One of the greatest fears of every business owner or executive is making a huge public mistake and having it spread like wildfire. Unfortunately, mistakes happen. No matter how many safeguards are put in place, mishaps are known to occur and when they do, they can be devastating.
Extremely public mistakes do not have to be the nail in the coffin for your brand. Look no further than Johnson & Johnson’s infamous 1982 Tylenol recall. After their product faced drug tampering and lead to seven deaths, they vowed to put customer safety first, worked with authorities to aid their investigations, and maintained transparency about their actions to rectify the situation. As a result, Tylenol remains a leader in the market today.
Another example of a brand, which faced crisis, is Taco Bell and a lawsuit over the contents of their meat. The company responded by sharing with the public exactly what is in their meat and created a PR campaign that had many $.88 priced specialty items at locations to win customers back into their restaurants. Recently, Taco Bell was named the healthiest fast food option.
In the Olympics, athletes depend on brand to produce equipment that gives them dependable performance at all times. This was not the case during the 2014 Olympic Games, where U.S. speed skaters wearing Under Armour suits failed to medal, in large part to design flaws that hindered performance. With a recommitment to efforts on efficient design and the loyalty of a few big name athletes, the organizations was able to survive this tough blow and continue to remain as one of the top athletic brands in the world.
Then there is the “not so great” way to handle bad publicity, such as SeaWorld’s reaction to the 2013 Blackfish documentary. The organization failed to address public concerns and was never able to shake their reputation for mistreating animals and regain a positive perception.
Urban Outfitters has purposely created many instances of bad publicity, releasing items such as their faux-bloodstained Kent State sweatshirt, their “Eat Less” T-shirt’s and more controversial clothing items. While they often do apologize for these items it has tainted their reputation.
No one can forget now First Lady Melania Trump’s RNC scandal where her speech was just a little too similar to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech. As a result, very public criticisms and jokes are often made at her expense, and will likely hang over her credibility for the immediate future.
So what should a brand do if they find themselves in hot water after a public crisis?
Accept That a Mistake Was Made
If a mistake happens—own it. Nothing makes a situation worse than acting as if nothing happened. Denying the obvious only makes the acceptance and apology process more challenging. In addition, pretending a mistake didn’t happen will just prolong the inevitable—the truth coming out and potential public distrust.
Explain if You Need to
After a big mistake has been made, an explanation might be needed to clarify what lead to the blunder and what steps are being taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again. However, some situations do not need a drawn-out explanation. Complicated explanations can begin to sound like excuses and make a circumstance shady.
Say You’re Sorry
Make your parents proud with the strong morals they instilled and apologize. Brands are made up of people and people make mistakes. The public loves to receive an apology and forgive. Just make sure that if you ever are in a situation of giving a public apology that it is sincere. The public can spot phoniness a mile away.
Don’t Point Fingers
Accept it. Take the blame. Own up to it. Accepting that something went wrong and then owning up to it is a gesture of a true apology. Deflecting is easy, it is simple to give a million reasons why it isn’t really your fault. Strength is stepping up and admitting to the public that an issue did occur and tell them what steps are being taken to prevent it from happening again.
How Will You Fix It?
The biggest thing the public wants to know after a big mistake is what measures have been taken to fix any issues created and prevent any future similar incidents from occurring. One of the best things your brand can do during this time is make the process as transparent as possible. The more the public knows the fewer questions you will receive and lingering doubt will begin to fade away.