A fast food restaurant takes exception to a review on a blog. The brand's managers opt for a knee-jerk reaction and threaten legal action against the blogger. Unfortunately, not everyone empathises with the restaurant's point-of-view. This story has all the ingredients for a PR-disaster-in-the-making. Even if it is potentially a short-term one.
In case you are interested, here's how you too can create the perfect PR disaster all by yourself in less than 48-hours.
Find an unflattering, seemingly unbiased view of your brand - preferably online, and preferrably on a platform that allows for third-party commenting and sharing.
React strongly. Pick on the blogger - preferably, use disproportionate means.
Hint: Threaten legal action. There's nothing that attracts the attention of commenters, casual readers, passers-by and news agencies than a David vs. Goliath scenario. Underdogs make for a lovely conversation topic.
Allow the situation to simmer for 24 to 48 hours.
Realise you have overreacted only when the situation is clearly impossible to control. After the SHTF, sprinkle incoherent half-hearted excuses.
Hint: Try the ever popular "we-were-only-kidding" defence to garnish. Nothing says "gaffe" better than fumbling and backpeddling.
Hunker down, keep fingers crossed, and hope for the online storm to pass.
Step 6 (Optional):
If you are looking to make a really well-done PR mess, choose a rigid position, dig in, and swing blindly at everyone with a different viewpoint.
Now, on the other hand, the brand's owners could turn the free publicity into a positive thing! How?
Well for example, the brand's managers could tender a sincere apology to the blogger for his anguish. They could come out with a "We're-So-Sorry Burger"! They could reach out to angry commenters and readers by leaving a conciliatory comment and a message on the "offending" blog.
The thing to realise is that there are no 'wrongs' and no 'rights' here. It's impossible to rationalise with a group of incensed people - in real life or online.
Update: The blogger and the restaurant have apparently made up... Quite a mature and civilised way to do things.
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