Arby’s No Longer Serves Police Officers

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.

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Gordon Ramsay Gave Up on This Bakery. So Did the Internet.

A company’s online reputation is crucial toward building goodwill, trust and loyalty among consumers. This week one particular restaurant discovered how easy it is to destroy a brand overnight.

Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro took it to a whole new level of crazy earlier this week. The internet had the pleasure of following this embarrassing social media meltdown since it first erupted Monday night. To provide a bit of background, the restaurant is located in Scotsdale, Arizona and was recently featured on an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

Ramsay tried to salvage this lost cause of an establishment, but even he wasn’t able to tame these the crazies. The episode of Kitchen Nightmares aired in Dec. 2012, and five months later they’ve made national headlines spurring from multiple social media blunders on Facebook, Reddit and Yelp.

Online users flooded these sites with negative comments about the restaurant’s unstable owners, sub-par food and questionable business practices. The owners, Samy and Amy, were responding to users who were only fueling the fire at this point. It got ugly when the two started sending out threatening Facebook posts with expletives.

When shit hit the fan, they tried to backtrack by saying their social media accounts were hacked. You really can’t make this stuff up. They were swallowed up and spit out by the internet and it was all their own doing.

Any social media coordinator knows that when negative comments are flooding in, it’s sometimes best to just leave them be. Some may need to be addressed, but sometimes people just need to vent and that’s okay too. Every comment doesn’t require a response. Moderation takes practice, patience and thick skin, but the owners of this bakery clearly didn’t get that memo.

In light of the recent act of social media suicide, Forbes compiled a list of six key things you should never do on social media. If we can take away any piece of advice from this story, I think it would be to never fight the internet. You will never win.

Brands Need to Make a Better Effort to Engage Audiences via Social Media

Two weeks ago, I sent a friendly tweet to the PRWeek twitter account asking if they had any plans to improve the sound quality of their weekly podcasts. Weeks went by with no reply, and my inquiry remained unanswered. I work in an industry that stresses the importance of audience engagement and participation, and as a fan of PRWeek’s insight and content I felt devalued when my simple, one sentence question went unanswered.

Social media transformed the PR industry in many unique ways. Never before have we been able to reach targeted audiences in a space where everyone can share content, ideas and opinions with friends, family and complete strangers. It’s been an absolute game changer within the public relations profession. My experience made me realize that some companies and organizations don’t place enough value on social media and the trust it creates with an audience. It can be time consuming for social media managers to sift through each individual twitter mention and send tailored replies, but going the extra mile ensures people will remain loyal to your brand.

What consumers want more than anything is a sense of belonging and knowing that their voice is being heard. Social media is an effective customer service tool, and it’s often the platforms brands can use to make a good first impression.

Media Fragmentation and Monitoring

While social media has become a dominant player in mass communications, it’s also created a difficult task for public relations professionals to monitor trends, publicity and perceptions that directly affect a client’s product, service or brand.

With the explosion of blogs, social networks and other forms of non-traditional media, we’ve given consumers the keys to either make or break our brand. It’s essential to be proactive and aware of the conversations that are happening about your client. Keeping your finger on the media pulse will help prepare you for any crisis that may arise. In this highly fragmented media environment, it takes a dedicated effort to keep a close watch on public perception. Pick up your local newspaper, scan social media, hit the news wires and do whatever you can to stay informed about topics related to your client, industry and locale.

Know your audience and know them well. Where do they spend time online? What is their purpose? Is there any way to foster two-way communication? Listen, learn and adapt.