Great article in Advertising Age on the PR gaffe du jour: Kenneth Cole facetiously tweeting that the rioting in Cairo was caused by news that the company’s spring collection had found its way online. Ugh.
What’s interesting, apart from what the author describes as quickening pace by which PR gaffes travel through the same 7 stages, is to note just how fragile brand reputations have become. Regarding the former, the author notes:
In each case, the cycle of how consumers react to a brand is generally the same, but what’s changing is that the cycle is speeding up. Each time a brand experiences a social-media blunder, the event blows up and moves through the seven stages below faster and faster before the whole thing vanishes in a puff of smoke.
He then walks us through those 7 stages: 1.) gaffe 2.) outrage 3.) apology 4.) parody 5.) humor 6.) indifference 7.) repeat.
As for the fragility of brand reputations, it’s been well chronicled just how perilous life can be for the brands that don’t take great care in monitoring and nurturing their brands online. That’s old news by now. But what strikes me about more and more PR gaffes of late is just how many of them are essentially self-inflicted wounds (e.g., Tony Hayward, the BP executive, tweeting that he wanted his life back amid the oil spill crisis of last year.)
Just because we have these channels, and it appears as if there are no rules governing their use, brands should not be engaging online as if they’ve forgotten the basic rules of public relations and reputation management. What is it about a keyboard and a computer screen that causes even the most accomplished professionals to take temporary leave of their senses?
We may never know. But let’s at least agree that smart people and smart companies can avoid being a party to the 7th stage of the PR gaffe cycle. And if you’re worried that there is someone within your organization who might insert his digital foot into his online mouth, begin working on your company’s social media policy today!