Rebounding from a PR disaster

A PR disaster is not something that any brand would ever want to go through. And there is plenty of advice on how to avoid one. However, that doesn’t mean that a brand is guaranteed to never suffer one. With that in mind, it’s important to know how to bounce back if your company does ever find itself in the middle of a PR disaster.

Rebounding from a PR disaster
By Darren Gilbert

One such example of bouncing back well is that of Tiger Woods. Vilified after it was uncovered that he cheated on his wife, from 2009 onwards, Woods’ brand was in free-fall. His sponsors left him; his form dropped and his personal life was a shambles. And yet, now, in 2013, he is back to his best and growing his brand once more.

Admit your mistakes 
As Mike Michalowicz, author of The Pumpkin Plansays, it’s important to, once having gone through any PR disaster, admit that you’re wrong. “When your business makes a major mistake, you need to fess up. And better yet, fess up fast,” he says. At the same time, you need to be genuine in your confession. Only then are you able to move forward.

One only has to look at Lance Armstrong’s ‘confession’ to Oprah about taking drugs. It took years for him to admit it; and even when it did, it didn’t really feel that genuine. Will his brand ever bounce back? Perhaps. But only if he expresses contrition for his actions.

Looking even further back, as Kim Bhasin writes on Business Insider, in 1994, Texxaco employees sued the company for racial discrimination. In response, the CEO, Peter Biljur apologies publically and executives visited their branches to personally apologise to their employees.

Stop, drop and move away
Once you’ve admitted your mistake, immediate stop it and move away. “With your business, when things are bad, clean house and start anew. A fresh starting point is much easier to manage than a mix of your bad past and your new future,” says Michalowicz.

In 1996, a link between a Washington E.coli outbreak and Odwalla’s fresh, unpasteurized apple juice was established. After accepting responsibility, CEO, Stephen Williamson recalled all Odwalla products that contained apple juice. Of course, it cost millions of dollars for his company. However, it was the right thing to do. To give the story a silver lining, in 2001, Coca-Cola bought Odwalla for $186 million.

While stopping the production of a product or simply moving in a different direction may affect your company negatively, this should only be viewed as a short-term loss. Your company and its bottom-line will be better off in the long-run. 

Rebuild your brand from scratch 
In rebuilding your brand, you need to ensure that you are not only teaming up with the right people but also that you are picking the right path. Going back to the case of Tiger Woods, he chose a new coach and reworked his golf swing. On the branding side of things, he started dating Lindsay Vonn who is an established and well-liked sportswoman.

“Nothing can repair your bad brand reputation faster than linking up with an established, trusted brand, says Michalowicz. “If an established brand trusts you, consumers’ reason, they can trust you. As you recover, seek an ally with a strong brand that you can link with.”

4 lessons in PR from the Oscar Pistorius trial

The murder trial of South African paralympian, Oscar Pistorius, has since mid-February, dominated the international media landscape. The reason for this fascination stems from the fact that Pistorius, was the poster boy for overcoming seemingly overwhelming circumstances. Here’s a look at four PR lessons your company can learn from the details around his court case.

4 lessons in PR … from the Oscar Pistorius trial
By Lindsay de Freitas

When in crisis: align your message to avoid internal discord
Immediately after Pistorius had been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, his family began weighing in on different aspects of the case. Oscar’s father, Henke Pistorius, allegedly explained to the UK’s Telegraphnewspaper that “Some of the guns are for hunting and some are for protection, the hand guns. It speaks to the ANC government, look at white crime levels [sic], why protection is so poor in this country, it’s an aspect of our society.” Soon after these comments were made, Oscar’s uncle was quoted assaying that the comments didn’t represent the views of Oscar or the rest of his family. However, by then the damage had been done. By not electing one spokesperson when in crisis, you allow everyone to speak, which can lead to confusion and discord both in your company and among the public.

