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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Don't Give Them The Finger

When it comes to crisis response, TV and Social Media can be either friend or foe. It all depends on how you handle it.

Consider what is called the Letterman-Leno Syndrome – when an incident that puts your brand at risk becomes fodder for network TV comedy monologues or skits. That's what happened to fast food chain Arby's last week when an unfortunate employee's sliced fingertip was found in a sandwich by a 14-year-old Arby's patron in Michigan. Guess what made CBS’s David Letterman’s popular nightly "Top Ten" List?

Arby's quickly posted a statement on its website explaining how they had "sanitized" the location in question and its food. But was that enough? Several PR and Crisis bloggers and experts say no – that the statement was generic, didn't explain in enough detail what Arby's was doing company-wide to prevent such a mishap from occurring again elsewhere, and that the chain failed to proactively engage publicly-visible sarcastic social media postings.

At CommCore we regularly advise our crisis communications clients that once a determination has been made that an incident requires public response, they should consider:
·         A rapid response on your corporate or "dark" website acknowledging the problem, stating how it has been (or is being corrected), and what is being done to ensure it won't happen again. If you can't give many details – because it's too soon or the response is not fully formulated – at least develop an appropriate holding statement
·         If the incident is deemed to be serious enough, include the face and voice of a senior executive expressing genuine, appropriate concern for anyone affected by the incident
·         Monitor social media and engage as necessary. (A corollary: be aware of the so-called Streisand Effect where efforts to quash social media commentary merely serve to spread the story even more widely).
·         Reach out to journalists and bloggers with whom you should already have pre-existing relationships, and let them know what you are doing to redress the problem.

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