Three Most Memorable PR Moments of 2018

Remember that time IHOP, the pancake ruler of the world, caused a nationwide frenzy by announcing it was changing its name to IHOb, International House of Burgers? Yeah, me too. While it may feel like that happened years ago, it actually took place in 2018.

 

Whether you loved the publicity stunt or hated it, you have to admit it caught your attention and made for good conversation.

 

As we gear up to enter a new year, let’s take a look at three of the most noteworthy marketing and PR moments of 2018.

 

IHOP Fakes a Name Change

While some called it stupid, others called it genius. Either way, the world was captivated at the idea that the 60-year old International House of Pancakes would be known for anything but sweet and delicious breakfast food. The stunt did exactly what it was intended to do: get the world talking about the brand and thinking about it as more than just a go-to breakfast joint.

 

IHOP has served burgers since opening its first location in 1958. However, with casual dining and family dining becoming less popular with the proliferation of restaurant delivery services, the restaurant needed to get more diners coming in its doors for lunch.

 

While the marketing stunt certainly created a ton of buzz this year, it did also create some confusion. Many consumers were left wondering if the company was moving to a burgers-only menu and whether the signature pancakes they loved would continue to be served. There are still online news stories about the IHOb name change—but with no mention that it was all a hoax. The stunt even helped brands like Wendy’s and Waffle House draw some extra attention by generating Twitter wars full of witty banter and friendly trolling.

 

But it seems to have worked…at least for now. The stunt generated millions of social media impressions and extensive media coverage in just about every national consumer outlet. In the weeks following the launch, the pancake chain’s parent company said burger sales quadrupled for a short period. More recently, the company says it has doubled comparable burger sales since before the promotion.

 

Starbucks Racial Sensitivity Training

On a Tuesday afternoon in May, 8,000 Starbucks cafes closed for a four-hour anti-bias training seminar. More than 175,000 baristas participated in the training following an incident in Philadelphia that tested the company’s value of standing firmly against discrimination or racial profiling. The company announced the training soon after two black men were arrested at a store in Philadelphia while waiting for a friend.

 

In a situation where a lot of things went wrong, Starbucks (and its PR team) did a lot of things right. When it comes to preparing our own clients for crisis communications management, the steps that were taken by Starbucks are something that Dittoe PR prides itself on doing as well.

 

The company issued a public apology on Twitter two days following the incident, giving the organization enough time to gather the basic facts. Kevin Johnson, chief executive of Starbucks, then went on to issue a statement in which he articulated empathy and regret to the two men who were innocently at the heart of the controversy. From there, Johnson vowed to fully investigate the facts of the matter and make changes at Starbucks to prevent a similar incident from ever occurring again.

 

While some criticized the lapse in time between Johnson’s public statement and the disheartening incident in Philadelphia, many others praised him for accepting accountability and injecting himself into the conversation.

 

Johnson reiterated that “Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling,” and offered a face-to-face apology to the two men. He promised that company-wide meetings and trainings would take place to underscore Starbucks’ commitment to treating one another with respect and dignity.

 

Starbucks’ executive chairman Howard Schultz went on CBS This Morning to discuss how the company intended to handle the incident by closing 8,000 stores for racial sensitivity training:

“It will cost millions of dollars, but I’ve always viewed this and things like this as not an expense, but an investment in our people and our company. And we’re better than this.”

 

While there’s rarely a “perfect” way to handle crisis communications in an incident of this severity, Starbucks deserves a lot of credit for a great job in crisis management. The company acknowledged the problem, apologized, addressed the intended solution, and most importantly, followed up on the promise they made.

 

Payless’s Unexpected Influencer Campaign

More recently, Payless pulled a PR stunt with a brilliant influencer campaign by opening their high-end alter ego: a luxury shoe store called Palessi. The low-price shoe store sold the same shoes found in Payless shoe stores—but with a major price hike.

 

Social influencers visited the store and spent up to $400 on a pair of shoes in Palessi, which sell for less than $40 at Payless. The influencers, who didn’t have a clue of the stunt, and even commented things like, “Palessi is just such high-quality, high-fashion brand” and “I could definitely wear this shoe to the Met Gala dinner.”

 

Following the campaign and stunt reveal, Payless CMO Sara Couch told Adweek, “The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy [in the fashion industry] and aims to remind consumers Payless is still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion.”

 

Payless’ clever campaign proves PR has power. After this story grabbed headlines and gained millions of social media impressions, everyone was talking about Payless. It’s certainly not every day a low-price shoe store gets national attention.

 

Does your company want to make a big splash in the media in 2019? Contact Lauryn Gray at lauryn@dittoepr.com to set up a consultation and learn more about our services.

How to Navigate A PR Crisis In Six Simple Steps

Bad reviews. An executive scandal. International data breach. A product malfunction. These are all examples of a PR crisis that many businesses have had to overcome, and they won’t be the last.

 

In today’s age of social media and innovation, the likelihood of a business facing a PR crisis continues to soar. While no one expects you to be perfect, how you respond can either give you a much-needed image boost or significantly damage your brand, alienating your customer base.

 

When a crisis does arise, use these helpful tips to navigate through the storm:

 

Appoint a response team.

Every business should already have a response team in place before a crisis hits to help ensure the right people are speaking on behalf of the company. This allows the organization to respond faster and speak with one voice, which can be difficult to achieve when multiple people are speaking on the company’s behalf.