Do not underestimate the importance of media strategy 
On the day following Pistorius’ arrest, his family hired a PR company. Two weeks later, however, the Pistorius family apparently parted ways with Vuma Public Relations. Upon rumours that the split was motivated by Henke Pistorius’ controversial comments regarding the ANC, Vuma spokesperson, Lunice Johnson, has denied this. Judging by the conflicting statements being made by family members as seen above, it would appear that the Pistorius family, are now (more than ever) in need of a media strategist. And without one, it’s far too easy to make mistakes when dealing with the media.

Be wary of celebrity endorsements
Not many other companies have been more dogged by their celebrity ambassadors going ‘rogue’ than Nike. Nike have had the misfortune of seeing a few of their past brand ambassadors being brought into disrepute: Pistorius, Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong are just three examples. According to CNN’s Simon Rushton, “Nike is being reminded again that pinning your company reputation on star names is a risky business.” 

If the relationship with your celebrity ambassador turns sour, tread carefully
Soon after the news of Steenkamp’s death and subsequent arrest of Pistorius’, the media looked to Nike and Pistorius’ other sponsors for a reaction. Nike responded by expressing their condolences to the families affected by Steenkamp’s death. Nike South Africa spokesperson, Seruschka Naidoo, responded to questions on Pistorius’s future with Nike by saying saying, “At this moment, it’s a matter that’s being investigated. We’re not speaking about the sponsorship, [there’s an] issue at hand here which is much bigger than a sponsorship.” 

In the case of Woods, Nike stuck by the golfer’s side, and still endorse him today, according to Rushton. Nike also stood with Armstrong throughout his career until the US Anti-Doping Agency came up with enough evidence to show he cheated before they dropped him. This sense of respect towards sensitive situations and loyalty towards brand ambassadors goes a lot further than Nike simply breaking ties with every ambassador who went through turmoil. 

4 Lessons in PR from the Obamas

Barack and Michelle Obama are arguably the world’s most powerful couple. They are at the forefront of international politics and have done so through sheer PR genius. Today we take a look at the four most valuable PR lessons your company can learn from ‘Brand Obama’.

4 lessons in PR from … the Obama’s
Be transparent 
Obama’s term in the Whitehouse has been characterised by transparency and an engagement with the media, something which is unheard of for an American president. According to writer, Evan Carmichael, “The best way to get something is to give something up first. Transparency is no longer just a buzz word, but an imperative for businesses of all sizes. For example, Obama has committed to publish all executive orders and proclamations on the White House website, something unprecedented.” The lesson in Obama’s approach is to allow consumers into every aspect of your organisation’s functioning. Carmichael continues, “Companies often get in their own way trying to hide information they feel is dangerous to their reputation. They are afraid of revealing trade secrets or data that undermine their ability to compete.”

Keep your customer interaction simple and personal
A campaign manager for Obama’s 2008 campaign, David Plouffe, did a series of ‘amateurish’ videos to try and get supporters excited and involved in the campaign. “These were not slick productions but were kept consciously rough-hewn to connect casually,” said Susan Harrow, of PR Secrets, “These videos are similar to the ones friends might send to each other to keep in touch on FacebookYouTube or MySpace.” By opting for casual campaign videos, as oppose to slick video productions the Obama campaign made it their communication to supporters appear personal and conversational.

Know your target markets.
In the run-up to Obama’s campaign for re-election in 2012, team Obama started ‘Operation Vote’ which zoned in on specific demographic groups of the American population who needed to be encouraged to vote. According to Linda Feldman at the Alaska Dispatch, ‘Operation Vote’ focused on “women, blacks, seniors, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, Jews, gays, and young voters”. Feldman explains that the drive sought to target these demographic groups very specifically, “with African-Americans, for example, there was particular outreach at beauty parlours, barber shops, black-owned businesses, and historically black colleges”.

Ensure that your company is passionate about its CSI initiatives
The first lady, Michelle Obama initiated a drive towards getting American children to be more physically active and eating healthier in order to minimise childhood obesity. She describes her ‘Let’s Move’ campaign as a cause very personal to her, “In the end, as First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition.” The problem of childhood obesity is very relevant to a country where fast food outlets are the go-to option for every meal, and team Obama have honed in on the problem and are attempting to remedy it. 

