Brands Behaving Badly

A woman sits at a desk with a cup of coffee and her laptop, her head in her hands.

It seems like a pandemic really brings out the worst in people and brands. We’ve talked about earning trust back after a brand f*cks up, and we’ve also shared how PR can’t fix stupid, so today, we thought we’d highlight some brands that seem to be having trouble following our advice.

Situation: American Airlines and Senator Cruz

A rule is a rule, and if we’re expected to follow it, so are our elected officials. On a recent American Airlines flight, Senator Ted Cruz was photographed not wearing a mask, both on the plane and by the gate. According to Cruz, he took it off to drink coffee or eat or something…whatever. It baffles us when there are (multiple) pieces of photographic evidence and someone still contradicts it.  To no surprise to anyone, the photo went viral. American Airlines replied with the following canned response:
“As we do in all instances like these, we reviewed the details of the matter, and while our policy does not apply while eating or drinking, we have reached out to Sen. Cruz to affirm the importance of this policy as part of our commitment to protecting the health and safety of the traveling public.” 

Our Solution: 

For one, a policy is a policy, and all staff should be trained to enforce said policy. American Airline employees—gate agents, flight attendants, etc.—should have asked Senator Cruz to put his mask on or should have, at the very least, reminded him of the policy. Hand him a mask, and you’ll cover your ass in case a photo goes viral. Never, ever, ever respond with a canned response. Always own, apologize and fix. 

Situation: Corndogs and Politics

A very popular hotdog franchise with a location on the lakeshore felt the need to weigh in on a variety of topics via their Facebook page. Topics ranged from the Black Lives Matter movement, masks, the coronavirus ‘hoax,’ Michigan Militia, journalists representing Hitler…you get the drift. When the post went viral and the restaurant came under fire, the response was “oops, the owner meant to post that on his personal page.” Cause, you know…that makes it totally fine. Eventually a post went up apologizing and saying the owner’s views didn’t reflect the restaurant. Needless to say, it didn’t help. Too little, too late. Since it is a well-known name and franchise, multiple other owners came forward to distance themselves from the lakeshore corndog stand.

We’d like to say the owner learned his lesson, but it seems he stands by his rant. According to an MLive article, two mothers from West Olive, children in tow, said they only learned about it while in line. They added that they’d tried to talk to the owner, hoping for an explanation. Instead, they said, he defended his words. “He wasn’t ambivalent” about what he’d written, one woman said.

Our Solution:

Stay off Facebook when you feel the need to rage out. Perhaps call a therapist instead. Stick to content specific to the brand and hire someone to manage your social media.  Did we mention to own, apologize and fix? In this case, the owner sees nothing wrong with denouncing BLM and toting “White Lives Matter.” Sometimes, brands can’t get out of their own way.

As a small business, we understand the stress other business owners are under. Everything you say or do is under a microscope, and it’s terrifying. Every day it seems we are busy interpreting the latest EO or purchasing PPE to keep our employees safe, or rolling out a new policy to enforce masks in the workplace. 

We are all in this together. Reach out to us to chat preventative measures in case of a crisis. 

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