No publicity is bad publicity, right? If you’re in public relations (PR), you’ll beg to differ. PR crises are roadblocks that can appear from the most unexpected of places – a social media post, advertising campaign, customer complaint or even an innocent tweet. For brands, corporate apologies can sound insincere and a hasty way to vacuum the dust off a once-polished image. While companies may glide over a genuine mistake, actions that betray a brand’s values won’t go away unnoticed.
The good news is, scandals need not resort to resignations. While to err is human, how your company oversees the crisis draws the line between an uphill climb and downward spiral. Although the nature and severity of the situation are crucial facets that can decide a brand’s future, managing the firestorm as it happens is key to overcoming the obstacle ahead. Handled right, a crisis can also give your brand a profile boost.
With that in mind, we’ve identified some ways to help you navigate through a crisis (or crises)!
1. Communicate early, and to the right people
It’s a race against the clock, especially during an emergency. Responding prematurely signals the likelihood to backtrack on your words as new facts arise, while delayed answers lead to speculations that’ll spill over to tabloid news. It’s all about timing. Don’t address your stakeholders, employees, business partners and customers after the crisis has ridden out the storm, hoping the public treats it as yesterday’s news.
Be clear. Who needs to be notified when a problem strikes, and who is authorised to speak on behalf of the company? Relay proper protocol to all staff, stakeholders and partners to reinforce the line and responsibility of communication when faced with questions (from media and/or public) and avoid contradictory comments.
Prepare for backlash. By responding ‘no comment’ or providing no form of response only help others feed words into your mouth. Brushing aside curious questions may cause others to assume that a cover up is at play. Instead, be honest and provide reassurance that you’ll share the information as and when it becomes available.
2. Be proactive, not reactive
Name calling and finger pointing are emotions talking. Avoid fanning the flames with unwarranted external blame, or worse – arguing, posting or tweeting in public. Keeping your temperament in check during stressful circumstances can be tricky; knee-jerk responses only propagate the matter further. As a business leader, it’s crucial to assess the situation with a clear head, and focus on the public’s concerns to control the situation. Get the right message out through the best media channels, but more importantly, do consult with your PR team first before releasing any statement.
3. Take a stand
Is this the best position to take? Your decision will determine the company’s future responses and action plans. Rally your team together and ensure everyone’s on the same page.
In the case of Johnson & Johnson, the cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules became a case study for crisis management. With the number of fatalities and widespread panic over the extent of contamination, it looked impossible for the brand to regain its footing. Yet, quick thinking by the CEO, his transparency in dealing with the situation and the brand’s priority for consumer safety saved the pharmaceutical giant. The brand recalled pill orders across cities and implemented tamper-proof packaging for subsequent prescriptions.
Despite suffering significant monetary damage in the short run, the company took a firm stand, prioritising health and safety over profit loss. The consumer-first mindset and forthrightness in management ultimately renewed the trust in consumers.
4. Know how to apologise
Sorry seems to be the hardest word for some people. Even corporations at the top of the ladder don’t get it right the first time. Dove ran an advertorial depicting a woman of colour, miraculously transforming into a white lady after using its soap.
Criticised for racism, here was how their apology went:
Despite past efforts to promote inclusivity in its campaigns, the advertorial was seemingly a blatant jab at racism. And the apology caused a bigger uproar with its vague messaging and lack of sincerity – for instance, what did ‘missed the mark’ refer to? A genuine apology demonstrates ownership, an understanding of public sentiment and the will to improve current practices.
Compare this with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) representatives who handled the Academy Awards gaffe like pros after announcing the “accidental winner” for best picture during the live telecast.
The straightforward apology contained all the important nuggets – from acknowledging who the affected parties were, explaining how the glitch occurred, to actions taken to rectify the problem. Now, that’s the way to dish out an apology!
While loyalty to your brand is admirable, being defensive and over-selling your brand’s core assets will only land you in boiling water. Think of the apology as a dance – do it with heart and others will be moved.
5. Take the empathy route
While the crisis is like a wound to your brand’s image, great public relation skills is the antiseptic you need to treat the cut. Avoid technical jargons and curt responses, and instead adopt a customer-first mindset.
