It has been a busy first quarter for international PR departments, with several unforeseen brand blunders, and an equal amount of crafty campaigns engineered to win back the hearts of audiences. Lit Communication explores three standout PR responses from some of the world’s biggest brands, so far this year.
A technical issue prevented thousands of millennials from claiming one of Virgin Train’s 26-30 railcards in March when they launched. With only 10,000 available, completing the application process was rumoured to be as tense as bagging a coveted Glastonbury ticket.
After a very public social media uproar, Virgin Trains responded with something that the age category in question hold dear to their hearts. The everyday avocado pioneered Virgin’s light-hearted PR response, and the disruptive travel brand announced that 26-30’s could receive the equivalent discount – for a limited time – simply by presenting an avocado. Virgin even published dedicated terms and conditions for customers planning to take their #avocards on board.
FCK - We’re Sorry...
KFC’s recent chicken shortage is no secret, and became the feature of national headlines last month as journalists scrambled to interview scorned customers (literally clucking for their weekly fix). The fast-food brand remained relatively quiet whilst ‘Chicken Gate’ forced its customers towards rival outlets with their loyalty left in question. Whilst customers were left feeling like KFC was burying its head in the sand and ignoring the issue, its PR team were strategising and waiting to pounce. No sooner than the chicken delivery logistics issues were fixed, KFC published this simple, but incredibly powerful advert in a targeted selection of national newspapers. Chicken shortage? Consider it forgotten by the brand’s humour-loving customers thanks to their genius tongue-in-cheek apology.
Facebook’s Data Sharing mishaps
You’ll have most likely read about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which uncovered a huge hole in Facebook’s data sharing activities and a general lack of protection for users. In true Mark Zuckerberg style, the social networking CEO took to Facebook to post a personal apology for its role in the data mishap. Mark’s statement reassured users that protecting their data is Facebook’s utmost responsibility, complete with a timeline of events that explained how the data breach occurred. Alongside he explained Facebook’s immediate plans to implement tighter control on user data. Here’s an extract:
“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you. I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there's more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”
After that came further data sharing accusations, and additional bad publicity for Facebook. Undeterred, the Facebook Founder showcased just how well years of media training has equipped him to deliver the right messaging under the spotlight. Zuckerberg stood in front of congress to face a barrage of questions about the social networking site’s policies and practices, including queries into why it allows reported or inappropriate content to remain live. Facebook has since responded with actions to deliver on its promising words, publishing content removal policies for the first time. Well done, Mr Zuckerberg.
Whilst these very public reactions have taught a lesson in responding perfectly to crises, other brands missed their chance to make things right. Some let the opportunity to transform the public’s negative perception of their brand simply, slip through their fingers. United Airlines and their unfulfilling crash landing response springs to mind, along with Uber's lacklustre reaction to a host of disturbing accusations, ranging from sexual assaults to utilising software that is capable of defrauding customers and drivers.
Despite the negative public attention surrounding the initial brand mishaps from Virgin Trains, KFC and Facebook, being under the spotlight paves the perfect opportunity to turn things around with your audience, so make it count.
Need PR tips or support for your brand? Get in touch with us at LIT Communication to book a PR consultation for your small or independent business.
Sophie Marsden, founder of LIT Communication