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The Internet makes it so easy for customers to get the word out about great businesses they’ve found and other things they really like. Conversely, it’s also quick to promote and pass around evidence of awful customer service. If you ever make a huge PR blunder, even in your bricks-and-mortar business or something more personal in nature, you can be sure someone will get proof of it online in no time.
In the end, since you can pretty much guarantee your worst nightmare of a PR disaster will travel like wildfire online, it all comes down to what you do about it next. The same social media tools which are passing around your most embarrassing moment are available to you, so you need to use them well – and quickly!
Here’s a few tales of social media PR disasters with happy endings which you can learn from and hope to emulate if the need ever arises.
The Avenger Controller & Ocean Marketing
The makers of the Avenger Controller had absolutely no idea what they were getting into when they hired Paul Christoforo from Ocean Marketing to promote their product and manage their PR. The damage that Paul nearly did for their business was nothing short of horrifying.
After Paul upset a few customers by promising schedules the manufacturers couldn’t meet, he went on to claim he had friends in high places in the tech world. This got the attention of one of them, who started a dialogue with Paul. Paul went on boasting about his contacts without realising he was now chatting to (and getting on the wrong side of) a VERY big name in tech – Mike Krahulik.
The full story of Ocean Marketing’s PR damage can be found on the Penny Arcade website here.
The upside of all this PR damage is that people generally understood that the problem was with Paul and not the Avenger Controller manufacturers, who got better PR representation very quickly. The controller itself was never faulted and is in fact a very good product for disabled kids. Now the controller is getting reviewed by the likes of iJustine and looks set to be in the hands of the kids who need them in no time.
- Keep track of your PR and what they’re saying just in case they’re trying to end your career.
- Don’t be like Paul Christoforo.
Red Cross Tweet
Any person or institution who has a team of people tweeting or using Facebook on their behalf runs the risk of following in the footsteps of the Red Cross with this embarrassing Tweet: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas touch beer…. when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.”
Obviously, this was an error made by someone who intended to send this to their private Twitter account. However the tweet went unnoticed for an hour, which was plenty time to get some unwanted attention. When the social media director got on the scene, she sent out a humorous Tweet to follow up: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.”
What’s magical about this potential fiasco is that Dogfish Head got involved and helped them turn the situation into a clear positive. They asked their followers to tweet the hashtag #gettngslizzerd and to donate to the Red Cross.
Essentially, a minor yet public error which could happen to just about any company got brushed off with good nature and then turned into a truly positive event for Red Cross by some quick-thinking at Dogfish Head. No doubt they did themselves some favours too.
- Make light of your PR misfortune if it’s something understandable.
- Watch out for Hootsuite!
- Help out other people on the brink of a PR disaster – it’s good for everyone.
Fetchnotes are a start-up who are only really launching publicly this week (read more about Fetchnotes here). They recently had a PR blunder which was thoroughly embarrassing and easy to understand. They sent out a test email which had some swearing in the body. It was intended just to go to the staff as an in-house test, but guess what? It ran like that to all users.
The Fetchnotes team panicked and feared the worst, but in fact they got back many light-hearted responses. Lots of users smiled as they realised they were dealing with real people and not some faceless entity. Of course, there were a few users who were upset by the language and Fetchnotes made sure they apologised to each and every one of them.
The upside of their disaster is that they saw an increase in people using their service after the test email went out. It seems that a lot of people who weren’t regular users were reminded of the service and decided to try it out again. What more could a start-up wish for?
- Proofread your test emails and don’t joke about when you write them!
- Laugh at yourself if required.
- Personal apologies can go a long way.
Have you ever had to recover from a serious PR blunder online? If so, what did you do?