Take a page from Singapore Airlines on their high-quality customer service. The airline went above and beyond by presenting gifts from luxury tea store, TWG to passengers when an in-flight entertainment system on a short-haul flight turned faulty. While the damage done may only be a dent to the airline’s reputable record, the company accedes that genuine remorse and substantive efforts go a long mile.
In the case of consumer brands, consider how the trouble caused had resulted to poor experiences for users. How can you make amends after the blunder? Remember, you’re dealing with actual people with real concerns and feelings. After you identify the affected parties, decide on the medium to reach them. Will a quick tweet or a well-thought out press release perform the job best?
6. Monitor the situation
Disaster struck. You executed a plan. What’s next? Monitor the coverage of your messages and be ready to improvise on your action plan, if necessary. The crisis may snowball or involve new individuals, so be ready to abort mission and begin from scratch.
Poor use of public relations acts as a sword that will wedge deeper cracks in your company. Instead, use the mightier pen to construct genuine apologies, reflect on wrongdoings and plan. Take our word for it, brilliant public relation tactics are the right arm to every successful business!
Posted by Nur Farzana, CorpMedia
People in general have an insatiable appetite, craving a tender story to sink their teeth into. Commercials or Ads, laden with emotions can invoke a plethora of feelings within a person. Once upon a time, advertisers were fixated on hard-selling a product’s prime assets. Today, they prefer to tell a “story” to sell. The story, though, must resonate with you, the prospect, and appeal to your emotions. After all, when it comes to making buying decisions, it’s all about what stirs your emotion.
Thanks to premium memberships and exclusive privileges, skipping an Ad is literally a click away. While it’s impossible to rewind the effects of technological advancement, it’s plausible for consumers to press play the next time they chance upon YOUR commercial or Ad.
There’s no running away from storytelling in today’s marketing environment. It’s an essential component of any marketing and advertising campaign strategy. Brand storytelling works when yours rises over the white noise to rein in your prospects and win their trust, only then will they become vested in your business. Here are some tips we’d like to share with you.
1. Stand out from the rest
To be memorable, you must be unforgettable. A conventional plot won’t exactly scream your brand name. Advertisers need to pull out a fishing rod to hook users with a direct connection to a powerful story, to automatically assimilate the business-to-consumer bond.
To stand out, you don’t necessarily have to be tall. Volkswagen’s Think Small campaign swiftly shifts the focus of spacious American cars to small German automobiles. Instead of short-changing consumers with empty promises of roomier cars, they choose honesty as the route forward – telling it like it is!
Think about what makes your product a rose among the thorns, and figure out ways to weave a story from that. Where carbonated beverages are aplenty, Coca-Cola’s personalised bottles, are a rare, novel invention. The Share a Coke campaign allows users to purchase a can of Coke with their personal name printed against the famous red backdrop. For unconventional names and nicknames, Coca-Cola will even customise the bottle. Consumers feel a sense of ownership, or better yet – it spurs them on to share a Coke with someone by that name. It may be simple, but a name can share a thousand stories.
2. The emotional touch
Luke Sullivan, author and copywriter of Fallon McElligott advertising agency, shares how people talk in stories. We must do the same. The brand itself tells a story, and narratives give human experience depth. Take for instance, a savvy gadget like FitBit – we know what it is and how it works. The Ad uses an emotional pull factor as it follows an impressionable young girl while she narrates her mother’s fitness journey, all from her eagle-eyed lenses. It tugs at your heartstrings and holds your attention on pause. What’s more, it makes consumers believe that FitBit is indeed a gadget for everyone. You wouldn’t be as interested if the Ad boasted a chunk of statistics, right?
3. Be real, give details
You may think that to reach the masses, a carbon copy of a tried-and-tested idea would suffice. But does a “recycled” idea makes you jump out of your seat? If you want to be heard, then include details, details, details. This makes the storyline genuine and relatable, and is sure to go out with a bang.
Observe your surroundings and hear what isn’t being said. Starhub Singapore’s campaign is peppered with nostalgic heartland moments to alter people’s hushed perception of Singapore as THE unhappiest country. The story resonates close to home and includes visuals of precious, authentic moments that locals cordially share.
4. Relate and resonate
Step into the shoes of a reader and ask yourself, “Can I relate?” Think of the struggles your community faces, and how others feel about a certain topic. For instance, in the age of female empowerment, the Think Like A Girl campaign by Always, nips the social stigma of playing sports like a girl, in the bud. The takeaway is that girls are as fit and adept as boys – a message that runs deep for many independent women out there.
