Consumer advocates and PR “experts” love to create “Worst Of” lists that focus on the botched cover-ups, poorly handled crises and failed publicity stunts of large corporations. It’s all too easy to point the finger and assign blame, but it’s equally important to give credit where it’s due. The list of well-handled PR disasters is much shorter—here are five prime examples of good crisis management.
The company has been around for decades, but the last year has presented its share of difficulties. The New York Times lambasted the chain for its unethical SEO practices, then it went through an identity crisis just before it rolled out its “simpler” pricing plan. Things started looking up, but then a threatened boycott over the hiring of Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson did further damage to JCPenney’s reputation. Instead of placating the critics, Penney’s stood by DeGeneres and let her do all the talking. The strategy worked, and the boycott ended quickly.
The dust-up between Planned Parenthood (PP) and the Susan G. Komen (SGK) breast cancer charity was
centered on the public backlash after SGK refused to give further grants to PP. The latter’s response wasseemingly effortless; Planned Parenthood did an exclusive with the Associated Press, did a lot of press releases, and launched an enormous social media campaign. The response was so overwhelming that SGK reversed its decision in less than a week.
A little over a year ago, Taco Bell was sued by an irate customer who claimed that its tacos contained less beef than claimed. The lawsuit could have severely damaged the company’s reputation, but Taco Bell got right to work with a countersuit, a video statement from the chief executive officer, and a cheeky media blitz. Eventually, the customer dropped the lawsuit.
The Red Cross
It wasn’t a full-blown PR crisis, but the company’s handling of a staffer’s poorly-phrased Twitter post was perfectly done. After finding out that the employee mistakenly used the corporate account instead of their personal account, the offending tweet was swiftly removed. The Red Cross took a lighthearted approach, and the beer brand (Dogfish Beer) played along by soliciting donations.
The Johnson & Johnson-owned brand was almost “girlcotted” by unhappy customers after it decided to stop production of its immensely popular Ultra line. The public reaction tarnished the company’s reputation, but o.b. responded with a personalized PR campaign and a promise to bring the product back. The Canadian division of the company even allowed customers to download a valuable coupon.
The former Presidential candidate isn’t exactly known for his advance planning, but his response to a pre-primary PR crisis was top-notch. In an ABC interview, Gingrich’s ex-wife claimed that she’d been asked to
have an open marriage. Gingrich was ready when he was interviewed by John King of CNN; he exploded in righteous indignation and blamed the media for the crisis. His response didn’t get him into the White House, but it allowed him to unite his potential voters under a common cause.