 

The response team should be small and include the CEO, the company’s top PR executives and legal counsel. If the company’s PR executive does not have sufficient crisis communication expertise, consider retaining an agency with that specialty.

 

In addition, when a PR crisis occurs, each member of the response team should understand their role and responsibilities to help avoid confusion as well as any cross-over of duties.

 

Brief your team.

Once the strategy has been determined, relay the protocol to all persons who could be approached to speak on the company’s behalf. This means informing all employees, stakeholders, board members, etc., of who is to be speaking with the media and how they can direct any inquiries.

 

Craft your message.

Once the facts about the incident have been gathered, the team should agree on how to frame the response. When it comes to the response, think about the most transparent way to address the situation and what your company has done or will do about it – without placing external blame. In the response, be honest and open with your audience.

 

Once the message is crafted, it needs to be delivered in a timely manner. The sooner you apologize and admit the mistake, the sooner the public will forgive you. A prime example of a crisis being resolved correctly is how Starbucks handled their recent scandal by apologizing in a public statement, taking responsibility for the occurrence and making it clear that it won’t happen again.

 

Identify and address the affected parties.

Once the message has been crafted, identify the people who should know about the situation. This may include employees, stakeholders, business partners, customers and media. Audiences who need to be informed will depend on the context of the situation, but regardless of who’s receiving the message, you should make sure it is sent out in a timely manner.

 

Monitor the situation.

Assessing the brand’s image is especially important following a PR crisis, so keep an eye on inbound and outbound communications to address follow-up questions or concerns.

 

It’s also important to also track what people are saying about a company online. One way to do this is by establishing a monitoring system that quickly uncovers negative trends before they become a bigger problem and migrate to the media.

 

Dittoe PR uses TrendKite to track and monitor media coverage for clients, which allows us to look at the company’s media coverage, share of voice, sentiment, social media amplification, competitors’ coverage and more.

 

Review and learn from the situation.

Once the crisis is over, conduct a post-action review to determine how well your staff and management handled the situation. During the review, discuss what you could have done differently and what changes are necessary to prevent a similar situation.

 

What not to do.

When you come face-to-face with a PR crisis, stay away from these tactics:

 

  • Lashing out: Even if a media outlet or opposing party has said something false about your company, it is never a good idea to respond negatively or blame the complaint for the situation.

 

  • Offering no comment: Not having answers to potential questions is the worst thing you can do during a crisis. If you don’t have enough information to give a solid response, say so and assure that you will issue a statement when you have more details.

 

  • Responding too quickly: Handling a PR crisis is all about timing, so don’t give an answer prematurely before you know all the facts. This may cause you to contradict previous statements later could further damage your reputation.

 

 

  • Dwelling on the situation: A period of bad press is often just a hiccup on your path to success, so don’t let it completely distract you from continuing daily business responsibilities.

 

  • Avoid assembling a plan: Almost all crises can be avoidable with the right planning. Don’t wait until the last minute to assemble a thorough crisis communications plan.

Best Practices To Use on Social Media During a Crisis

Let’s face it. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, we use social media more and more to digest our news rather than traditional media. Nearly 67 percent of American adults rely on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat for news. So, when a crisis strikes, the information is at our fingertips at lightning speed.

 

News coverage 24/7 has transformed the way we seek and share information, but what does that mean for brands? If you ever find yourself in a crisis, take a deep breath, buckle-up, and get ready for the ride. Here are a few social media best practices when dealing with a crisis:

 

Have a plan.

Hopefully you’re reading this before disaster strikes and have time to proactively create a crisis action plan. This plan will help the team understand their roles during a crisis and allow them to be prepared for every scenario that could possibly go wrong with your brand. Don’t wait until something blows up; brainstorm with your team and list out any and all possible problems that could arise. You then have time to create well-written responses and a good plan of action no matter what comes your way.

 

Be quick to respond.

When crisis strikes, response time is everything. If possible, responding within the first hour of inquiries will help minimize confusion or speculation. Reference your crisis communication plan and draft a statement immediately, individualizing when possible. It’s easier to change the course of the conversation with a timely, heartfelt response rather than staying silent and looking suspicious.

 

Monitor in real-time.

Whether the entire team or just one person is in charge of the task, it is important to have someone dedicated to monitoring your social media 24/7. You can’t deal with a possible situation if you don’t know what is happening in real-time. Create Google Alerts for your company, product(s), and keywords related to your industry. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are also good tools to monitor social media mentions and engagements in real-time. Stop havoc before it happens, or turn your crisis into a win like Reese’s did with their #AllTreesAreBeautiful campaign.

 

I’m sure you’ve opened a Reese’s Peanut Butter Tree at Christmas and its looked a little off. Well, instead of shying away from the backlash, Reese’s launched its #AllTreesAreBeautiful ad campaign. With a bit of hard work, the ad campaign received more than 1 billion impressions. Their emotional and cultural relevance as a brand took off and made a huge impact.

 

Speak your audience’s language.

You use your brand’s voice on all forms of social media every other day of the year—don’t turn into a robot just because you’re in crisis mode. Be professional where it’s called for on platforms like LinkedIn and use a lighter voice with more imagery on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Each social media platform has its own tone, as does each brand. Adjust it with your audience in mind but stay true to who you are.

 

If you don’t already have a plan in place for handling a crisis of any magnitude, now is the time to create one, and Dittoe PR is here to help. Request a consultation with us today!