A Prime Example Back in 2012, Taco Bell was sued by an angry customer for being served tacos with less beef than promised. This could’ve severely hurt the company’s reputation; we all remember the woman who found a finger in her chili and how much that damaged the public’s view of Wendy’s. Taco Bell, however, was on the ball and started their damage control immediately. Between a countersuit, a video statement from the company’s CEO and a witty media campaign, the lawsuit was dropped and the company was in the clear.

This story demonstrates that although there are situations that can really hurt your company’s reputation, there are ways to counteract the damage.

The Steps To Recovery

There are various ways you can find yourself in PR panic mode, and with the rise of the internet and social media, it can be especially easy to slip up and find yourself sweating. One Facebook post or the wording of a tweet can do a lot of damage, especially as it’s so easy for such posts to go viral.

Learning From The Red Cross’ Mistake

A few months ago, the Red Cross tweeted: "Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head's Midas touch beer.... when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd." The company we trust to take our blood donations broadcasting the image of getting drunk was obviously a bad idea. How did they recover from this?

  1. Be Quick - They responded immediately by stating that the tweet was a mistake and reassuring the public of their sobriety.
  2. Be Honest - The Red Cross was straight forward in apologizing and counteracting.
  3. Don’t Take Things Too Seriously - Instead of blowing the situation out of proportion, the company used their wit to work in a message about driving safely.
  4. Seize An Unexpected Opportunity - The head of Dogfish Heads’ social media, Mariah Calagion, jumped onto the hashtag and got into conversation with fans of the beer. She started asking them to make donations, providing information & a link to the Red Cross’ site. The potentially damaging post actually led to more donations for the organization.

Back To Honesty

Ethically, you should always be straight-forward and honest in all things business. When it comes to PR, candor is especially critical. Going back to the example of Taco Bell, there were a lot of people questioning the food’s ingredients and how much of the beef was the real deal. Someone high up in Taco Bell stating that the beef is legitimate is one thing, but there’s so much more that could be done to truly make the consumers feel truly confident the company and its products.

  1. Don’t Simply Tell, Show - PR experts told Taco Bell that the public needed more than just words, they needed to actually see how the food was made. They recommended that the company produce and publicize a video of the beef being processed.
  2. Don’t Skimp On Details - Taco Bell responded to the public’s doubts by announcing that their seasoned beef was made up of 88% USDA-inspected beef. You’re probably thinking what the majority of people who heard this thought. If only 88% of product is actual beef, what is the other 12%? It turns out that the other 12% consists of water, spices, oats, starch and other ingredients that assists in, according Taco Bell, the “quality of its product”. Right there is a perfect example of skimping on details because not stating those final ingredients is something many people would surely find discomforting.

To Sum It Up

The most important thing to take away from this is that timing is everything. By staying on top of communication with your customers, you’ll be ready to start damage control immediately if any negative activity arises. Be quick, be honest and try to not take things too seriously. Keep these three points in mind, and you’ll be able to tackle any PR disasters that may come your way.