Lessons On Company Identity Protection From Horrifying PR Nightmares


A public relations mess can ultimately show the true colors of a company. Of course, no company wants a PR problem, but sometimes circumstances outside the company’s control must be dealt with immediately and efficiently. This goes beyond our post on what is Public Relations. To learn more, lets look at which companies have faced major PR struggles and come out on top with their company identity in tact. Here’s some historical context, as well as some recent revelations.

Toyota’s Gas Pedals

In 2009 and 2010, Toyota received reports of the gas pedal in many of their cars sticking while engaged; this problem spilled into the Lexus division as well. The malfunction turned these cars into runaway wall-breakers, and after 60 reports, 30 of which caused at least one fatality, Toyota issued a 9 million vehicle recall for models made between 2004-2010. This cost Toyota 5 billion dollars, and was the most costly recall in history. However, multi-national corporations are faced with these difficult decisions, and when Toyota was on the ropes, it bit the bullet and paid the price for its mistakes. While Toyota’s reputation took a hit, their cars are still some of the most trusted on the road today.

The Red Cross’s Unfortunate Tweet

Although not a recall, but still a potentially hurtful PR situation, the Red Cross ran into trouble in 2011 when a social media employee accidentally posted a tweet meant for her personal account. The tweet was about finding more Dogfish Head beer than their group had hoped for. The hashtag #gettingslizzard was also included. The tweet stayed live on the Red Cross Twitter feed for about an hour before the social media manager took the tweet down and posted a humorous one of her own. In retrospect, it was not detrimental as Dogfish Head Brewing picked up the tweet and the hashtag. The beer company asked its customers to donate to the Red Cross. While this was unprofessional, the Red Cross dealt with it well and it cost them some embarrassment, the outreach from Dogfish Head likely made up for it.

Samsung And The Galaxy Note7

Samsung has recently fought a PR disaster. However, like other companies on this list, it looks as though they will come out on top, as a major recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note7s is ongoing. In early September, 2016, reports on social media reported that the Note7 caught fire while it charged, in a select few units. How few? Samsung estimates the malfunction occurred in 0.1 percent of Note7 devices. However, with reports that personal property damages have been caused by this severe malfunction, they have issued a recall of all Note7 devices sold before September 21st, 2016. Samsung has examined what went wrong in their phones, but ultimately found that the batteries, which are made in China, were to blame. To rectify the problem, Samsung has worked with carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, so Note7 owners can exchange their devices for an improved, safe model. This is, perhaps, one of the best merchant services decision the industry has seen lately.

JetBlue’s Breakdown

In 2007 JetBlue airplanes were grounded because of an ice storm that swept the east coast. JetBlue was forced to cancel over 1,000 flights in 5 days. However, the company’s top CEO did not blame the weather for the break down in operations, but instead wrote a letter of apology and a bill of rights for customers that included monetary compensation for those affected.

Protecting Business Identity

These examples of how to manage a PR nightmare offer useful lessons for any business owner. Protecting your business identity is probably not on the forefront of your mind on any given day. However, this is unwise. Otherwise, a small slip up could lead to many PR nightmares of your own, like failing to avoid outsourcing. In order to protect your corporate identity, there are some preventative steps you can take, like making sure to trademark, patent and copyright any unique, identifying elements of your business. This is one of the best ways to protect yourself after defining business identity for your organization. Make sure to take these preventative steps in between the hours you spend pouring over market data.

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