Recent Examples of PR – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

In any given week, if you look for it, you’ll find examples of public relations; good, bad and ugly.  Here’s what I found recently:

The Good:  Restaurants and fast food chains have so many examples of bad PR that you could write a novel.  So when something goes against that trend, it’s worth talking about.  Red Robin recently received great positive PR and all it cost them was $11.50.  How did that happen?  A couple expecting their second child visited a location in North Carolina.  When the bill came due, the couple was pleasantly surprised to see her meal was at no charge with “MOM 2 BEE GOOD LUC” written on the bill.

The Bad:  Allstate recently released an ad that focused on how they’ve helped numerous victims of Hurricane Sandy and how their agents put the customer first.  The problem was that one of the damaged homes featured prominently in the spot is not being covered fully by the company and the insurance claim is still in dispute.  The homeowners have vocalized their displeasure with both the company and the video.  I’ve tried to include a link to the video, but it’s been removed.  While not a PR disaster of epic proportions, this is certainly bad PR for the company.

The Ugly:  Did you happen to watch the NCAA Football Championship game on January 7th?  During the game, play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger made some comments about the girlfriend of the starting quarterback for Alabama.  What he said wasn’t necessarily inappropriate or bad, but many viewers during and after the game took to social media criticizing the comments as “creepy” and “awkward.”  In my opinion, an apology wasn’t necessary, but ESPN issued one to escape a potential firestorm.

What have you noticed recently in public relations and would you nominate it as good, bad or ugly?

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Natural Disasters and Marketing

Companies need to tread lightly when it comes to marketing around a natural disaster.  With Superstorm Sandy, 100+ people died worldwide and damage estimates are at $20 Billion and growing.  That doesn’t make for a great marketing opportunity in most instances, but it can, if done correctly.

American Apparel caused a Twitter firestorm when they offered a Hurricane Sandy Sale.  As if that wasn’t tasteless enough, their headline read “In case you’re bored during the storm.”  Seriously.  The company was slammed on social media with outrage and rightly so, in my humble opinion.

Closer to (my) home, and with much less publicity, a local winery committed a similar marketing faux pas.  Glenora Wine Cellars offered customers a Hurricane Sandy Sale.

While not as egregious, I still thought it was in very poor taste (especially the picture).  I made my opinion known on their Facebook page, commenting on their post about the promotion.  Within hours, their post (along with my comment) was removed.  Their website still offered the promotion, and I called them out on Twitter for it.

Within hours, their web page promotion was removed too.  What couldn’t be removed were the emails the winery sent out to their list.

So what’s a “good” way to market around a natural disaster?  How about showing some compassion?  How about figuring out how to help the victims through a donation of time, talent, product or service?  Duracell brought charging stations to Lower Manhattan so that those without power could charge their cell phones.  They’re helping victims of Hurricane Sandy and garnering positive publicity and public relations in the process.

It’s such a simple concept when you compare the positive example to the negative ones, isn’t it?  Yet so many companies get it wrong.  One would hope that marketers would learn from these mistakes.  Sadly, history will likely repeat itself and some company will damage their image and reputation by running a tasteless promotion during the next natural disaster.  Hopefully, they have a public relations department or company at their disposal.  Even better would be to employ some common sense.

Want to help the victims?  Below are links to various organizations assisting in the relief efforts (list not to be considered an endorsement):

Red Cross

Salvation Army

New York Blood Center

Feeding America

AmeriCares

World Vision

Save The Children

Before you donate in a time of crisis, make sure you do your homework on the charitable organization.  Here are some tips by Charity Navigator.

A Social Media Storm

Many watched the progress of Hurricane Sandy and reports of the devastation it caused.  Nicknamed “The Perfect Storm” and “Frakenstorm,” the images of destruction were shocking.  I hope you and your family survived the event safely and with minimal damage.  I’m very thankful that my family did, including those directly in the path.

This isn’t the first major storm where social media played an important role in reporting the news.  However, I did find it interesting that so many media outlets encouraged viewers/readers to engage them via social media to get current news.  Rather than wait for the next news cycle, which could be hours away, people were encouraged to follow on Twitter, friend on Facebook, pin to Pinterest, download weather apps, etc., etc.  It makes me wonder how many new followers/friends/app users these media outlets gained as a result of this natural disaster.

While social media is a great resource for current news as it unfolds, you do need to be cautious of what’s posted in terms of accuracy.  I had several friends share pictures to social media that were allegedly taken during the storm.  Virtually all turned out to be a hoax – either doctored using Photoshop or taken from a disaster movie.

With smart phones becoming the dominant type of cell phone and tablets increasing in usage, people could stay connected with friends, family and media – even if their home lost power.  In America, we’ve come a long way from candles and transistor radios.  Several friends who lost power could still post messages to Facebook letting friends and family know their situation.

Having grown up in New Jersey, I have several friends and family in that area who were significantly impacted.  My thoughts and prayers are with them and I hope their recovery is quick and smooth.

How did you use social media during Hurricane Sandy?