Damage Control- Lessons Amy’s Baking Company and the Government Can Learn About PR

June 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s pretty ugly out there, especially when your company’s PR consists of conspiracy theories and fans about to tear down your walls both literally and figuratively. At least, that’s one thing these months have taught us- and re-enforced among those of us in the marketing community.

Without taking any one side, I can tell you right now that the actions of both the government and Amy’s Baking Company aren’t any different in theory. Sure, a woman screaming at her customers (and occasionally speaking cat) has nothing to do with the belabored communication between a government and its people. Oh, but it does. And the message of both goes back to the same point- when damage control isn’t done, the damage will be significant.

Although there have been questionable actions by restaurant owners in the past, none have been as blatant as Amy And Samy of Amy’s Baking company. Featured in the finale episode of one of Gordon Ramsay’s many shows, Kitchen Nightmares, the finale episode showed the couple’s interaction with its customer as it is. One of the most notable lines in the entire episode featured co-owner Samy speaking candidly with a customer in his establishment: when the customer stated that there was “something wrong with the salad” although he couldn’t describe what, Samy took face-to-face action. He promptly told his customer that he, in fact, was in the wrong- the salad he had ordered was perfectly fine, and he didn’t know what he was talking about. Yikes.
That’s nice and all. Except it was broadcasted on national television. 

Adding fuel to the flame, angry viewers further sank the company into infamy on every social media channel the Bakery used- most notably Facebook. However, instead of admitting their flaws and healing bonds through the internet, Amy and Samy flamed their own customers in a fashion that could be best described as self-satirizing.

The lesson here? Use PR for good. In a book I was reading recently called “Real-Time Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott, this point was deeply elaborated on; every opportunity of negative customer feedback is a contact point between an individual and a company which allows the company to prove its dedication to the customer. In the case of Amy and Samy, dedication nothing.

So what does this have to do with the recent set of issues with the government? It’s all about the response made in reaction to backlash. Although Amy’s Baking Company made clear their message (“get the Hell out!”), the American government has been sending its people a much different message- and one which is much more mixed.

In reaction to the recent Benghazi scandal, Obama took the stand to state the goals, misunderstandings, and intent of the U.S government. However, in the time between the event and Obama’s speech, the silence of the government created the kind of communication ferment that encourages negative sentiment. You could bet Fox25 was all over that.

So Obama did his part, announcing the government perspective (whether it was satisfying or not ultimately depending on your own perspective). However, I am left to wonder: even the largest of companies responds to crises in real-time by at least acknowledging misunderstandings and announcing a resolution, even if it doesn’t happen at that very moment and takes hours or days to plan. Where was the U.S. government in those critical hours?

The moral of the story being this- as soon as you know anything, negative or positive, fill your followers, customers, or patrons in, in real-time. 

Also, avoid doing things that are just immoral in general. Like screaming and yelling at customers.

Meow.

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