Brand Reputation Management is “Why” every brand needs a marketing crisis plan.
Kathy Griffin’s headshot seen around the world is another reminder of how using spokespeople as the face of a brand can be risky. CNN and Squatty Potty discovered how quickly public opinion can turn ugly in today’s all-knowing, all-seeing, all-opinionated lightning-fast digital world we live in.
Other brands have felt the crushing weight of an unhappy internet. Just ask Subway (Jared Fogle), Aflac (Gilbert Godfried), Verizon (Rapper Ackon), Kellogg’s (Michael Phelps), Nike (Lance Armstrong), Gatorade, AT&T, and Gillette (Tiger Woods), Slim-Fast (Whoopi Goldberg), and Walmart (Paula Dean).
Companies can be oblivious one day and then play the “what just happened” hot potato corporate boardroom game (a la Chipotle) the next day. In the past, a nicely worded PR piece about how the company is looking into the issue or a talking head on NBC Nightly News would have been enough. Today’s marketing companies and PR departments have minutes not hours or days or weeks to get out in front of potentially damaging and profit-losing situations.
So what’s a brand to do when a celeb goes rogue? The answer lately seems to be – to fire them and try to put as much distance between the celeb and brand as quickly as possible. I have to assume that companies engaging with celebs and spokespeople have clauses outlining behavior that will terminate a contract. And even with these agreements brands are getting burned. Within a day or two, Kathy Griffin was let go from her CNN New Year’s Eve hosting gig and Squatty Potty pulled its spokeswoman contract.
The problem with this reputation management strategy is it has a short shelf life. I predict the internet will be a buzz in the days around New Year’s Eve about Kathy Griffin and CNN. The internet – is a gift that keeps on remembering. Thank you, Al Gore. The only saving grace for CNN and Squatty Potty was Kathy Griffin’s stunt was quickly overshadowed by Bill Maher’s inexcusable attempt at humor on HBO’s Real Time later that week. The internet turned its scorn on Bill and let Katy off the hook quicker than it usually does.
A higher-level reputation management move is to establish and maintain an internal marketing/PR crisis management team. A group of employees at every level (especially Social Media team members) whose sole purpose is to prepare for a brand’s worst nightmare. Dreaming up devastating scenarios and what or who could go sideways seems pretty easy to do nowadays. Planning who’s on first and what the communication plan will become paramount. If the folks on the front lines (social media platform managers) are not typing the same words as the CEO would type then your company isn’t prepared for an epic PR crisis.
Get your team together today as it will undoubtedly be too late when a crisis is unfolding. It’s not a matter if a PR/social media/internet issue will explode at your company – it’s flat-out going to happen.
Will your brand be ready?
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