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
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
Artificial Intelligence. It’s all around us.
Think Amazon suggestions, Spotify picking your next song, Google search answers, Netflix recommendations and the list goes on. From speech-powered personal assistants like Siri to voice compression algorithms and autonomous cars equipped with predictive abilities, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has come a long way.
AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence processes executed by machines. Indeed, its prevalence in our daily routines has made a significant difference in the world we live in today. Communications has also been greatly disrupted by the breakthrough of AI, slowly but surely.
Is AI taking over the world? To a certain extent, this might be true. While not everyone’s been enthusiastic about its rise, advances in AI have led to fundamental changes in the workplace. Leaders are rethinking how their businesses can be run with the help of AI’s powerful tools that can be applied to everything, from compliance to data collection, and streamlining processes to increase the overall level of efficiency.
However, AI should not be perceived as a Machiavellian robot scheming to end mankind. In fact, it can be the positive force behind the innovative transformations in our lives. In the world of public relations (PR), for example, AI has enabled brands to better interact and build deeper relations with key audiences. It would be a prodigious blunder to think that PR is on the brink of disappearing!
With AI, brands are able to leverage data sets to predict the reactions of the public more accurately and follow up with more targeted actions.
So, let’s pause for a cause and focus on the powerful combination of AI and PR working in synergy to better engage with your customers and grow your brand(s).
Consumer insights lead to improved astuteness
Good news for businesses – more information on consumers than ever before! With the most relevant and specific information on hand, brands can stay current with customers and quickly create personalised content to suit their specific interests and/or needs.
Through data collection across various channels, AI can successfully gather engagement metrics and conversion statistics. With data gathering tools, marketers can segment consumer metrics based on various factors like demographics and purchasing power.
Prior to AI, chunks of information without any organisation, otherwise known as big data, were used in businesses. It was difficult and extremely time-consuming to sieve through the information. With the help of AI, the deluge of data can now be digested into bite-sized information, enabling PR professionals to gain a better understanding of their audience’s core attributes through patterns and trends drawn from the data. The resulting encompassing patterns help professionals to discern customer preferences across a more intricate marketing strategy.
Tailored content options
AI is also redefining the customer experience by locking in consumers’ needs and wants, and improving their overall shopping experience. Have you ever noticed the content you see on your Facebook feed and news recommendations are all aligned with your interests? E-commerce platforms like Alibaba and Zalora also offer shopping that is highly personalised. Algorithms process articles by heavily scrutinising the locations of readers, what they engage in on social media as well as any other publicly obtainable information. Since the objective of AI is to find out what consumers are looking for and how they want their information to be reflected, it’s no surprise that AI is the mastermind behind all your tailored content options.
Still, professionals ought to be aware of not overstepping boundaries in the course of leveraging data to offer customised options. Customer privacy should not be compromised at the expense of creating more personalised experiences as doing so may backfire and result in consumers feeling as if their privacy is being invaded!
Higher consumer engagement with data-driven communication
Before AI came into existence, humans carried out mundane tasks like distribution of press releases and the creation of automated media lists. AI is now assisting with these duties, making it easier for businesses to reach out to target consumers directly. This can also help brands engage with the relevant target groups more efficiently than their competitors.
Given the rapid speed at which AI processes data, the accuracy of messaging is also increasing proportionally. This, in turn, helps PR professionals to ensure the delivery of strong and direct brand messaging to clients.
Advancements in AI technologies also contribute to determining predictive decisions of consumers based on the patterns detected. To better cater to the needs of the consumers, AI provides suggestions within a brand for the consumers. Since every consumer reacts differently to brand content and advertising, AI can help to tweak platform performance based on interactions with consumers and their purchases to improve each consumer’s shopping experience, using the data provided by social media interactions.
With the daily addition of content to the Internet – from blog posts to social media updates and netizen comments – AI plays an important role in comprehending the potential consequences of any crisis and acting as a pundit by giving professional guidance.
Predicting a crisis is difficult. Given a quick examination of social posts, AI can overcome this challenge. With ample caution, social media posts that have been pre-scheduled can be prevented from being posted automatically, and PR professionals can quickly “go into crisis management mode” and craft more suitable posts.
In the PR sphere, crisis management is, without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges. That being said, accurate information and communication-intensive efforts aid in identifying paramount events and topics – all of which cannot be achieved without AI.
With AI dominating the world we live in, there is always the fear that machines would replace humans one day. But let’s focus on the positive aspects of AI. Improved efficiency. Greater creativity. Optimized target consumers.
Posted by Shermaine Sim, CorpMedia
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
We’ve just entered a brand new year! Helloooooooo 2018!
For some, the new year will be about honing and refining, building on current successes to perform even better. For others, it’s about developing new ways of working together, and stepping into new opportunities. This is all just so exciting!
In 2018, we dare you to:
- Dream Big. Step out of your comfort zone. Consider the breadth of your market and your potential, so you can see all the opportunities.
- Be Open to Change. Even the best laid plans have sell-by dates. Begin your planning early. Anticipate change. Conduct periodic reviews and decide how you’re going to handle it with your team.
- Stay Relevant. As technology and search engines change, so do strategies marketers use to engage with customers. If you aren’t staying on top of the newest trends in content marketing, your brand will be left behind, and your business will become irrelevant.
GONE are the days of the detailed, step-by-step, multi-year action plans. The pace of demographic, technological, and business model is changing too fast for any planner to predict that far into the future. It’s time to rethink and reframe your strategic planning. Literally, this means ‘out with the old, and in with the new.’
Effective strategy needs consistent discipline, not an annual intervention; it must be embedded in the day-to-day rhythm of organizational life.
Change is in the air. Breathe deep and take it all in. Let’s make 2018 a year to remember!
From all of us here at CorpMedia, here’s wishing you and yours a very happy and successful year ahead.
Posted by Irene Gomez, CIO, CorpMedia