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Posts Tagged ‘Red Cross’

How Should Brands Respond to Tragedy on Social Media?

Boston!This post was co-written by the author and his wife, Stephanie Coffee

Horrific events that shock and captivate entire nations, superseding all other news—tragedies like the Newtown shooting and last week’s Boston Marathon terror attack—are thankfully rare. And yet, as we all know, social media and the 24/7 cable news cycle have intensified the public’s focus on these national crises and their aftermaths.

Now that the Boston case has been resolved with amazing speed by state and local authorities, we can examine the media response to last week’s events from a PR perspective.

As communications professionals, we know that the public doesn’t just demand (accurate) news as it breaks in times of crisis. They also value reassurances and statements of support from sources they follow on social media—sources that include their favorite brands.

At least one brand has already demonstrated the dangers of an inept response. So what should public entities and the people who manage their accounts do?

What NOT to do: 

  • Don’t tie the event into a promotionEpicurious (which is usually a very good food site) gave us a perfect case study on Monday with its tone-deaf promotional tweet encouraging followers to buy specific Boston-themed products. We won’t go into why it was a terrible idea because that should be painfully obvious. As another example, who can forget Kenneth Cole’s infamous Egypt uprising PR Fail?
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Top 5 Cases of PR ‘Lemons to Lemonade’ in 2011

Many year-end listicles have focused on the top PR gaffes of the past year. However, the year has also shown the power to turn around a bad situation into good or, as the title of this top five list states, to turn PR lemons into sweet, refreshing public relations lemonade. Here are our choices for those instances where a fail was transformed into, as our contributor Nancy Lazarus calls it, a “tactful turnaround.”

5. Aflac Finds a New Spokesduck. After the voice of Aflac’s duck mascot, Gilbert Gottfried, was dismissed for making insensitive “jokes” about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March, the insurance company launched a nationwide search for a new mascot. Rather than settling for a public apology on behalf of its former spokesperson, the company turned the search into a PR campaign, with the New York Times covering the New York audition. We said then it would be a PR moment to remember, and we stand by that.

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