — particularly content posted on social media — can be incredibly fast-paced. It’s no wonder that in everyone’s rush to stay on top of the latest fad and breaking news, plenty of people make embarrassing mistakes. So what can we learn from the mistakes others have made in the past and what should we do if we ever find ourselves in hot water?

From typos to bad timing, there are plenty of mistakes just waiting to be made:

Adidas found this out when they sent an email to Boston Marathon runners in 2017, congratulating them because they had ‘survived’ the race. It was a thoughtless subject line that put them under plenty of scrutiny from the public.

Lunya, a lingerie company, decided that in the lead up to the Season 2 premiere of hit TV show The Handmaid’s Tale in 2018, they would release a lingerie line inspired by the series. Naming a piece ‘Offred’ after the lead character in the series, many audience members thought their choice was tone deaf considering the subject matter of the series — namely, the complete dis-empowerment of women.

Back in 2010, Penguin Australia found themselves scrambling to respond to a bad typo in a cookbook they had published. Instead of the recipe calling for ‘ground black pepper’, the typo requested cooks to include ‘ground black people’. The public were outraged, rightly so, and 7,000 copies of the book were destroyed, costing the publisher around $20,000.

After a photo of footy star Tayla Harris kicking a goal in a recent game received comments from trolls on Channel 7’s social media platforms, the media organisation removed the photo. Their choice to remove the photo rather than to manage and remove offensive comments received plenty of backlash from fans.

What can we learn?  

Respond quickly, but not reactively

Getting fired up in the heat of the moment never does you any good — whether it’s online or in person. Respond as quickly as you can when you’ve made a mistake but make sure your response is measured and fair — perhaps being looked over by several people before releasing it. Leaving the issue hanging in the air un-addressed either makes your organisation look like you have no action plan or that you don’t care at all.

Don’t be afraid to apologise

Lunya, the lingerie company, did not apologise for their homage to Offred — they saw it as a celebration of the character (despite the fact that the character’s real name is June — Offred was the name given to her by the people she is enslaved by). Their refusal to apologise or to make any changes to their release left consumers feeling disconcerted. It’s important to recognise when a brand decision or piece of content has missed the mark — letting pride get in the way can be extremely detrimental to your business.

Be transparent

Social media is forever, as they say, and if you try to sneakily change your mistake without your audience realising, you’ll likely be caught out. In the case of Channel 7, their attempt to quietly diffuse the issue by deleting Tayla Harris’ photo caused them more trouble than they had anticipated. Many times people won’t mind if you made a typo or misspoke but it’s important to be upfront and honest. Adding a simple ‘edited for clarity/spelling/accuracy’ will show your audience that honesty and transparency is important to you.

Create a solution

It’s not enough to respond and apologise. Be upfront with your customers and make them aware that you now have something in place to prevent this mistake from happening again. Perhaps it’s just as simple as making sure every piece of content goes past two pairs of eyes before being published. Then again, maybe you need a strict guide for the tone of voice your business will be using or maybe you need a firm social media policy.

It’s important to remember that there is no blanket response — every crisis is different and will call for a different response. Make sure you are careful and considered in the way you handle any issues.

Got yourself into some hot water recently? Incredible Communications can help. Email us at http://www.incrediblecommunications.com.au/#contact or call 0414 711 107.