via Forbes : In the business world, the phrase “any publicity is good publicity” doesn’t always hold true. Public relations crises can cause all kinds of issues for your business, including decreased sales and damage to your brand.
Several major companies suffered massive PR disasters in 2017. Here are five of the biggest and the lessons they each hold for businesses large and small:
United Re-Accommodates A Passenger
United had multiple negative PR incidents this year, but the worst was undoubtedly when it demanded that an elderly doctor leave its flight due to an overbooking. When he refused, United had security handle it and they violently dragged the man from the plane in full view of everyone’s camera phones. United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, made the situation worse by saying he apologized “for having to re-accommodate these customers.”
The most important thing to learn here is that if you’d be ashamed for millions of people to see something your company does, you shouldn’t do it. And if you need to inconvenience a customer, be willing to negotiate with them instead of forcing it.
Equifax Has A Breach
A security issue with Equifax led to a data breach that impacted over 140 million people. The only reason the breach happened was that Equifax failed to update one of its web application programs, and news of the breach caused its stock to drop 35%.
The Equifax breach demonstrates the importance of cybersecurity and keeping all programs your business uses updated. You should also save as little sensitive customer information as possible.
Dove Whitewashes A Black Woman
Dove caused a stir when it posted a three-second video clip on its Facebook account in which a black woman takes her shirt off and becomes a white woman. Although Dove took the clip down and issued an apology, the damage was done and it received substantial criticism.
There are certain hot-button issues over which businesses should tread carefully, with race being one of them. If an ad seems like it could be offensive to a group of people, it’s best to avoid it or do thorough focus group testing first.
Adidas Uses A Poor Choice Of Words
After the 2017 Boston Marathon, Adidas sent an email to participants congratulating them for surviving. Considering there was a bombing at the race in 2013 that led to three deaths and hundreds of injuries, people took to social media about the thoughtless subject line, and the company quickly apologized.
This is an honest mistake, even though you’d think someone in the Adidas marketing department would catch it. Adidas showed how to handle a PR crisis properly by taking responsibility and apologizing immediately, without any excuses.
Uber CEO Yells At A Driver
It was a rough year for the now-former CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick. When an Uber driver got into an argument with Kalanick after giving him a ride, Kalanick yelled at the man and accused him of not taking responsibility. The video quickly went viral, making both Uber and Kalanick look bad.
Even in stressful situations, it’s important to stay calm and treat people with respect. It only takes one angry rant to give your brand an unprofessional image.
Most PR disasters are 100% avoidable if you learn from the mistakes of other companies. Should a PR issue come up, it’s important to take control of the situation quickly and come up with an appropriate response to whatever happened. In situations where you or someone in your business were truly wrong, it’s always better to admit your mistake than to blame someone else or avoid responsibility. After all, customers appreciate authenticity.