A company’s corporate image is extremely important for their success. If an organization can maintain a good public reputation, they’re rewarded with more business, more exposure, and more professionals wanting to work with them. Whether you believe that any publicity is good publicity, creating and maintaining a good corporate image is far from easy.
Companies’ attempts to achieve positive brand recognition can be derailed by a single negative event that might not have even been the fault of the business itself. Fortunately, there are companies who have not only mastered handling these negative PR crises but have actually turned them into opportunities. Here are a few bad publicity turned good examples.
Chances are, you’re not immediately familiar with Next Media Animation, a Taiwan-based animation studio that creates satirical videos based on news and trending topics. You’ve probably heard of their former employee Marina Shifrin though, who rose to internet fame after posting a video of herself quitting her job through an “interpretive dance” while listing all of her work-related grievances.
The video went viral (currently sitting with over 19 million views on YouTube), and despite Shifrin never mentioning the company by name, news outlets quickly discovered Next Media Animation’s identity and brought them into the limelight. But instead of criticizing Shifrin or trying to publicly refute her complaints about their organization, Next Media did something genius; they copied her.
The company created a YouTube video almost identical to Shifrins in which company employees danced around the office and highlighted their company’s culture. At the end, they informed viewers that they were hiring and directed those interested to their website. The video became the most watched on their channel, gaining almost 5 million views while simultaneously portraying the company as good-humored and perhaps more appealing than Shifrin’s video may have initially indicated.
In a relatively minor mix-up, an employee of the American Red Cross accidentally tweeted a message intended for her personal account on the organization’s official Twitter page. The message, which detailed the poster and a friend getting drunk (or in their words, #gettingslizzerd), was up on the Red Cross’s Twitter for over an hour before being discovered and taken down.
In reality, one mildly inappropriate tweet wouldn’t likely do much damage to the image of a company, but the Red Cross intelligently realized that they had stumbled onto an opportunity to generate some positive buzz around their organization. Both the employee responsible and the Red Cross Twitter account posted humorous tweets at their own expense, bringing more attention to their mishap as opposed to trying to sweep it under the rug.
As a result, the Red Cross gained plenty of attention, and the beer company mentioned in the initial tweet even encouraged its followers to donate to the charity. Not bad for an unintentional tweet.
In 2011, fast food giant Taco Bell was slapped with a lawsuit that claimed that its seasoned beef was made with only 35 percent real beef, which would make Taco Bell guilty of false (and gross) advertising. As a company whose success relies solely on people finding their food appetizing, Taco Bell quickly refuted the claim.
However, Taco Bell didn’t stop there. Instead of just denying the lawsuit’s legitimacy and fighting it in court, Taco Bell launched a full-scale campaign around it. The campaign, which included Facebook posts and YouTube Videos, assured people that their seasoned beef was made with 88 percent pure beef, and 12 percent “Secret Recipe,” which stayed “secret” for all of 30 seconds as Taco Bell proceeded to list every single ingredient in their meat.
The results of their bare-all campaign were wildly successful, leaving 91 percent of their 5.5 million Facebook fans and 89 percent of their YouTube viewers with a positive view of the company as well as the taste and quality of their food. In the end, the lawsuit was dropped, and Taco Bell came out the other end unscathed and with a reputation for honesty.
Ultimately, “any publicity is good publicity” was true in these instances because the response strategies of these companies were based on a simple lesson – the public and other professionals admire companies who are accessible, transparent, and above all, human. Even when you aren’t faced with a potential catastrophe, these qualities will help your organization shine in the eyes of others and reward you accordingly. Do you have other great examples of companies who have been able to turn their PR crises into opportunities? Let us know.
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Esteban Gomez is a marketing consultant with interviewstream. He loves learning and has a passion for traveling, having visited many countries including China, Colombia, Italy, and Peru.