In 2013, Lululemon recalled its most popular yoga pant after users realized that they were see-through when stretched. Since yoga practitioners do a lot of stretching, this was a major problem. Then, the situation became an even greater PR tragedy when their very own founder and CEO, Chip Wilson, appeared on Bloomberg Television and blamed it on the women wearing the pants. “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it,” he said, adding, “It’s about the rubbing through the thighs.” It’s amazing how in the context of what seems a perfectly benign business channel interview, can go to a total disaster.
Oh no did he really just say that?
Of course women everywhere interpreted this as being called too fat to wear Lululemon pants.
And could fashion devotees ever forget the total public meltdown of John Galliano? While head of design for Dior, drunk in a bar, he spewed racial slurs and would not calm down for hours.
Oh no did he really just do that?
Galliano’s personality came unglued in what appeared to be an unwinding from the many years of stress that came along with his intensely demanding role. Galliano was always known for his great flamboyance, but up till then, was really only known for his amazing work.
More recently, it was Dov Charney, the founder and CEO of American Apparel. His list of bad behavior really is too gross to restate. You can see the lawsuit filing here.
Oh no, did he really just say, email, text, write, perform, photograph and video that?
Nobody could ever imagine these bad PR surprises. Especially from the head cheese. Publicly verbal, uncharacteristic and highly damaging outbursts from the top have got to be last on any social media manager’s worry list.
Since bad PR can happen, companies need a serious plan of combat and execution. Social media is definitely the first place your customer now goes letting the world know exactly what they think or experienced with your brand.
So, then make social media the first place you go to do proper damage control.
Make a crisis game plan that specifies the duties and roles for each member on the crisis team. This game plan should be able to hold up against any incident, anytime, anywhere in the world and under any conditions.
Your go-to PR crisis social media plan should look like this:
- Most importantly, DO YOU EVEN HAVE A PLAN?
- Start with assigning a leader. Then, make sure everybody on the team has a hotline to each other no matter what time or day it is.
- Generate the resources of infrastructure. For instance, you may need a dedicated site or hashtag. Evaluate and assign what it would take to address all your constituencies and what channels are most appropriate.
- Speed is key. The faster the brand jumps in to the crisis the greater influence they will have in managing the message and communicating with their public.
- Admit wrongdoing, apologize and take every punch. Be extremely humble, but strong and express a plan for moving forward through the issue.
- Act on the broadcasted plan and let your audience know that you have done so. This starts to rebuild the lost trust.
- Heavily monitor your progress. Internal management and external sources teamed up will watch as the incident evolves through the cycle and can readjust accordingly. Crisis management is rarely a one and done effort, be vigilant and stay on the plan until all signs indicate it is truly a new day.
Any company can be caught in a PR crisis at any time. Any company should be ready with their social media strategy to answer to it. No brand should assume immunity from these way-out-of-left-field-bad press incidents.
That is why it is called a surprise. Be ready.
Christine C. Oddo is the author of The Christine Report blog and founder of Madison Luxe Group; a beauty and luxury product retail sales and digital strategy agency.
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