#23 – Memorial Day greed, apologizing is just part of crisis communication, and what do Tiger Woods & Chipotle have in common?

#23 – Memorial Day greed, apologizing is just part of crisis communication, and what do Tiger Woods & Chipotle have in common?

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We hope you had a restful and thankful Memorial Day weekend! There were a lot of reputations that took a needless reputation hit this past week.

Each week, Erin Jones and I take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:

If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.

Transcript (forgive us for any typos):

Andy Beal:                  Thank you for joining us for another episode. I hope you had a great Memorial weekend. It is the week after Memorial Day weekend. Lots of people having a good time of relaxation, and being thankful for those that served, and died protecting our freedoms. Unfortunately, there are some brands that forgot the reason why we have Memorial Day weekend. Erin Jones is with me. Erin, I was just disgusted by Ivanka Trump and Holabird Sports, so let me kind of tell you what I saw with these.

Ivanka Trump, and this is her brand, tweeted out that Memorial Day was a great day basically to make champagne popsicles, and it seems innocent enough, but when you’re the brand or a polarizing president’s daughter, you really need to be careful about what and when you tweet out, certainly Memorial Day is not a good day to suggest everybody drink champagne, because it’s not really a day of celebrating, even though we do fire up the grill, typically, and start looking forward to summer.

There was a big backlash with that. Then, Holabird Sports, they posted on Facebook, I couldn’t believe this, it’s a sporting goods supply company, and they posted on this Memorial Day weekend, we want to remember the fallen and honor their sacrifice by offering free shipping and 15% off clothing now through Monday. Thoughts on that Erin?

Erin Jones:                  So many thoughts. First of all, I really feel like the 15% off and free shipping not only minimizes what they’re trying to honor, here, but it almost celebrates it.

Andy Beal:                  Right.

Erin Jones:                  If you’re going to have a sale on something like Memorial Day don’t say we’re going to give you 15% off in honor of all of those who died for our country, because 15% is not that impressive, first of all, so it gives me the, really is that all that they’re worth? We’re talking about fallen heroes here, and you’re trying to get some sales out of the deal, and I find that really off putting.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah.

Erin Jones:                  Second of all, the lack of value that they attached to those fallen soldiers really, really bothered me, a lot.

Andy Beal:                  It’s really easier, I think we’ve kind of gotten into this pattern, as certainly businesses have of, oh, it’s a holiday, therefore we need to make up some kind of sale and get people shopping. Well, that’s fine if it’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, maybe Valentines, you know, the upbeat, certainly Christmas, upbeat holidays, but not Memorial Day. Memorial Day is not the time to get greedy. Memorial Day is a time if you’re going to post anything as a brand, you do so as a somber recognition of gratitude for those that die in battle or Veterans that died in wars. Things like that. You don’t use this as a means to boost sales, and to kind of add on to your point, if you’re going to do something then how about 15% of all profits this weekend will go towards the Wounded Warrior Project, or some other nonprofit that helps Veterans.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly. Let’s honor these men and women. First of all, I come from a military background. Family, friends, a lot of people I know in the military and I know that it drives service members crazy when people utilize Memorial Day as a thank all service members in the first place. That’s easy enough to get over, because people are appreciating our arms forces, but to gloss over the fact that we’re honoring people who died in the line of duty, and then trying to make a buck off of it just, it doesn’t feel good. I do agree, if they said, we’re going to take a portion of all of our sales and donate them to a worthy foundation. That would feel good. That would encourage me to spend some money, if I were already looking at shopping.

Andy Beal:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Erin Jones:                  Another concern I have about the Holabird post is I was looking at their Facebook page this morning, and there are absolutely no comments on their sale post.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. The engagement is definitely lacking, I think across their social media, and that’s probably part of it. It’s pumping out sales and promotional stuff, and not really building an audience where you have a relationship, and certainly if this post is indicative then there’s not really going to be a reason to fall in love with the brand, and have that conversation, and invite them into your social stream. Maybe I’m being cynical, and maybe people just follow them, because they just want the discount codes, and know when they’re having a sale.

Erin Jones:                  Maybe. I thought maybe people were commenting negatively and the comments were being deleted. But, maybe people just don’t care enough to comment, which either way doesn’t look good for this brand.

Andy Beal:                  No.

