Stella PR+ Marketing | Maintaining Brand Image through a Crisis
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Maintaining Brand Image through a Crisis

Dealing with a crisis is stressful, high energy, and draining. But it’s something that needs to be done correctly. Companies and organizations spend years building up reputable brands and reputations but sometimes, in a flash of a second, the brand’s image can be severely tarnished. The last thing any business wants is for people to distrust it. That’s why it is essential to have a crisis communications plan in place.


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Here are some good examples of what to do in a crisis:


In 1993, rumors spread rampant that there were syringe’s being placed in cans of Diet Pepsi. Luckily, it turned out to be a hoax. PepsiCo was quick to respond to the issue, stating that the stories were fabricated and they were confident in how their drinks were canned. The company created four videos during the crisis. Some of the videos consisted of a comprehensive report on its soda canning process. PepsiCo’s North American CEO also made appearances on news stations to speak about the rumors, with support from the FDA. He also appeared on Nightline with FDA Commissioner David Kessler, to further assure that the drink was safe.




  • What did PepsiCo do right? The company didn’t hide. It came forward and assured the public. PepsiCo put a face to its brand and paired with the FDA to further prove that it can be trusted. It involved the public in its canning process to assure them that PepsiCo’s canning process was safe. Diet Pepsi sales went back up a month after the crisis. Had PepsiCo done nothing in this crisis, chances are its reputation and sales would have depleted even more rapidly.


In 1982, seven people were killed after taking extra-strength Tylenol capsules that had been laced with potassium cyanide. Johnson & Johnson responded immediately by pulling 31 million bottles of Tylenol off the shelves, which cost them $100 million, and stopped production and advertising of the product. The company then involved itself with the Chicago Police, FBI, and FDA in pursuit of the killer, and even offered $100,000 as a reward. Later, the company reintroduced Tylenol with a new tamper-resistant packaging and coupons.





  • What did Johnson & Johnson do right? The company recognized that its product was the source of the problem and took it off the shelves immediately, so as to not affect another customer. The company also showed its dedication to its customers by involving itself with the police search to stop the killings from happening. To stop something like that from happening again, the reintroduction of tamper-resistant packaging assured customers that they could trust the Tylenol product.


What not to do in a crisis situation:


Chevron Corporation had a well explode with a devastating fire that raged for five days, killing one well worker in a rural community in southwestern Pennsylvania. In response, Chevron sent an apology letter with a coupon for free pizza and a 2-liter soda. As a result, people were outraged and made complaints. Instead of apologizing for its poor apology, Chevron defended itself and claimed that it had only received positive responses…this only enraged people more.

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  • What did Chevron do wrong? Its approach to the crisis seemed like Chevron was putting the situation on the backburner and that the death of one of its employees was only worth coupons for free pizza and soda. While pizza surely is the cure for many situations, it isn’t in the face of a tragedy. For Chevron to also fight back against claims, still seeming to think the coupon was the best response, makes it seem as though Chevron turned its back on one of its sayings: “Oil companies should support the communities they’re part of. We agree.” In this situation, Chevron should have visited the affected community and offered its condolences, as well as offered a monetary award to the family touched by the tragedy. Chevron should have also increased its social media usage to state that it is a safe company with hardworking employees.


Target experienced the second-largest retailer data breech on record in 2013. The story first broke through a blogger, in which Target came forward and discussed its situation. Target later went on to make false assurances, which it later had to take back. Target also didn’t over communicate with the public, making it tough on the customer to trust the company.




  • What did Target do wrong? For starters, Target should have been the first one to break the story, rather than letting someone else find out and tell the story before the company. This made Target seem untrustworthy and like it was hiding something from the public. Target also made assurances with its customers a day after the story came out, even though Target did not fully have a grip on the situation. It wasn’t until Target got more information about the situation that it had to back-track its statement, making Target seem like coconspirators. In this situation, it is perfectly acceptable to admit that you do not know the answer yet, but will inform the public as soon as you know more. The public would rather hear that you don’t know, than hear you have to take back a claim. Target also didn’t over communicate. Leaders of the company should have been on news stations, publishing an obscene amount of press releases, and should have been showing their faces a lot more. This would have made Target seem more approachable, rather than seem like a corporation that doesn’t genuinely care about its customers.