3 Great Examples of Effective Crisis PR

Crisis PR, also known as crisis communication, is a form of public relations that is designed to defend the image of an individual, company, or organization that is facing negative attention in the public sphere.

While crisis PR isn’t something that communications and public relations teams look forward to by any means, it is one of the most crucial forms of PR in the event that a company were to receive public backlash in the media.

Here are three effective crisis PR strategies used by major corporations in recent years that provide great examples as to how companies can bounce back from negative attention and preserve brand reputation:

1. Red Cross & #gettngslizzerd

In 2011, the American Red Cross, had to deal with a crisis they had yet to encounter previously. This crisis took place on social media.

A social media manager had mistakenly confused the official American Red Cross Twitter account for her own personal account. She tweeted the following message:


Posting tweets about alcohol and inebriation is not the best look for an organization known for springing into action when disaster strikes. The American Red Cross responded using its account once more –  first by deleting the original tweet, and then by poking fun at their own mistake:

While the brand definitely put themselves in the spotlight with their original mistake, their usage of humor in their apology was very effective. In fact, #gettngslizzrd became a trending hashtag as hundreds of users responded with lighthearted replies to the apology that was later featured on the company blog.

The brand was able to interact with their followers and engage their audience as a result, making for a great ending to what started as a very problematic situation. For scenarios such as The American Red Cross’s Twitter blunder, humor can be a very effective tool in a PR response – however, it is important to note that humor is only to be used when the situation itself isn’t severe.

The following examples will include situations in which humor would be highly inappropriate to use in crisis PR.

2. JetBlue Takes Responsibility  

In the early months of 2007, airline JetBlue faced what can only be described as a PR nightmare.

The airline experienced an operational breakdown after an ice storm struck the East Coast. This led to nearly 1,000 flights being cancelled in just a five day period.

As expected, passengers were outraged by the cancellations. Many passengers, stranded in various airports for the duration of the operational failure, became angered with airline employees and started altercations that required the presence of security agents.

CEO David Neeleman approached the situation by taking full responsibility for his company’s failures. It seems obvious, but many brands attempt to divert bad press from their direction by either citing external reasons for their failures or blaming other entities or forces entirely.

Neeleman had the option of blaming the bad weather for the operational meltdown, as it was a major factor and did cause equipment failures across the east coast. However, in an effort to stay true to their roots of a customer-service oriented, low-fare airline, Neeleman opted to own up on behalf of JetBlue.

Neeleman took to YouTube, the Today Show, Letterman, and Anderson Cooper to apologize for the incident. He also wrote a letter apologizing to JetBlue customers in which he introduced a customer’s bill of rights and presented a detailed list of steps the company would take to help the affected passengers.

Lesson to be learned – sometimes the best first-step in crisis PR is the simple one: say sorry!

Then try to help those affected as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  

3. The Tide Pod Challenge – Gronk to the Rescue!

Robert Gronkowski, also known as “Gronk,” is a former star NFL tight-end. He is also known as the spokesperson for Tide, a laundry detergent that is produced by Procter & Gamble.  

In 2018, a social media trend concerning Tide Pods, the brand’s detergent pacs, thrust the brand into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Users on Twitter and Instagram were participating in what was known as the #TidePodChallenge, in which users, many of whom being children or young teens, were eating the detergent pacs and posting videos of their attempts to social media.

Although this trend was not caused by Tide itself, the brand received bad press due to their mere association with the challenge, which resulted in many injuries and even a few deaths due to the toxic chemicals present in the detergent pacs.

Procter & Gamble featured Gronkowski in a video in which he strongly denounced the consumption of Tide Pods. It was viewed as a great move by P&G as Gronkowski was a celebrity that was easily recognizable by the age demographic that was participating in the dangerous challenge.

Not every brand has the capacity or budget to recruit and hire a celebrity endorsement like Robert Gronkowski, but every brand can emulate the actions taken by P&G. They made sure that the face of their brand condemned an activity that involved one of their products, despite not having any other involvement with the activity itself.

In the case of smaller brands with smaller advertising budgets, this “face” might be a CEO, an employee, or a community of consumers who can publicly defend a brand’s reputation by dissociating it from the actions of an external group.

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Neil Grasso is a contributing editor and marketing associate for Newswire.com. With years of experience with both news and content writing, Neil looks to cover and analyze the unique PR strategies used by some of the world's most well-known brands. On the marketing end, Neil specializes in social media management and content creation.

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