Erin Jones:                  Moving back to Ivanka Trump. I think she’s the only person that may have had a worst experience with something like this. The us versus them divide between most Americans and the Trump family is a great divide. The silver/platinum spoon mentality that Trump family may live with, or at least be perceived to live with, images of people sipping on champagne popsicles while the rest of us are hopefully working to honor the freedom we have and the people that fell for that freedom, just widens the gap even more.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. There’s a couple things at play, here. I mean I that social media has helped all of us to remember what Memorial Day is all about. I think there’s a lot of people doing good with that, whether it’s your friends, or whether its certain brands, reminding you that, hey, this is not all about hot dogs, hamburgers, grilling, and jumping into the pool for the first time, it’s not all about that. I think social media has done some good, there, but-

Erin Jones:                  Definitely.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. We also need to remember as well that, or Ivanka Trump’s brand needs to remember that it’s not just here audience that they’re tweeting to, because her audience, her customer base may be totally fine with this, but the problem is you’ve got people that are out there that right now anything to do with the Trump brand is going to get attacked, they’re just looking for any opportunity, and really I’m sure the tweet that says, make champagne popsicles was pretty benign compared to probably countless other tweets that were made by brands over the course of the weekend, that were maybe more offensive, or capitalizing even more on Memorial Day weekend than this. However, when you’re in this situation, where your brand is pretty fragile and it has a lot of detractors, you cannot afford to take a risk, even if you think your audience is going to be fine with it. You have to consider beyond your target audience, and how is this going to be perceived, and they just failed to do that.

Erin Jones:                  Agreed. Another thing, that I think the average Joe brand can take away from this is Ivanka Trump has come back and said, my apologies for that tweet, that was written by someone on my staff, I’m honoring the men and women of our armed forces who lost their lives, and she went on to explain that it was a mistake. You need to know who’s posting for you, and you need to be able to trust that they can take an accurate temperature of the current climate, and know what they should and shouldn’t be saying online.

Andy Beal:                  Right. If you outsource your social media engagement, you have to be aware of everything that they’re posting, perhaps even in advance, until such time as you feel comfortable that they are going to post in such a way that it has your implied blessing. In this case, if somebody went rogue and posted something she wouldn’t have posted, then she is taking her hands of the reigns far too soon. However, it could be that they posted something that she would have been happy with, but it’s easy to make a scapegoat out of whoever posted the tweet, when things go bad.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly. Regardless, whether she agreed with it or not, like you said, that implied permission is what her audience is going to perceive, so they’re going to think she supports it, whether she does or not.

Andy Beal:                  Right. You don’t get a free pass. If you outsource your social media, if you hand it off to somebody, but it represents your brand, especially when it’s a personal brand, like this, you don’t get a free pass of hey, it wasn’t me, it was somebody else. This is your brand. You are giving them that responsibility, if they mess up, that responsibility actually starts with you, and you have to take the fall for it. You cannot get to just, you don’t get to just kind of brush this off.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly. It’s kind of like what people used to put on their Twitter account saying, these are my views and not the views of my employer.

Andy Beal:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Erin Jones:                  Sorry. That’s not going to get you off the hook, anymore.

Andy Beal:                  No. All right. Moving on, you have a story about British Airways having a big old power surge, and canceling lots of flights over the weekend.

Erin Jones:                  Oh, my goodness. Could we have a week without an airline getting their foot in it? British Airways, they had some sort of IT glitch over the weekend. They’re saying that they weren’t hacked. There wasn’t a security breach. But, something happened where people couldn’t check into their flights, whether that be early from home or at the kiosks at the airports, they weren’t able to do that, and it went so far as to where they could check their bags in and then they would get up to the ticketing counter, and also could not check in, so people were kind of being held hostage, because their bags were out in the airport ether, and they were stuck not being able to get their tickets to even get through to a flight. People are frustrated. People are annoyed. British Airways really, really fell flat on their response. Basically, just said, we’re sorry, and kind of left it there.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. I happened to see the story, and I checked in on the Twitter account, and the reason being I checked in is because back in 2013 someone posted a sponsored tweet attacking British Airways and they actually didn’t see it until Monday, because they didn’t operate their Twitter account over the weekend, so I was curious to see whether or not it was fired up and working, and it was, but really just the bare minimum. I happened to see, I think it was around 10 a.m. on Saturday, I think the outage had been going on for about four hours, and they had a single tweet just letting people know what happened. Then, I switched over to Twitters tweets and replies tab, because I wanted to see what engagement was going on, to their credit, they were doing a lot of apologizing, but it kind of looked a little bit like a cut and paste job, where it was just basically apologizing for the outage, and that was basically it. No, new updates. No, new information. No, personalized assistance to anybody that was tweeting to them.

