VW recall sees sales slump amid PR disaster reportage


Despite annals and tomes of advice documenting best-practice issues and crisis management responses, Volkswagen in Australia has mostly ignored ’em all, largely kept schtum, expressed little empathy and resisted customer disquiet over its DSG gearbox safety issue. In Australia, anti-VW reportage has run high (in mainstream and social media) following the death of a young VW driver, Melissa Ryan, on a Melbourne freeway in 2011, a coronial inquest into her VW Golf vehicle faults PLUS an attempted class action by another disgruntled customer. Whether it’s arrogance, insensitivity or a calculated, legals-driven risk management strategy (rather than a conciliatory PR strategy) that’s being deployed, the fact is that a 26,00 car recall has NOW seen a significant 20% drop in vehicle sales compared with June last year (1226 fewer vehicles). Whatever happened to the “if only everything in life was as reliable as a…” mentality. Not quite a case of “Aus Liebe zum Automobil’ is it one of “Aus Liebe zum Geld”?
(Hat tip to WellReadHostess for loan of logo artwork).

General advice on a PR disaster almost hits 1million

As social media continues to prove problematic for organisations with suspect elements within their ranks, Australia’s Chief of Army has secured nigh universal salutes for his authoritative and impassioned new media message on YouTube. Watch it; it’s a triumph of scriptwriting craft, audience awareness, key message insertion and a no-BS delivery (tad wooden if I’m being uber-curmudgeonly). Corporate PRs and executives need to pay attention to how to weave these elements together – and how to harness social media to get the viral share effect – next time they have to front up to handle a social media or PR disaster.

Hubris and "social media fail" on menu at Amy's Baking Company

Scratching my head on this one at HuffPost: It’s either THE best “controversy marketing” stunt designed to get the eyes of the world media on a TV show featuring an Arizonan restaurant, or it’s the biggest PR clusterfunk I’ve seen on social for some time. (Anything related to cocky chef Gordon Ramsay is usually tinged with an element of high-profile raising, innit?)
The precis? The restaurant owner calling social commentators ‘pussies’, challenging them to fistfights, threatening hollow legal action – all backed by ‘God’s’ might – and now claiming their Facebook was hacked (possible I guess) and you have a recipe for a tasty PR disaster.

#BoycottMyer PR disaster has Bernie on the backfoot

Shooting-from-the-lip Myer CEO Bernie Brookes has caused a sorta social media stink by saying that Julia Gillard’s NDIS levy will impact retail spending (sic, at his stores). While mainstream media reports mostly on the social media ‘outrage’ (see Addictomatic coverage), Social Mention calculates that the coverage is three times more likely to be negative towards Myer and Brookes; others report a dip (surely temporary) in the Myer share price.

Social media seminar – where digital PR meets customer service

Sydneyside social media fans might want to consider an imminent (21/22 March), crisis-orientated social media training conference. It’s a “…must-attend for heads of service, consumer affairs leaders, emergency managers with an interest in stakeholder management, managers of contact centres and heads of complaints handling teams OR anyone who is responsible for customer interactions in times of crisis.”

2DayFM preggers prank now worse than a PR disaster

With the sad, sad news that 2DayFM’s ‘Crank Yanker’ style publicity stunt may have lead to the death of the reception nurse who took the hoax phone call, station owner Austereo now has a global PR disaster on its hands. Social media is reported to be ablaze with anger and revulsion at the prank, and the way the station is handling the fallout of the stunt; the company Facebook page has been swamped with critical posts and Twitter in the UK has trended heavily against the DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian. Meanwhile, a braggadocio video from Mel and Michael puffed with pride just after their hoodwinking call has now been deleted from the station website. In any publicity-seeking situation, organisations have to ask “what’s the worse thing that could happen?”. While impossible to predict the death of someone involved in a hoax call, the sensitivity and protectiveness that exists for the UK’s royal cohort might have suggested this was one fear and self-loathing promoting scenario that required some taste and restraint. RIP Jacintha Saldanha.

Social Media "Expert's" Retarded Rant PR Disaster

PR disaster news from The Age (hat tip Asher Moses):
“A Vodafone store employee who describes himself as the telco’s “social media expert” and “ambassador” has been deriding customers on Twitter and Facebook as “mentally retarded” and threatened them with a “pimp slap backhand”.

Yet another reason why social media engagement should probably best be conducted by staff with acute PR savvy. Social media is all about reputation far more than it is about mobile phone smarts. Smart phones don’t make for smart career moves

Latest Shell PR disaster shows ease of social media 'brandjacking'


Journalist Kashmir Hill of Forbes provides a solid, informative overview of Greenpeace and Yes Men’s online attack against the Shell global brand. Yet to label the activists as pranksters perhaps diminishes the strategic creativity of Yes Men, who are long-established thorns in the flesh of errant conglomerates the world over.

Though the contest is over, you can have fun creating your own Ad here.

Energy Watch CEO Ben Polis sacked after Facebook brainmelt

Polis on Facebook

.The job of the modern CEO entails being a leader, a visionary, a community conduit and the epitome of company standards.
Carried out professionally, the job role encompasses board support, community relations, human resources and, essentially, reputation management. Anyone posting on social media, must understand their comments are like Press Releases by them to the entire world!!
Aussie utility monitor company Energy Watch has just sacked its CEO – and lost several leading sponsorship ties as well – after its indecently youthful CEO Ben Polis – dropped the company in a whopper PR disaster re his social media editorials and utterances. They seem to betray a person of either troubled or questionable character.
Following Polis’ posting of bigoted, racist, sexist and sundry other offensive comments on social media – and the backlash from media commentators – the company had to let the self-outed ADD/ADHD sufferer go. His PR comebacks have so far been lame – along the “I can’t be racist, my cleaner is Asian and I once dated a half-Aboriginal woman.” Ugh. Gritty Polis helped form the Energy Watch company, which kinda explains why he got to be a media-attractive CEO. But doing the job of the CEO means more than typing the title on a businesscard and doing the speakers’ circuit. You need luck and grace on your recovery back from this one, Ben. (Ta to The Age for tip and Herald Sun for graphic).

Army PR disaster shows Facebook's downside as PR tool

Again and again I say that I’m not a fan of Facebook for organisations with contentious public profiles or business activities, and I’m equally leery when those organisations have staff who may not have developed sensitivity or discretion about how and what they may post on such a visible platform as Facebook. When this happens, it’s little wonder that social media becomes PR disaster fodder. So when an org like the Aussie Army tries to “get with it” re social media, it should surprise no-one that the content of that page should contain racist, sexist and prejudiced comments from soldiers who, let’s generalise, ain’t typically the world’s most sensitive or poetic souls. Memo to Army and other forces; think of the strategy and rationale of why you use any given platform; brainstorm the possible downsides; pick a platform that best suits purpose of the strategy; and pre-engagement, do extensive staff briefings about their responsibilities when using these social platforms. Next!