“Drop whatever* you’re doing. Get over here and fix this shitstorm.” – Client
Clients aren’t usually as direct as this one. But the gist is always the same. “Everything I’ve worked so hard to build is crashing down around me. Help!!!”
How did we get to this point?
Let’s go back 24 hours.
A new mom began breastfeeding in a client’s high-end retail store. Nothing out of the ordinary or inappropriate. The owner politely let the mom know she was on candid camera (actually, 200 high def surveillance ones) and that if she’d prefer privacy, lounges were available. The mom said she was fine and shopped happily for the next hour.
But as soon as she left, the mom called her lawyer claiming she was illegally discouraged and bullied from breastfeeding in the store.
Within a few hours, the mommy-sphere was in an uproar. The new mom had taken her version of the story to the Internet and mobilized a large, passionate audience.
Yelp. Mommy blogs. Facebook groups. Friends. Friends-of-friends. The media. There was even a talk of a well-publicized “nurse-in.”
She was swiftly ruining the sterling reputation our client’s family had built over generations.
We fought back. Fast.
- We quickly questioned everyone involved. Time is tricky — it muddles the memories. Events get reinterpreted and facts get forgotten.
- We carefully crafted positive responses that set the story straight, and took them straight to the Internet, posting some publicly and others as private messages. This is where the battle was being fought, and this is where we needed to deploy our defenses.
- What about the reporters? We directed them to our public postings with the assurance that they’d “find everything they needed.” (The reason? Our client was so shaken up he was easy prey for missteps.)
The new mom apologized and agreed to remove all of her negative posts. The mommy-sphere fell silent. No news items ran because we made it a non-story.
An unexpected bonus: Some of those who had initially been angry were so impressed with our client’s support and level of care for nursing moms that they became new customers.
When you or your business are under attack, it’s always personal. But don’t let your emotions take control, or they’ll ruin even the best strategies. Be calm — or bring in someone who is.
* The actual, less PG-friendly version of the quote: “Drop whatever the fuck you’re doing. Get over here and fix this shitstorm.”
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.
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