Someone actually tweeted out to them, and said, hey, guys, the reason why you’re having to apologize so much is because you’re not giving anybody any encouragement, any updates, no timeline for when this is going to be fixed, no transparency as to what went on, so everybody is just voicing and venting their frustrations, because you’re not saying anything to them. In fact, I looked back it was another few hours before they even posted something, which was a video message kind of, again, just apologizing, but it really kind of goes back to the three words that I have whenever you mess up. You got sincerity, transparency, consistency. Sincerity, they would do, and they were apologizing, but they were having to do it on a one by one basis, because they weren’t following through on the second one, which is transparency. It’s kind of like when your cable goes out and you get the automated reply that says we’re aware of the situation, and working to fix it. Well, what happened? What are you doing? When can I expect it to come back? That’s kind of where they failed.

Erin Jones:                  Exactly. I know that this came up in 2013 with them. You mentioned … If they had came out from the beginning and said, here’s what’s wrong, here’s what’s going on, they could have eliminated a lot of those tweets, which then would have eliminated the appearance of a candid response going out to each tweet. They could do better. I think they could be doing a lot better. This isn’t something that they should have not been prepared for.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. If you cannot say what’s going on, let’s say at the time they really didn’t know what was going on, and they were in disarray, start sharing what you’re doing. Hey, we’ve dispatched a team to London, Gatwick. There’s 20 people on their way, da, da, da, da, da. Let people know that you’re trying really, really hard, because otherwise it’s the swan analogy. You ever see a swan on a lake it so graceful, like it’s just effortlessly swimming, but you don’t see the legs kicking hard underneath to make it look so graceful, and to propel it. You need to kind of pull back the curtain a little bit and really be transparent in terms of what you’re doing to try to figure out what’s going on. I’ve had these same issues with our software, where it’s been late at night and I’ve explained that we’ve got the team investigation an outage, da, da, da, whatever it may be. If you cannot share what the situation is and you don’t have a timeline for when it’s going to be back up and running, at least be transparent in how hard you’re working to try and fix it.

Erin Jones:                  I agree. This makes me wonder, and I’d love to hear your opinion on this. Back in the ’80s, early ’90s the kind of PR go to was smooth it over, don’t let anybody know anything was ever wrong, hide it, cover it up, and I feel like some of these older industries are still stuck in that mindset instead of coming forward with the transparency. They worry that it shows weakness.

Andy Beal:                  Yeah. They still have that mentality of any admission of guilt, or any demonstration of weakness could hurt their stock price, could lead to class action lawsuits, something like that, and they’re thinking about those types of damages, instead of thinking about the damage that they’re taking to their brand, to their reputation by not sharing more information, and by kind of just being vague, and whatever. That vagueness, and that kind of head in the sand worked well when there wasn’t social media, when there wasn’t YouTube videos being posted, where there wasn’t tweets from stranded passengers going out. When you could control the message, you could control the message.

These days, you don’t control the message, you can help direct it, you can help maybe even curate it a little bit, but the messages, you’re not the only one with a megaphone standing on a soapbox telling everybody what’s going on. There’s lots of other people that are out there able to share what’s going on in real time, so you have to take control of that, as opposed to, even today, we still have, well, that’s going to take us six hours to figure out what the issue is, we’ll just hunker down and be quiet for six hours until we know. Well, there’s a lot going in that time period, you need to do something, and you need to explain what you’re doing during those six hours.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely. Six hours of social media time is like six weeks of pre social media time, as far as the word travels, and how quickly a brand can lose traction with their audience.

Andy Beal:                  Unfortunately, it’s also somewhat beneficial in that six hours later is the same as six weeks gone by and we’ve all moved on to the next thing that’s upset us. The good thing for British Airways, and for the airlines it seems is these things, this outrage, and these social media flareups, these issues, where it like, if this had been 20 years ago, and we had this much outrage that everybody had heard about, it would have been bankruptcy for an airline, or for a brand, because it would have taken a lot to get people this frothy, and this, you know the lynch mobster stirred up. This day and age, you could post the wrong color, or use the wrong hashtag, and people are going to find a way to complain. The fortunate thing is it blows over a lot faster, but you still need to kind of make sure that you don’t have too many of these, because I think we are starting to see the airlines are struggling and United Airlines is certainly having issues, one thing after another. You know, you can fall from grace.

