Unlike Wendy’s, which goes on snark-offense on Twitter to defend its brand, many marketers find themselves surprised by negative brand attention. A crisis is different from a mild “media disruption,” like “an executive going publicly rogue in an embarrassing way,” says Ashley Deibert, marketing VP at iQ Media.
In her post on Wednesday in Ragan’s PR Daily, Deibert writes:
“Making your brand or client look good is different from making them look un-bad.”
Stop Bad Media Coverage in Its Tracks
Deibert emphasizes that brand representatives need to understand that at this point, they need to think of the brand crisis as an emergency. Denial of that fact won’t help.
“If the initial flame has already been lit,” she says, “what you do next is crucial to ensuring the news doesn’t spread like wildfire. Start by determining every place the story is being told. Closely monitoring your client across all channels arms you with the right information, ideally in real-time, so that you can systematically offer updates — and correct any misinformation — before their story [spreads] too far.”
She emphasizes marketers need to work with journalists and know that the story will go out, so it’s best to try to get their viewpoints in the articles.
[Author’s note: As a journalist, I want to emphasize the importance of this tip. Spin doesn’t work. Trying to stop the story from being published doesn't work — it never did, if you were dealing with a trained journalist with decent editorial backing. Intimidation also rarely works — again, unless the publication’s management is spineless and/or unethical. Plus, even if you do manage to succeed with one media outlet, there are many others willing to jump on the story.]
Drop What You Know, and Become Open to New Options
If marketers made mistakes, they should own them. But if brands are being portrayed unfairly, they can take new approaches — including seeking the aid of influencers — to get their voices heard. That’s what Under Armour did when stories emerged blaming the brand’s suit’s “back ventilation system” for creating drag and resulting in a sans-medal 2014 Winter Olympics team of U.S. speed skaters, Deibert points out.
Under Armour deployed “two key executives” for endless TV and print interviews defending the suit’s technology.
“Further,” Deibert continues, “Under Armour's sponsored athletes were asked to engage their social media audiences and defend the suits, without specifically addressing the PR crisis. Michael Phelps, with more than a million Twitter followers, helped the positive posts go viral, as well as reach audiences that didn’t traditionally consume TV or online publications for news.”
[Author’s note: Notice that Deibert is again suggesting marketers add to content, rather than staying silent. While she doesn’t state it, this emphasizes that ignoring a crisis doesn't make it go away.]
Roll Out a Proactive Plan Based on What You Know Works
As much as marketers love talking about real-time data, they should collect a couple years’-worth of information. Deibert says this helps with knowing whom to message and how.
“For example,” she says, “with growing concerns over the Zika virus leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics, a multi-state health care system took a proactive approach toward a potential health crisis — the spread of the virus. The organization closely monitored mentions of Zika throughout media outlets to understand the context in which it was being talked about, and it crafted an appropriate response to curtail the story’s potential escalation.”
[Author’s note: If brands are listening to their customers, they’ll also know how to reach them. Brands with only transactional data may have problems.]
What do you think, marketers?
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