5. Close your eyes
Many will skip advertisements at the first second. If you can make a person forget, even momentarily, that they’re watching an Ad, you’ll garner two thumbs up (and a ‘like’). As Jon Hamm wittingly said in Mad Men, “I wanted people to say “What’s happening in the story right now? Oh! It’s an advertisement!” That will clue you in if you have an Emmy-winning Ad or not.
Procter & Gamble (P&G) shares stories of supportive mothers to superstar athletes, and how unwavering courage leads to the success of their children. The commercial is almost a film, taking viewers on a journey before reaching that paramount moment, all under 3 minutes.
Hope these tips help you to think outside the box. The next time you’re in a brainstorming session, remember: Honest, relatable and authentic storylines – That’s where the gold is.
Posted by Nur Farzana, CorpMedia
“Facts don’t care about your feelings” is a popular meme attributed to Ben Shapiro, the American writer, political commentator, and self-described member of the Intellectual Dark Web: an emerging cadre of new media public intellectuals. For some, he is a fearless speaker of truth. For others, he’s a regressive provocateur. It depends on one’s sensibilities.
And that’s the starting point for this blog. When Ben lays out an argument he often says that he genuinely doesn’t care how others may feel about it. I think it’s fair to say that (in the public sphere at least) he elevates rational thought above all else: an idea that seems alien to many people.
In the workplace too, there are people like Ben. There are people who are the polar opposite of Ben. And there are people who sit somewhere in between. But an indisputable truth is that, in any enterprise, it’s people who drive outcomes. And people are motivated in different ways: some more by facts and some more by feelings. So it’s self-evident that adopting a more agile approach to people-motivating skills can deliver better outcomes.
Most people want to be heard and understood. As a leader at the sharp-end of delivering results in a complex organisation, it can be tough to find the time to dialogue effectively. Or often enough. Especially with people who are not like you. I get that. But however busy you are, it’s worth creating some extra time for some other people (and you know already which people I’m talking about in your sphere).
Here are a few dots that I’ve connected over the course of my life, and my career as an executive coach and adult educator; some of them may be helpful to you.
1. Seek first to understand, then to be understood1
This is a concept that has echoed throughout the ages of mankind. The central idea being that most people talk too much, and don’t listen enough.
2. Take some time to let the tale unfold
If you give a person 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to speak, you will learn a lot about them. Listen actively, don’t judge, ask clarifying questions, but let them speak. Eventually you will hear something along the lines of: “…which doesn’t seem right to me”. That’s a breakthrough moment which will reveal something intimate, and very important.
3. Tell me more about that
Stick with curiosity in that moment. Your own thoughts and feelings about the things that don’t seem right are irrelevant. Did anybody ask you to agree yet?! You’ll recognise this moment when you notice the words “Yes, but” about to come out of your mouth. Swallow those words! Simply say: “Tell me more about that.” And continue to listen actively.
4. Simplify, Clarify
When it’s an appropriate time to speak, here’s a good way to begin: “If I understand you correctly, what is important to you is X, Y, Z. Am I right?”. And if you are not right, do like it says on the shampoo bottle: rinse and repeat.
5. Read your vital signs
At this point you will have broadly heard one of three things: a) “that’s not fair”, b) “that’s not accurate”, c) “that’s not actionable”. This is a potential danger zone; a moment when your own interpretation of the ‘stuff’ could cause you to feel triggered. Pay attention to your ‘gut’. That Fight or Flight or Freeze feeling is invaluable data. High performance people know how to bring that data into dialogue.
6. May I share?
People with strong dialogue skills will take this moment to ask permission to share. Describe the ways in which your own thoughts and feelings diverge from those that you have heard and understood from the other person. But this isn’t an opportunity to dismiss what you have heard, or to use your ‘senior power’ (if you have any). You are merely asking for the same listening courtesy to be extended to you.
7. Where are we now?
By this time you should each have a better understanding of what makes the other one ‘tick’, and where your differences lie. Spend some time to clearly articulate the ‘gaps’ that exist between your respective thoughts/feelings, without judging or criticising them. Treat them as a phenomenon; your individual realities are not the same. It can be helpful to imagine this bundle of differences as a fish on the table between you. It’s not you, it’s not him/her. It’s a fish that you have co-created.
