In our modern world, the role of public relations has drastically changed, because crisis management has become much more complex and involves public opinion like never before. A company, organization or individual in the public eye, must actually use social media to their advantage, especially when a crisis has occurred.
The social web has become an actual crisis trigger as we have learned, and it’s clear that social media can actually be the source of the scandal, not just as a method for the public to fuel the crisis. It’s become an incredibly reputation damaging tool in a matter or years, and it’s unfortunate to say that a lot of the crisis situations that have occurred for large companies, have actually forced a lot of boardrooms and CEOs to take notice. These crises have actually also allowed a lot of PR professionals to learn a lot from.
Out of the endless social media disasters that have happened recently, one that stood out to me was a smaller establishment called Amys’ Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro. The Arizona bakery was visited by celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsey on the television show Kitchen Nightmares. This situation was certainly an online social media crisis, but interestingly enough was started, caused and encouraged by the owners of the shop!
Gordon Ramsey had the Bakery on the show in an attempt to help the company, although it was the first time in the series that conflicts with the owners interfered with the ability to complete the show. Social media criticized the women, which in turn caused them to behave in a manner Forbes called “a poster example of how a business should not react to comments from the social media.” 1
There are a lot of issues that Amy did not deal with correctly in general, let alone in front of the whole world on the internet. Facebook, Yelp and Reddit became a wild fire of backlash and comments to the owners behaviour. I think it’s difficult to analyze a situation like this because the personalities of the individuals involved made it so difficult, that a PR company representative actually walked out of the job after 5 days. However, I think it’s important to consider what I would have done in the situation.
First, social media is meant to humanize your company and put a personal face to your brand. Writing angry, heated, and argumentative responses on social media is not going to give your company a positive reputation. In reaction to the negative comments online from the events of the show, I would have posted first a thank you to Gordon Ramsay and his show for their time and efforts, possibly even apologizing that the dynamic did not work and wish everyone well. One claim was that employees were mistreated, so a good idea would be to post a big team employee photo to the website. Also, include an individual employee testimonial online.
Second, it does not do any good to reply to individual messages, but better just to leave the negative comments to be. I would have posted a video to the site, introducing the owners, the employees and showing the restaurant. Also explaining that they learned a lot from their experience with Ramsay on television, thank him again, and how they look forward to serving all of their loyal and new customers soon. They could have asked Gordon himself to post some positive feedback and reconciled differences on their own social media sites.
Third, a good idea would be to post positive and smiling pictures of current customers to your social media pages. The social media backlash with the bakery got completely out of hand when the owners took to the web with outrageous and hateful comments. Their outcome would have been very different if they had focused on the positive rather than the negative.
Here are a few quotes of Amy’s and her husband Samy that I found online:
1 – “Lessons From Amy’s Baking Company: Six Things You Should Never Do On Social Media”. Forbes. Retrieved May 16, 2013.