By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
This space has remained stalwart in addressing occurrences of corporate operational or administrative mistakes that were unfairly categorized by the media as “public relations disasters” or better yet, “public relations nightmares.”
The rationale, as I comprehend it: A company gets grilled when news breaks (and these days, news often is accompanied by a video account) that results in an embarrassment, loss of business or possibly a fine or legal action. This constitutes unfavorable media coverage or “bad PR.” Hence, the correlation — albeit inaccurate and unfair — to public relations.
Well, any reference to a “public relations disaster” was, remarkably, absent in some news reports I read in print or online of two recent corporate blunders:
- Papa John’s International. On a conference call, pizza chain founder John Schnatter uttered a racial slur, leading to his resignation as chairman of the board from the publicly traded company. As a way to mitigate this crisis, the company also is removing Mr. Schnatter’s image from its marketing materials. I’ll also bet Mr. Schnatter will no longer be featured in TV spots.
- Build-A-Bear. Yesterday, this company that allows kids to design and build their own stuff animal created pandemonium — and left a lot of kids and parents unfulfilled — when a “Pay Your Age Day” promotion drew overflow crowds at shopping malls across the nation. Parents received $15 vouchers as an appeasement, and the company CEO promptly issued a video apology.
But, doing a Google search, yes, I found some references to “public relations crisis” in both stories noted above.
I had hoped the media would dissolve an instance of outright stupidity and callousness (Mr. Schantter) and one that failed to comprehend the consequences of a marketing initiative (Build-A-Bear) from the realm of having anything that originated with a strategic public relations plan.
Assuredly, the public relations teams for both organizations — departments that did not initiate what led to the negative publicity in both instances — will marshal its crisis communications plan in the days to come. Perhaps both companies will get some “good PR” in the future.