PR apologies

We’ve all seen the story in the news – also featured in our Social Media Round Up – about the recent United Airlines’ situation which saw the disgraceful treatment of a customer on what is being heralded as a ‘PR disaster’. The airline’s CEO issued a statement soon after the incident, stating that the employees were ‘following protocol’, which was universally acknowledged as a non-apology as it did not refer to any of the violence experienced by the customer.

Pepsi is another global brand to suffer backlash in the past few weeks after its latest advertising campaign was accused of insinuating that a can of Pepsi is all it takes to unite people amid protests and calm police tensions. However, unlike United – and we appreciate the two are very different situations – soon after receiving feedback online, Pepsi quickly pulled the add and took responsibility by issuing a statement apologising saying that it ‘missed the mark’.

In both situations, people took to social media to ridicule the brands with several memes being posted along with emerging hashtags #newunitedairlinesmottos and #pepsilivesmatter, there was even a skit on popular US show SNL (Saturday Night Live) mocking the brands.

As PRs, these examples highlight some key learnings. Issuing quick responses which are remorseful and pledging to investigate situations further is always key. It’s important to give the media something to run and show empathy to the people affected. Next up comes showing how you have fixed or plan to fix the issue to preventing it happening again. United Airlines did tick this step off the list, even though they may have skipped the first two, the carrier announced that it had made a change to its policy that off-duty crew members would be given allocated seats so that paying passengers would not be asked to voluntarily give up their seats.

Our very own managing director, Sarah Rathbone, wrote a piece for TTG on how United Airlines must say sorry and mean it – read it here: www.ttgmedia.com/news/news/united-airlines-must-say-sorry—and-mean-it-9875

Hopefully brands will learn from the mistakes of United Airlines and Pepsi and have better plans in place to ensure they are always 10 steps ahead when things do go wrong.

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