Crisis Communications: Don't Wait Too Long
Little old Oklahoma made a few national headlines recently with a not-so-friendly dispute involving two simple words – Shop and Edmond. Honestly, I was a little surprised at it initially but the fallout from it has been the most interesting part of it for me.
For those of you who don’t know, a lifestyle magazine called Edmond Active took the time and money to trademark the phrase “Shop Edmond” in 2011. A couple of weeks ago, the magazine’s Twitter page took the step of announcing that only those stores that advertised with the magazine were allowed to use #shopedmond.
Sherri Hultner, publisher of the magazine, has apparently taken the position that her intent isn’t to prevent the public from using the hashtag. Instead, she has insisted that she doesn’t want a select few businesses who don’t advertise with her magazine to use the trademarked hashtag to promote their brands.
For starters, the phrase and hashtag are trademarked and that should be respected. The motivation behind the tweet doesn’t change the legalities of what trademarking represents. If businesses are illegally using a trademarked phrase after they have been asked to not use it by the entity owning the trademark, that is a problem. Reebok and Adidas don’t get to say, “Just Do It” in their commercials. Nike owns that.
But that isn’t the point of my words today. The slight firestorm that has resulted from the missteps in this social media battle are what stood out to me. Having come from a background as an expert in crisis communications, I could see immediately how much better this could have been handled by professionals with experience in responding to tense issues such as this one.
Clearly, the magazine isn’t gaining positive attention nowadays and they don’t seem to be doing anything to drive up their subscription numbers. My guess is the negative attention is going to cost them more subscribers than they will gain in temporary attention. It’s been said any publicity is good publicity, but we have seen over and over again this is just not true in the long run.
That is why having a professional public relations firm with proven experience in crisis communications is so important. When life is easy and people are happy, PR firms can do a great job at maximizing that pleasant feeling. But only a select few businesses are able to overcome negative experiences, many of which seem to happen on social media.
My company, Jupiter Promotions, is always going to be a leader when it comes to crisis communications. In my networking experiences, I never run across people in my industry who from a PR perspective have dealt with shootings, sexual harassment and termination issues in a public forum. There were times when that was part of a month for me.
It is obvious now that Edmond Active should have handled this entire situation differently and that is where a PR firm would have been so important. Whether it was the initial post that was written in a way that was offensive to the general public or the way the issue continued to drag out on social media, there was clearly not a person who was taking control of the situation and making the right decisions.
It may be tough to explain sometimes to the board members or to your business partner why there is a need to have a PR firm working for your company. But if you don’t see the positives of what a PR firm can bring during the good times, who is going to be there for you during the bad times? Because, can you really afford not to have someone around who is going to make sure you aren’t making poor decisions publicly?