Our last example is Tiger Woods. You have Tiger Woods, that was by far in a way one of the greatest of all time golfers out there, and his reputation unraveled since 2009-ish with infidelity, he’s had injuries, he’s not had success on tour, and over the weekend, it was this embarrassing mugshot from a DUI arrest. Looks like it’s not going to be alcohol, maybe some prescription painkillers that he took that made him sleepy, and pull over, but you got Tiger Woods falling from grace. Then, in a similar bang from the business side, oh, my gosh, Chipotle just cannot get out of their way. Food safety issues. HR issues. Recently there was hacking of customer data. Now, I read, just in doing research for today’s podcast that somebody is suing them for having spy cameras in a restroom in one of their restaurants.

Erin Jones:                  You also have to feel bad for them at this point. They’re having a really hard time getting footing, as far as getting back into the public’s graces, and I do feel like they’ve been trying. On the other side watching this, I do feel like they’ve tried to use more natural ingredients and appeal to people on that level, and it seems like every time we turn around they’re back in the news for something negative, again, and same with Tiger Woods, it’s been really consistent for the last few years.

Andy Beal:                  That’s the key word, so when I talk about recovering from a reputation crisis, you got sincerity, transparency, and then the last word is consistency. Unfortunately, Tiger Woods and Chipotle are being consistent in the wrong way. What I mean by consistency is when you have a dent in your reputation armor, everybody is going to be looking to see how you respond to see whether they can trust you, again, and you have to work a little bit harder than maybe your competitor that’s not had a reputation problem. You have to put in place systems where you can ensure that you are not going to have these same issues, again. Otherwise, you’re just going to have these issues over and over again, it’s going to damage your reputation. You’re going to have this downward spiral, and then you’re going to find that your reputation is going to be too hard to recover.

Erin Jones:                  Absolutely. It almost looks like they’re working too hard to hammer that first dent out of the armor instead of preventing further denting.

Andy Beal:                  Right. I think that a lot of times companies and brands are just in a responsive manner. They’re, oh, we’ve had another reputation problem, lets fix this one. We’ve had another reputation problem, let’s fix this one. As opposed to looking at the root of the character and saying, how do we change the way we do business? How do we implement systems so that as much as possible minimize having any other issue that could damage our reputation, so you’ve got to do a complete overhaul and start looking at where else are we weak, because if we get attacked at that particular point, that is going to be even more damaging than if we had never had another reputation attack, but because we’ve got this history, if we do have hacking with our customer data, that’s going to get picked up by everybody, because it’s going to be just another opportunity to say that Chipotle has fallen from grace, and it’s going to hurt us. You really have to do an audit for all of your weak points for your reputation and say, yes, we’re not hurting you now, but there’s a potential and how do we sure that up and protect it?

Erin Jones:                  Agreed. I feel that should be part of that disaster recovery plan.

Andy Beal:                  Right.

Erin Jones:                  Lets build a foundation so strong that if someone comes at us it’s not going to make us crumble. It’s a lot easier, you know, even for a company, if you look at Chick-fil-A, they have had some controversy in the past, but they’re audience is so strong, and so supportive of them that the negativity just doesn’t get very far with a brand like, because they are so careful to be so good to their customers.

Andy Beal:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Being good to your customer is a good place to start, make sure that you are putting the customer first, that’s going to help you in a lot of ways. We’ll leave it there. I hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. Again, we try to kind of look at these issues that go on, try and pull out these case studies, and then give you some insights and some advice, so that you can make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Of course, when we see positive stuff, which is somewhat rare we like to applaud those, as well. If you have a story or a question you’d like to share with us, please go to our Facebook page Andy Beal ORM, or just head over to andybeal.com, find the latest blog post, and submit a comment there with any question or case study that you’d like to share. Thank you, Erin, for joining me, as always.

Erin Jones:                  Thank you for having me.

Andy Beal:                  Thank you all for listening. We will be back again next week. Thanks a lot and bye-bye.

ByAndy Beal

Andy Beal is The Original Online Reputation Expert™. A bestselling author of two critically-acclaimed reputation management books, a keynote speaker at dozens of events, and brand consultant experience with thousands of individuals and companies.