All politics aside, we’ve learned several important PR lessons from some of the biggest brands who failed to see the importance of timing, consideration, and word choice. Here are some of the most noteable #PRFails of 2017, and what to avoid as a brand voice on social media and in digital marketing efforts.
Word choice matters.
Adidas faced significant backlash after sending an email to Boston Marathon runners this year that said “Congratulations – you survived the Boston Marathon.” An innocent mistake intended to celebrate the completion of such a major accomplishment, this email came across as highly insensitive to the bombings at the marathon just four years ago.
Adidas issued this apology that same day:
Your communications team makes a difference.
Any of us who have managed a brand’s social media account knows the fear of accidentally posting on the brand’s page when you meant to post on your own. McDonald’s had this very fear become a reality when an employee posted personal content on the brand’s Twitter bashing Donald Trump. A caution to brands everywhere – anyone who is likely to post highly offensive or politically charged content on their personal pages should not have access to your brand’s social logins.
oh my it’s even pinned pic.twitter.com/tGv6EdpZEm— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) March 16, 2017
Don’t be made a fool with silly mistakes.
This comes back to double and triple checking the work of your team when writing content for social media. In the case of the US Department of Education, they were made a fool on Twitter after misspelling W.E.B. Du Bois’ name – something their fans expected more from the educational institution. If that wasn’t enough, their response to the teasing of their fans made things even worse when they wrote “our deepest apologizes for the earlier typo.” Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.
Education must not simply teach work - it must teach life. – W.E.B. DeBois pic.twitter.com/Re4cWkPSFA— US Dept of Education (@usedgov) February 12, 2017
bruh. Cmon. pic.twitter.com/INFYrJERIr— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) February 12, 2017
So, what does this mean for fresh produce brands?
Double check your content copy, especially if something major is happening around the world that might affect the words you use. For example, a social post talking about a tropical beach vacation and swimming with your friends is insensitive to post while a massive hurricane is tearing through part of the country. In the same way, if a mass shooting happens, posting that “we’re dying over this recipe” needs to be re-worded to protect the brand’s image.
Be willing to own up and apologize if you’re in the wrong and be respectful of your communities, since they are already such avid fans of your brand. They will know if you’re only about the bottom line if you’re not willing to admit wrong and make things right.
Know your values and lean on them in times of crisis. As a brand with tens and hundreds of thousands of fans, it is important to decide what you are and are not willing to do in times of political debate, natural disasters, and major threats. Our rule of thumb at DMA Solutions is that compassion and empathy always win against the need to hit a goal on social media. That means that we’re willing to pause our own content if we know that social media streams are overwhelmed with news of tragedy in the same way that we’re willing to speak up on social media about issues near and dear to our heart as a brand.
Have a thought about these or any other #PRFails? Tweet us at @bethatkinsonpr and @thecoreblog!