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3 marketing nightmares and what you can learn from them

The marketing world can be its own kind of scary, no creepy background music or fake spiderwebs needed. Here’s a look at three recent headline-making crises, and what we can all learn from their horror stories.

Not enough seating, prepare for a beating

United Airlines faced a mountain of backlash after forcibly removing a paying passenger from an airplane back in April to make room for crew members. The incident was captured on video in disturbing detail and quickly went viral. And then – it got even worse. United CEO Oscar Munoz apologized publicly for “having to re-accommodate these customers” and indicated in a private email to staff that “…employees followed established procedures.”

What went wrong:

Munoz initially failed to recognize the trauma sustained by the victim, who was hospitalized, or to the fellow passengers who witnesses the incident. While Munoz later offered up a more heartfelt apology, his first response added fuel to an already raging public inferno. As a whole, the United crisis underscores just how powerful a tool social media can be in the destruction of an organization’s reputation.

An uber meltdown

In March, Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick had his own unflattering candid camera moment. Dashboard footage shows him arguing with an Uber driver, which was later published by Bloomberg. That was the culmination of months of controversy, including allegations of sexual harassment by a former employee and intellectual theft by a self-driving car company created by Google.

What went wrong:

Kalanick’s dashcam rant was really the tip of the iceberg – only a small symptom of what appears to be a very unhealthy company culture. Focusing on your brand internally is just as important as promoting your brand externally. In fact, in many cases, it’s more so. From workforce morale to leadership training, if your company culture isn’t well-developed internally, it’s only a matter of times before it spills over into the public spotlight.

When the dust settles

In 2016, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million to the family of an Alabama woman who died from ovarian cancer, which was linked to her use of the company’s baby powder.

What went wrong:

Initially, Johnson & Johnson remained fairly tight-lipped about the lawsuit outcome and about the potential dangers associated with baby powder/talcum powder usage. This strategy was followed by the company promoting the safety of talcum powder on social media, which was met by an onslaught of consumer concern. When it comes to public relations, be strategic in the information you provide – think about what your audience needs to know, not what you want to say. Sweeping the situation under the rug won’t work. Firing back at your detractors won’t work. Focus on the steps you’re going to take to make the situation right. A good crisis plan can help you through that process.

The average organization won’t face crises as globally significant as these, but every company has its moments of P.R. trouble. Want to ensure you’re ready? We can help.