“There is no such thing as bad publicity.”
People could sit around a table for hours debating whether this is true or not. It depends on who you are, what industry you’re in, what consumer you are trying to represent well for. So we aren’t going to investigate the validity to that statement, but what I do want to explore is the tactic of bouncing back from bad publicity. I specifically want to dive into discovering how crucial a strong social media strategy can be when facing times of distrust and dislike from consumers and reputation rebuilding in your industry.
As we have talked about before, one of the most powerful aspects of social media is it’s power of reach and diffusion. When your company or brand faces a reputation crisis through bad publicity, reaching as many consumers to correct the wrong is a strong tool to have in your toolbox. It is one thing to get the reach, but once you reach them, you have to know what to say. That’s when another attribute of social media comes in handy for disaster clean ups. Social media gives a company a more upfront and real-time access to their consumers, which in turn provides efficient engagement. This engagement is what can start bring your company back into you’re target market’s good graces. You have a unique chance, through social media, to correct the wrong done to your brand’s name by interacting with the consumers that could be spreading the negativity in the first place. This not only puts your loyal consumers back on the map but also gives you an unpaid army to go spread the truth. One company that has been successfully taking advantage of this social media ability is SeaWorld. When the documentary “Blackfish” came out, bashing SeaWorld for the mistreatment of it’s animals and the poor decisions of it’s management, they faced a huge amount of negative publicity. They endured backlash for over 12 long months from animal rights activists, boycotts from tourists, cancelled appearances from endorsers and sponsors, and the spreading of rumors from what once used to be their consumer base. As bad as “Blackfish” made SeaWorld look, SeaWorld had their own side to the story, and they intended to share it. And one way they intended to do so was through social media. They took advantage of the engagement ability social media offers and reached out to individual consumers that spoke of concerns regarding the documentary and directed them to where they could find correct answers.
Something else they did wonderfully was while playing clean up crew for their bad publicity, they also made sure they kept their original social media strategy strong by interacting with the consumers positively as well, reposting their happy comments or pictures and thanking them for coming to their park as well as wishing them safe travels home. Along with a boat load of other PR stunts and outside work, social media helped SeaWorld take control of their situation and resulted in the park having little “Blackfish Effect”, with three months of all time high attendance from consumers in 2013. The CEO made a statement regarding how there is no major impact left to be seen from the negative effects Blackfish had on SeaWorld Parks.
Had they not set forth a strategic plan to come back from these attacks on their brand, SeaWorld would be in a much different place today. A lot goes in to keeping your brand in a good light, but when crisis strikes that is out of your control, I’d argue almost nothing offers the ability of impact to change the consumer’s minds and perceptions like social media. So whether your brand is currently suffering or you would be able to sleep better at night knowing you had a plan ready should something try to negatively effect your reputation, a strong social media strategy is always a smart weapon to combat the outside world.