8. What are WE going to do about this?
We don’t often get to choose our clients or colleagues, and differences are bound to arise. But if you have gotten this far it’s fair to assume that you care about your relationship with this person, and vice versa. But you need to clean and gut that fish2, or it will begin to stink and decompose!
Occasionally I have heard people say: “This isn’t personal, it’s purely business.” And that’s actually a very well-intentioned thought. But it ignores a reality that, for some people, business is entirely about the personal. A subtle, but powerful alternative could begin something like this: “I really value my relationship with you. How can we move forward in a way that preserves that, and still achieves a good business outcome?”
If you put the above steps into practice, I guarantee that you will take much of the heat or awkwardness out of your difficult conversations. You may easily, naturally, create a better dialogue towards a better outcome. And if you need some practice with the techniques, or are interested in a workshop for your team, get in touch with Dramatic Difference. Our dynamic theatre-led learning style has helped many clients to build high performance teams through effective dialogue.
Delivering bad news is tough in any business. Whether it’s having to tell your vendors that you can no longer retain their services or informing an employee that he is being made redundant, or shutting down a project, often the “messenger” tasked with delivering the final blow would go to great lengths to delay or avoid the situation due to fear of confrontation, turning a bad situation into an even worse one.
Let’s face it – nobody wants to hear bad news. Disappointment, frustration and even anger come to mind. It’s certainly no mean feat when it comes to reconciling and managing orders from upper management with the interests of employees, vendors and clients.
So how can we avoid shooting the messenger? We share some tips on how you can deliver bad news (someone’s got to do it!) with grace and tact.
Make sure that you’re familiar with every piece of information before speaking to your target recipient (employee, colleague, client). More specifically, you need to understand the reasons why, who are the parties involved, and any other considerations in the lead up to the final decision. Don’t hesitate to ask for more information before delivering the bad news.
Time and Place
When you deliver bad news, be sure to do it in a private setting and at a time when he can hear the bad news. If it’s not urgent, don’t approach the person at a stressful time in the middle of a project. Be mindful of the setting, and switch off your phone and email alerts – avoid interruptions at all cost to put the person at ease.
Create a Buffer
Before communicating any bad news, always start with a buffer to reduce the shock or pain. An effective buffer helps the recipient to keep reading or listening, and essentially provides a smooth transition to the bad news proper.
- State the best news first
- Compliment the recipient
- Thank the recipient for his past contributions
- Listen to what the recipient has to say (shared viewpoint)
- State key facts of the case
- Express empathy (show concern)
People are more receptive to listening and accepting bad news when it’s delivered thoughtfully, sincerely and confidently. Body language is key. Make sure your body language conveys the right message in the right way and is in line with what you’re saying. Some examples of non-verbal cues include avoiding eye contact and fidgeting. These are sure to send the wrong signals. Also, do not sugarcoat and beat around the bush. Be direct and tactful, and most of all be kind.
No Time for Jokes
When bad news is being delivered, be considerate of the recipient’s feelings. Do not joke around as this may come across as being rude and insincere. While you may want to lighten the mood and reduce the impact of the news, always be respectful and sensitive.
Explain the Why’s
Research shows that people are more willing to accept bad news if they believe the decision-making process was reasonable. Therefore, provide them with ample reasons as to why the bad news is necessary and give them details about the decision-making process.
Show you Care
After delivering the news and explaining all the necessary information, give the individual some space to absorb the information and be ready to listen to his concerns. Ask him how he’s feeling. Do your best to be understanding and answer any questions as best as possible.
When closing, do it in a way that promotes goodwill and helps the individual or team move forward. You should provide your support and let them know you’re there for them. Instead of focusing on the “can’ts”, focus on the “cans”. Go a step further and suggest a compromise or alternative option based on what the individual wanted in the first place.
Posted by Chloe Tan, CorpMedia
Advertising is an important facet of business. Businesses are in the game to earn profits and advertising helps with just that – bringing the products to a wider reach by capturing the interest of target audiences. Advertisements have a heavy responsibility – they affect the daily lives of people who watch or read them. However, businesses need to be ethical in their advertising. An ethical company is likely to be viewed more positively. That’s because they have to keep an ethical promise to their customers.
Missing The Mark?
