Arby’s made national headlines this week, and it was not for their delicious curly fries. A Pembroke Pines restaurant employee refused to serve a police officer at a drive-thru, and the city’s police chief did not take kindly to the news. The chief contacted Arby’s corporate executives directly and demanded an apology. Arby’s issued a public statement and apologized for the employee’s actions, but from a public relations perspective that’s like putting a band-aid on a broken window. Arby’s needs a lesson in crisis communications. It’s clear their public relations team was not prepared to handle a situation of this magnitude. The online community is threatening to boycott their brand, and the company has done very little to assure customers that the issue is being resolved.
The story has spread like wildfire on social media. The company is being more reactive than proactive with their communications efforts. Arby’s hasn’t made a post on their Facebook page since August 29, and they failed to issue a statement on social media explaining the situation, apologizing and offering ways to right their wrongs. Was the employee fired? What is being done about it? Why should we trust Arby’s and their employees? It’s important to take responsibility, not ignore the problem and wait until it blows over.
The company is keeping the public in the dark when they should be acting as transparent and honest as possible. More proactive steps are needed to educate and inform the public. Instead, they’ve allowed the media and their own customer base to dominate the discussions that are happening across social media. Arby’s is more interested in promoting their new sliders instead of doing some much-needed damage control and building goodwill with their audience.
Corporations are not invincible. There comes a time when a brand will come under fire when they least expect it. A crisis communications plan needs to be in place. In less than 24 hours the entire nation caught wind of this story. An interaction between a fast food worker and a police officer is now threatening a well-established brand, and their comms. team has essentially lost control of the situation.
“All Cops Eat Free for a Day” would be a simple campaign Arby’s could start to earn back the trust of the public and police departments across the nation. It may have been an isolated incident, but the brand is still affected wherever it operates. A simple statement will not cut it. A call to the police chief is not sufficient. This story has legs, and right now it’s outrunning the Arby’s brand in every possible direction.
Yahoo is trying to stay relevant, and the company’s recent Tumblr acquisition is proof of their desperate efforts to keep up with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So desperate in fact that since Marissa Mayer’s takeover as Yahoo CEO in July 2012, she’s acquired 11 companies including the $1 billion Tumblr.
While Marissa hopes that Yahoo will get her groove back, she’s neglecting how far behind Yahoo is in every aspect of web culture today. Yahoo was a powerhouse in the early days of the internet, but they failed to adapt and were left behind. It has the resources to make a resurgence, but they missed the window of opportunity to innovate in the social space while the iron was still hot. They still offer decent products like Yahoo Finance and Sports, but overall the company is struggling to remain relevant in a digital world they don’t recognize anymore.
The Tumblr takeover was counterproductive at best. It may appeal to advertisers in the short term as far as reaching younger demographics, but it won’t change the perceptions these generations have about the company. Brands like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Pinterest, Instagram and Reddit have found their niche and are successfully building their respective user bases. Yahoo’s complacency during this time of rapid change is one of many reasons why they lost their competitive edge. It’s very congested now and it’s safe to say Yahoo missed the boat.
If you haven’t heard of Jason Collins before today you’re not alone. He’s kept a low profile during his 12-year career as a professional basketball player in the NBA, but today he became the first openly gay male professional athlete in a major American professional team sport.
For the professional sports community, this announcement couldn’t have come at a better time. While society becomes more accepting of equal rights and treatment for the LGBT community, there’s been a growing stigma surrounding homosexuality in professional sports. Collins broke that barrier this week, and he will go down in history as a man and player who forever changed the face of professional sports.
This amazing story of courage and strength should push the NBA to build on this narrative and strengthen their global brand with the LGBT community and its supporters. It’s a great opportunity for Collins, David Stern (NBA Commissioner) and the league to lead the conversation surrounding this controversial topic. Athletes should feel comfortable coming out during their careers and not being discriminated against for their sexuality. An NBA campaign that focuses on LGBT issues would unite players and bring together fans to create a new culture around homosexuality in the NBA. Other professional sports leagues might even be inspired to create their own campaigns and come together as people to address this issue.
Organizations try to identify worthy causes to get behind. The NBA should use Jason’s story as a way to align their brand with progressive values that are more prevalent in sports and society today.
It’s 2013, public sentiment is shifting in support of LGBT rights and equality. Strong support of Collins and the overarching issue will show the world that the NBA values authenticity, acceptance, fairness and equality. Branding aside, it’s something truly special to witness for Jason. After years in the dark, he finally gets to live an honest life and hopefully inspire other athletes to come out and embrace their sexuality.