Well, folks, that’s a wrap. 2022 was a year filled with Wordle, a return of 90’s fashion trends, and the release of Taylor Swift’s “Midnights.” But it was also a big year for crisis communications. And PR agencies can learn a lot from the biggest communication crises in 2022, from the good to the bad to the downright ugly.
Over the years, Daily Harvest has become one of the best in the business by using social media influencers to promote its products. But it also could have done better in its social media approach when handling a product recall earlier this year.
After receiving and consuming a Daily Harvest PR package that contained French lentil and leek crumbles in May, TikTok influencer Abby Silverman reported suffering from severe stomach pain, leading to two visits to the ER. She posted a video about her experience, catalyzing conversation and forcing Daily Harvest to take action… one month later. Daily Harvest finally recalled the product after it led to hundreds of consumers getting sick and 113 people going to the hospital.
Daily Harvest also released a statement highlighting the action taken, but here’s where they had a misstep: They advertised a different product in the Instagram post when linking to the statement regarding the French lentil and leek crumble recall. Burying information about a vital recall impacting customers’ health made Daily Harvest look like they weren’t taking the situation seriously. Unsurprisingly, there was immediate backlash from customers on Instagram.
Overall, Daily Harvest needed to be more proactive and transparent in addressing its customers’ health concerns rather than trying to bury the information.
Another year with an advertising campaign that left everyone wondering: “How was this ever approved?” Balenciaga dropped its “2022 gift collection” holiday ad campaign on Nov. 16, featuring children holding teddy bears that were wearing bondage harnesses and costumes. It received instant backlash from millions of fans, including Kim Kardashian, who was often associated with the brand.
It was eight days before the company released a statement and removed the campaign from its channels. And while the statement was apologetic and strong, Balenciaga took way too long to respond and take action despite the growing number of complaints. It’s also mind-boggling that this campaign received the green light anyway. In the future, the company’s PR counsel needs to be included in these creative decisions to share advice on potential public perception.
Paypal found itself in a problematic crisis earlier this year after an updated “Acceptable Use Policy” was accidentally sent out. The updated policy included a clause enabling PayPal to withdraw $2,500 from users’ bank accounts simply for posting anything the company deems as misinformation or offensive.
Customers were unhappy with this, and backlash resulted in #BankruptPayPal trending on Twitter and many canceling their accounts. According to Google Trends, searches for “delete PayPal” spiked 1,392% after the announcement. By the next day, the PR team released a statement, spinning the story as an “error” and saying that the verbiage was never supposed to be in the user agreement. However, many people did not believe this was an accident.
But the story doesn’t end there. Once the backlash died, PayPal added the clause to the terms of services anyway, hoping that no one would notice. As news of the clause going back into the user agreement ignited again, they finally removed it when it updated their agreement as of Oct. 29, 2022.
The lesson in this story? Don’t call something “an accident,” and move forward with a questionable business decision once the backlash dies. This will look deceptive and leave the PR team struggling to fix the poor public perception of the company.
The Try Guys
If you don’t know the “Try Guys,” you’ve been living under a rock. The Try Guys is a popular comedy web video series where a group of four guys with multi-hyphenate personalities “try” just about anything. The four rose to frame at BuzzFeed before leaving to start their own company.
This crisis involved Ned Fulmer, a member of the Try Guys who regularly and publicly talked about his wife, Ariel Fulman, in videos and other Try Guys media. In October, Fulmer got caught on video having a consensual relationship with a coworker, and it immediately started making its rounds on social media.
Before this scandal had time to completely tarnish the “Try Guys” image, swift action had already been taken. The company executed an internal review since the affair occurred with a coworker, and a statement was released highlighting that Ned was no longer part of the company. In addition to removing Ned from as many past videos as possible, they also released a video highlighting the timeline of events and actions taken, bringing more transparency to the situation.
By removing the member who was no longer consistent with their brand and being transparent about the situation, they could control the narrative. Overall, the Try Guys had a total PR win in the crisis department in 2022!
No one can predict a crisis, but everyone should be ready for one. What actions have you taken to prepare for an unexpected crisis? If the answer is “none,” it may be time to get in contact with us to see how we can help.