Mini-public-relations crises flare up constantly.
JetBlue made dubious headlines
thanks to an erratic pilot. Skittles felt backlash
from people upset that it unfairly profited from the Trayvon Martin incident. University of Kentucky fans, angry about a UPS commercial, hijacked the company’s blog
And that was just last week.
But, according to The Wall Street Journal
, such flare-ups do little damage to a brand’s image and bottom line.
“In a socially networked world where investors, customers and employees are judge, jury and news editors, companies may be able to survive foul-ups better than in the old days of ‘traditional’ news and corporate spin,” WSJ
The paper cited three recent examples: JetBlue, Bats Global Markets, and Goldman Sachs
. All three companies experienced PR crises last month, none of which significantly hurt the companies’ bottom lines. In fact, WSJ
mentions Goldman’s “Teflon-like resistance to problems.”
Speaking of Teflon, the problems for Skittles and UPS seemed to have blown over, as have the negative reactions to countless more PR disasters.
Recall, for instance, the FedEx deliveryman who last December tossed a package over a fence
. The video of the incident has nearly 9 million views on YouTube
. At the time, late-night comedians skewered the company. Yet it appears the bruises have healed (thanks in part to some savvy crisis communications
consulted with a handful of PR counselors, who cited three reasons for the “muted reactions,” as the paper put it, to corporate crises. You can read them here
Of course, there are exceptions. For example, WSJ
mentions the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—a “serious disaster,” according to the paper—which made a lasting impact on the brand.
There are others: Netflix’s mishandling of its price increase
and spinoff company
nearly sunk the brand. Susan G. Komen for the Cure is limping along—losing donor dollars and top executives
—after pulling and then reinstating money for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood
. Bank of America, which felt consumer wrath
for proposing a debit card fee, remains cautious
with its fee structures.
Plus, people lose their jobs over minor flare-ups. An employee at PR firm New Media Strategies was shown the door
after he sent an errant tweet containing the F-bomb from the Chrysler account.
Even if a PR crises isn’t of the magnitude of BP or Komen, WSJ
issued these words of warning:
“But the bigger risk for these companies is that each misstep increases the chances of long-lasting harm to their reputation. Corporate credibility is like a porous rock: It doesn't break easily in the short-term but the slow drip-drip of bad news can cause some real damage.”
Ultimately, we may live in a Teflon Age, but that doesn’t mean PR departments and social media managers can fall asleep at the wheel.