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Recovering from a PR Disaster

13 June 2012 One Comment

Last week’s leaked LinkedIn password scandal is just another in a stream of PR disasters that companies occasionally have to deal with. About 6.5 million LinkedIn passwords were allegedly posted on a Russian hackers’ web forum, and experts are advising all LinkedIn users change their passwords on the site, as well as any other website where that password may be used. LinkedIn did confirm that passwords had been compromised but failed to confirm the number of passwords affected by the breach.

Only time will tell how LinkedIn will recover from this, but they are just one of many businesses who have needing major reputation repair to earn consumer trust back. The following are some examples of PR problems and ways the companies recovered from them.

Bad Tweets from a Company’s Official Twitter Account

Social media can be both a blessing and a curse.  It provides a great way for business to engage directly with other brands and their consumers, but it can also present a problem if not handled correctly. Take the example of the Red Cross employee who accidentally sent the following personal tweet from the official Red Cross account: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.” Instead of just deleting the post, the Red Cross replied, saying “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” They didn’t hide behind the mistake but instead acknowledged the mistake and made it humorous. If a social media blunder happens to your company, you can look for other ways to recover from the incident here.

Company-wide Criticism From One Employee’s Actions

In March 2011, CEO Bob Parsons posted a graphic video on his Twitter account that showed him shooting and killing an elephant in Zimbabwe. Animal rights activists were outraged at what they considered a tasteless video glorifying his kill, and PETA started an online boycott of the hosting company’s services. In a CNN interview, Parsons said he killed the elephant for the locals’ benefit as the animals would often crush crops the villages depended on for food. He argued killing the elephant not only protected their crops, but also provided food to local residents, many of who he claims are on the brink of starvation.

Despite the boycott from PETA and the backlash from animal rights activists, Parsons persisted the killing was done for the benefit of the villagers. It’s hard to say whether the appeal worked for animal rights victims, but GoDaddy.com’s spokeswoman said there was no significant change in business after the uproar.

Neighborhood Crimes Splashed Across the News

Local brick and mortar businesses may find themselves in situations that could prove extremely damaging if not handled correctly. One such example is if a graphic crime takes place at a business, especially if the business deals with residential living. For businesses operating at a location where a crime took place, it can be difficult to assure customers that it is safe to come back to your location or safe to continue living at that location. You could even be faced with a landlord’s worst nightmare: a death or homicide in one of your apartments or residential homes. Not only is this situation horrible for the family members and friends of the deceased, but as a property owner, how can you assure future tenants they will be safe?

In the event your property is the scene of a gruesome crime, you’ll want to ensure law enforcement comes to the scene to collect evidence to not only determine who the culprit is, but to also prevent this sort of event from happening in the future. After law enforcement (and probably the media) leaves the scene, you’ll need to call a crime scene cleanup company like Accident Cleaners to fully remediate the property. If you ever intend to occupy the space again, whether by renting out the space or occupying it yourself, you aren’t going to be able to fully clean, deodorize, and sanitize a property to an acceptable standard without hiring professionals.

Tony Mary, a landlord who has worked at several apartments in Orlando, has heard stories from colleagues left to deal with the aftermath of a crime on their properties.

“It’s hard for them to tell their residents or tenants ‘Our property is safe’ when it’s been splashed across the front page of the newspaper with pictures of police and crime scene investigators surrounding a building. It’s not really something they can hide from.”

Unfortunately, this situation is one that ultimately only time can help eliminate from people’s minds. You’ll need to be extra vigilant in the coming months to guarantee as much safety as possible to your tenants and your customers, and you’ll likely need to make additional investments in security. While your name will forever be entangled with the crime, it doesn’t have to be the end of your business. For example, after the gruesome 1990 murders of five Gainesville college students, one apartment complex managed to stay open for 15 more years even though it was the scene of one of the crimes.

One Comment »

  • Lee said:

    Hi, what an interesting article. And OMG about the breach at LinkedIn – I didn’t know so went immediately to change my password. Thanks for that.

    [Reply]

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