Even though businesses know what it means to be ethical, there have been cases of renowned companies making blunders in their advertising efforts.
Deceptive Advertising and Misleading Claims
If any advertisement makes unsubstantiated claims, then the intention is to mislead the public, and it becomes unethical. Such an advertisement usually creates or takes advantage of, or substantially interferes with the ability of people to make rational consumer choices.
Of course there is a fine line between exaggeration and deception. When an advertisement claims that “You’ll be walking on heaven”, it obviously does not expect readers to take that literally because the rational individual is able to discern the truth.
However, if an advertisement pitches your pill as one with “No Cholesterol!” but the ingredients listed on the back leaf show high sodium content, then that is considered deceptive advertising.
Kellogg’s Rice Krispies
An example of deceptive advertising would be that of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. The brand came under fire in 2010 for misleading consumers about the product’s immunity-boosting properties. The Federal Trade Commission stepped in and ordered Kellogg’s to stop all advertisements carrying the immunity-boosting claims. As a result, Kellogg’s had to pay $2.5 million to affected consumers and donate another $2.5 million worth of Kellogg’s products to charities.
Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats
Kellogg’s got into trouble again in 2013 when it falsely claimed that its Mini-Wheats “improve(d) kids’ attentiveness by nearly…20%.” As a result, the company had to settle a $4 million claim for false advertising.
It is the manipulation of feelings or interests of a target audience.
Advertisements push our buttons with celebrities, sex and success. They disable our rational mind and appeal to our feelings and emotions. They exploit deep-seated emotions the target audience might have: the need for security, acceptance and self-esteem.
McDonald’s Advertisement UK
McDonald’s seemingly harmless Filet-O-Fish advertisement caused massive backlash and debate online when it was launched. In the advertisement, a mother tells her son about his late father and to his disappointment, they shared little in common. It was only after his mother took him to McDonald’s and he ate a Filet-O-Fish burger that he found out he shared the same taste as his father (it was his father’s favourite burger). McDonald’s was taken to task for creating an advertisement that exploited child bereavement. The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK received about a hundred complaints and only then was the advertisement withdrawn.
Fear As a Motivator
Advertising agencies frequently use fear tactics. It becomes unethical when it is without proper justification. If fear is used for the good of the consumer and society at large, then the use of fear is justifiable.
In the case of anti-smoking campaigns, a label carrying the words “Smoking Kills” on the box uses fear as a tactic to motivate smokers to stop smoking, for their own benefit and health.
Also in the case of anti-drinking and driving campaigns, the use of fear is meant to stop or condemn drink driving, while highlighting the possible risks.
Many companies, however, employ fear tactics for the wrong reasons.
Nationwide Insurance Advertisement
The Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company released an advertisement in 2015 which features a boy reciting all the things he would not be able to accomplish in life and goes on to say “I couldn’t grow up, because I died from an accident.” The advertisement shows horrific images of accidental child death scenes like poisonous chemicals and shattered TV screens. It goes on to say, “At Nationwide, we believe in protecting what matters most… your kids. Together, we can make safe happen. #makesafehappen”
This is an example of unjustifiable fear, wherein the advertisement induces people to buy the insurance by depicting how horrible the lives of their children would be if left uninsured.
Promoting Unethical Behaviour
Unethical advertisements are also those that promote unethical and immoral behavior. An advertisement by Reebok had a headline that read “Cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workout.” People were unhappy that the advertisement was unethical as it encouraged infidelity.
Ethical advertising is critical. Consumers are more socially aware and increasingly demand for businesses and products to be more ethical in production and advertising. When any company is perceived to lack in ethics in any aspect of their business, they lose credibility from consumers, resulting in a tarnished brand reputation.
As obvious as it sounds, to be ethical in advertising, one needs to be honest and promote a given product or service without lies or deception. Ethical advertising tells the truth and never hides any of the product specifications or its defects. Ethical advertising is also free from any deceptive or misleading claims, irrational persuasion and using fear as a motivator.
To be ethical in advertising is to avoid appealing to deep-seated emotions and unavoidable needs of the target audience. It is objective and unbiased, and does its best to live up to its social responsibility mission.
Ethical advertising also comes in the form of protection of the environment and preventing harm to the environment. Unethical advertisements do not show consideration for the environment and also promote environmentally destructive behavior.
Posted by Chloe Tan, CorpMedia