BBefore the emergence of social media, the public was pretty much the last to be informed of a crisis event. The information flowed from a public relations officer to news media and then to the public. In the world we live in now, the public is the first to know. Eyewitnesses and those involved in an event immediately share news with the rest of the world, including the media, who amplify this news to the public (Baron, 2011). News, events good or bad have great potential of going viral- online content that spreads like a “virus” because it is widely shared and discussed by users (Moreau, 2014). For brands, this phenomenon can benefit their bottom line or damage it. As a consumer I will discuss how social media has influenced my purchasing preferences. I will also discuss examples of brand crises and ineffective and effective responses.
Social media’s influence on personal purchasing preferences
Once I saw the documentary Food Inc., on Netflix, and became aware of some of the grossly inhuman chicken farm practices I immediately changed my chicken purchase preferences. Before viewing the film, I blindly trusted Perdue and other brands mentioned in the film. I did not think twice about purchasing them because I had the idea that if they are being sold in the store then it must be good. Since becoming aware of this issue, about three years ago, I’ve stopped purchasing chicken from the brands in the documentary.
My thoughts now are that just because a product is in the grocery store does not mean it is trustworthy. Especially since the allegations against Perdue keep coming. The 2014 viral video Chicken Farmer Speaks Out, is evidence the Perdue has not changed their tune since the release of Food Inc. in 2009.
And I can’t say that Perdue’s response to this issue makes me feel any better about their brand. In a press release, Perdue seems to blame farmers, promise to improve farming conditions and provide progress reports (News Room, 2010). And in response to the above mentioned viral video, they continue to blame farmers (Rainey, 2014). I suppose that’s their progress report. It looks as though allegations against Perdue didn’t do much harm to their company. But is the reason because Perdue has sense released product without it brand stamp (Strowbridge, n.d)?
Brand Crises responses: Domino’s Pizza, BBC and Jet Blue
In 2009, two employees made a video of doing disgusting things to food they were preparing and then shared that video on You Tube. Of course this video went viral and garnished the attention of news media. At the time, Domino’s Pizza did not have a social media presence and learned about the video from supporters (Aagnes, 2012).
Ineffective response. Although Dominos’ Pizza had immediately addressed this issue internally, they did not publicly- leaving the public unaware of the drastic measures taken to correct the situation (Aagnes, 2012). Mistake number one was not having a social media presence in a social media world. In getting a response ready in the digital environment, crisis manger, Johnathan Hemmes, advises that the “trick” in have a quick response “is not to wait until the minute a crisis breaks” but to have plans for crisis in place before hand (PRWeeklive, 2011). And number two would be not notifying the loyal customers and the public that the issue is being addressed. Delay in response can give the impression that an organization is inept and can create distrust with the public (Coombs, 2012).
Fortunately for Dominos’, before the crisis could overtake them, they launched a Twitter account on which they released a link to an unofficial apology on their site and asked users to retweet it-which calmed the storm. Following the move on Twitter, the organization released an official apologetic, sincere and informative video on You Tube allowing them to take control of the conversation on social media. With the video they also informed the public of corrective measures taken (Aagnes, 2012). In the end it worked out fine for them, Dominos’ is still around and although I heard about this incident I totally forgot about it until reading about it again for this assignment.
In a PR Week Live video, The British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) Head of Communication (in 2011) Paul Hammond, elaborates on how speed and recovery are paramount in crisis communication. He explains how the BBC website crashed late at night with staff unaware until 30mins after. Within an hour the site was back up, but the BBC was still criticized for the delay (PRWeeklive, 2011). Personally, I don’t think that’s much of a delay.
Ineffective response. Where the BBC was not effective was that it had not prepared for a site crash and did not have a plan in place.
Effective response. The BBC was immediate in acknowledging the crash once aware. They stayed engaged with people online that wanted to know what happened by providing follow up information well into the next evening by tweeting. They also launched a blog by 10am to provide updates and providing even subsequent updates (PRWeeklive, 2011).
Valentine’s Day 2007, Jet Blue, decides to go with a false intuition that winter weather would warm up and instead of cancelling flights like most of airlines in JFK airport, and board planes. As a result customers ended up being stranded on the runway, some for up to 9 hours. And up to five days following 1,200 flights were cancelled (Coombs, 2012). Jet Blue also endured negative media and online coverage. Stories were being reported that plan toilets were overflowing and food and water ran out (Coombs, 2014).
Ineffective Response. Jet Blue’s first mistake was gambling with the weather. Also, though Jet Blue had a crisis plan, when this crisis occurred no one knew what to do (Coombs, 2012). Which brings up a very good point. Yes, it is important to have a crisis plan but it is just as important to drill the steps outlined in a crisis plan- like a school taking students and students through a fire drill.
Effective Response. During the crisis, Jet Blues’ staff went above and beyond in customer service. Pilots ordered pizza for customers, flight attendants helped to keep children occupied among other noble deeds of service. Also, Jet Blue was effective in taking full responsibility for the crisis by offering a sincere public apology via You Tube and television appearances. They also took corrective action. Customers stuck on planes were given full refunds and round trip vouchers. Jet Blue even issued a Customer Bill of Rights that offers compensation for departure and onboard ground delays, promises to notify customers of cancellations and diversions and guarantees $1000 if a customer in involuntarily bumped from a flight due to overbooking (Coombs, 2012). Although Jet Blue lost millions of dollars over the course of the crisis they did not lose their customers (Coombs, 2012).
Take a ways
Mistakes are bound to occur and crises will happen. Some are preventable and some are not, like the employee Domino’s video. Whatever the case chances of it being “caught on tape,” (a mobile device) and shared by millions (going viral) are extremely high. The best practices are to prepare for the unexpected, drill your plan and make sure the plan implements social media strategies. Social media is where the crisis is going to play out and a brand needs to be where the conversation is taking place to take control of framing the event. Customers, fan, employees, stakeholders, I think, are willing to forgive and realize that things happen. So it is imperative that a brand stays engaged, provides excellent customer service, offers a sincere apology and compensation for loss and follows up with updates and corrective action. Or a brand, like Perdue, can fly under the radar by releasing a product under a different name.
Aagnes, M (2012, March 22) Article: Domino’s Pizza: A look at the timelessness of a social media crisis plan. Malissaagnes.com. [Web Log] Retrieved from http://melissaagnes.com/dominos-pizza-a-look-at-the-timelessness-of-a-social-media-crisis-plan/
Baron, G (2011, October 4) Social media and crisis communication: A whole new game[Video File] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFt7NXDhcmE
Coombs.T. W., Hollady, S. J (2012) The handbook of crisis communication.Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Malden, MA
Moreau, E (2014, December 16)What does it mean to go viral online? [Web Log] Retrieved from http://webtrends.about.com/od/howtoguides/a/Viral-Online.htm
News Room (2015, December 10) Perdue response to mercy for animals press conference.
Perduefarms.com. Retrieved from http://www.perduefarms.com/news_room/press_releases/#sthash.qM7vQJ2p.dpuf
PRWeeklive (2011, July 28) BBC and everything everywhere on crisis communication in a digital age [Video File] Retrieved fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_Ce-15GRnk
Rainey, D (2014, December 6) Perdue blames grower after release of disturbing video of N.Carolina chicken operation. Delewarebusinessnow.com. Retrieved from http://delawarebusinessnow.com/2014/12/perdue-blames-grower-disturbing-video-chicken-operation/
Strowbridge, L (n.d) How Perdue Farms became the number-one premium chicken product brand in the U.S. Smartceo.com. Retrieved from http://smartceo.com/perdue-farms-became-number-one-premium-chicken-product-brand-u-s/