Ten Commandments of promoting your products in store

In this article, Timothy Beattie, General Manager of Pyrotec PackMedia, outlines ten ways to get your product noticed.

In a typical busy and crowded retail environment, products clamour for customers’ attention on over-stocked shelves. The challenge for brand owners and marketers is to distinguish their goods from other similar products on the shelves; not an easy task when you consider the saturated FMCG market, where consumers have hundreds of toothpaste, alcohol and cosmetic brands to choose from.

‘There are several important factors to consider in terms of ensuring your products are getting noticed in stores,’ says Beattie. ‘These Ten Commandments will assist you in giving your brand the best possible chance of success in terms of attracting the attention of your target audience.’

Ten Commandments of promoting your products in store:

  1. Thou shalt cater for the impulse buyer
    With research revealing that over 70% of purchasing decisions are made in store, marketers should not forget the impulse shopper. Exploit this by strategically placing your products near to check-out points. Pyrotec’s range of Do-It HangTabs and Display Strips are a useful tool to attractively display your products at points of purchase.
  2. Thou shalt ensure that your products are placed in a good location
    Prime locations are the middle ‘eye-zone’ areas, as research shows that more than half of shoppers’ viewing time is spent on these locations. Products displayed on the top or bottom shelves may only be seen by about 30 percent of shoppers, and new products have an especially hard time obtaining prime vertical locations. Do-It’s Display Strips ensure that your products are displayed at eye-level.
  3. Thou shalt consider the time
    Retail shoppers now spend significantly less time shopping today than years ago. Some studies have suggested that shoppers spend 55 percent less time shopping than in previous years (90 minutes in 1980 compared to 40 minutes in 2000).Your product has only a few seconds to be seen, noticed, understood, and purchased.
  4. Thou shalt face your customer
    The largest dimension of your product/package needs to face the shopper. The face of the product is the billboard that advertises the product to consumers who pass by.
  5. Thou shalt ensure clarity of information
    Considering that shoppers are spending far less time in store, is your product able to be quickly and easily understood? Long, garbled explanations and packaging that gives no indication of the product housed inside will more often than not lead to the item being overlooked by potential customers.
  6. Thou shalt be colourful
    Colour not only attracts attention, it can also inspire emotion in your customer. Cool colours like blue, green, and purple are viewed as calming, cool and clean. Warm colours such as red, orange and yellow can create energy and excitement, whilst neutral colours generate feelings of stability, innocence and authority.
  7. Thou shalt watch your language
    Remember the power that words like ‘Sale’, ‘Discount’, ‘New’ and ‘Special’ can yield. Make them big and bold and display them where they will be seen!
  8. Thou shalt make use of on-pack promotions
    On-product promotions are a great way to sway an undecided shopper. Coupons and ‘buy one, get one free’ promotions are popular and effective methods of boosting sales. Pyrotec PackMedia supplies a wide range of on-pack devices that are ideal to communicate on-pack promotions.
  9. Thou shalt have signage
    POP signage has been show to increase product sales by up to 33 percent.The top three uses of POP signs are: 1) promote a brand name, 2) communicate a special promotion, and 3) educate consumers.
  10. Thou shalt not forget the power of sight
    While all five senses play a role in the purchasing process, sight remains the most important. Most simply put: products that are well-packaged and visible on the store shelves have a better chance of being purchased. A quick and easy way to ensure your products are visible is by using Do-It’s range of HangTabs and Display Strips.

Another fun 2 minute business lesson

An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing.
A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, ‘Can I also sit like you and do nothing?’
The eagle answered: ‘Sure, why not.’
So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story:
To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.


2 Minute Business Lesson

A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.
When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbour.
Before she says a word, Bob says, ‘I’ll give you $800 to drop that towel.’
After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves…
The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs.
When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, ‘Who was that?’
‘It was Bob the next door neighbor she replies.
‘Great,’ the husband says, ‘did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?’

Moral of the story:
If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.