How research could have prevented these PR fails
Public relations failures seem more common than successes thanks to the media coverage they receive. Once you or your organization has faced a crisis, it can be hard to salvage your previous image. That’s why it’s vital for organizations to invest in PR and have plans in place in case of an upheaval. Planning for potential problems through research is necessary to keep your image clean. Learning from others’ past mistakes is a useful tool that can prevent you or your company from public embarrassment and consumer wrath.
While marketing is more sales focused and PR is more brand focused, the two fields share many similarities. Marketing and PR projects must begin with in-depth research, because knowing your audience and specific market can make or break your campaign. Kim Kardashian’s popular shapewear line SKIMS started off on an unfortunate note. When Kim first announced her line, the brand was named Kimono. The shapewear looked nothing like traditional kimonos, reserved for formal Japanese events, and the brand was received poorly. Kim did the right thing by listening to her audience and changed the name out of respect for the significance of kimonos in Japanese culture. The failure to recognize the importance of kimonos and how it would impact the brand was an error that Kim would take heat for years to come.
Netflix sparked online outrage early this year with its announcement of new stricter password- sharing rules. Almost instantly, memes and threats of membership cancellations flooded the internet. Families with shared accounts, such as students away at college, felt attacked by Netflix, and the brand was accused of being greedy by splitting up family accounts. Netflix intended for the rules to affect people sharing accounts with people not living together, like friends, but was not clear in their initial communication. Perhaps families were not the target of these new rules, but the way the changes were framed was not a good look for Netflix. While there is no doubt Netflix has crisis plans in place, this situation shows how even the biggest companies can miss the mark with their audience.
The most recent celebrity drama is, of course, the Hailey Bieber and Selena Gomez feud. The back and forth TikTok comments and Snapchat videos had fans refreshing their feeds all week long. When videos go viral on TikTok, it is hard to stop the algorithm from promoting them on users’ For You Pages. One interaction with a video on a specific topic can lead to a flood of videos of the same nature. There’s no doubt that Hailey and Selena’s PR teams told them to remain silent, as Selena deactivated her TikTok and Hailey has stopped posting. Fans of each celebrity have been posting videos showing the other in a negative light, which have all seemed to go viral due to the algorithm. Platform research is just as important as audience and market research. If the two women had started their feud off of TikTok, it may not have caused as much damage. But because it did, it had a massive cross-platform effect with Hailey losing over 1 million Instagram followers. On TikTok, users can easily comment and repost videos using the “duet” and “stitch” features. The Washington Post interviewed one content creator who called the features “a new form of bullying.” While drama can take place on any platform, TikTok is especially harmful with quick reactions and loose guidelines, creating targets for trending topics.
It’s always best to take the time to analyze why you or your company is making certain moves. Research can be tedious and time-consuming, but your reputation will thank you in the long run. If you need help with research or figuring out how to navigate the tough critics online, PR firms can help. Research, media training and crisis management are just a few of the many capabilities Obsidian can execute for your team.