How to recover from a PR disaster

A disaster is a disaster and cannot be reversed.

This is when we all wish we should have paid a bit more attention, we should have gone with our gut feeling. Simply, that moment of failure should have not existed!


People and organisations have failed time and time again. In the case of an organization they’ve hit rock bottom so hard that it was a hard climb out.

Here are a few PR disasters that have decided the fate of some world-renowned people, businesses, and their brand image. 


• Lego released a character called Turg, which they described as: “Part frog, part chicken, part back-of-the-bus window-licker.” Window-licker' is a term often used to refer to people with learning impairments. This sparked fury among charities that supported this cause.


• Krispy Kreme Klub switched a “c” for a “k” and spelt disaster as the title was used for white supremacists from America's deep south who used to commit horrendous acts of cruelty and violence towards black people.


• The online hashtag for Susan Boyle’s album release read #Susanalbumparty – well we are quite certain that it wasn’t that kind of party!


• When McDonals’s launched the McAfrika in Norway Aid agencies said that it was "insensitive, crass and ill-considered" to use Africa as a marketing tool for fast food at a time when countries like Malawi and Zimbabwe were suffering one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in history.


• Mental Patient Fancy Dress Costume -  Launched by Tesco and Asda, there were allegations made against these companies as the description stigmatized a section of society already facing prejudice.


So what do you do? Where do you turn? Here are a few ways on how you can recover from a PR disaster. No matter the magnitude of it.


-Identify the issue and acknowledge it, set up a team to launch an independent investigation into what has come about and devise a strategy for disaster management. Being reserved and concealing the issue can do more harm than good.


-Gather your army of acquaintances. Speak to friends, fans, social circles and confidantes about the predicament befallen you. Equip them with tools and points and enhance their outreach ability to start a dialogue with the community as a part of your disaster management strategy.


-Make use of the positive brand image that has been built over time. Embark on aspects like professionalism and excellence on track records of the past. Demonstrate the loyalty of your consumers. Be honest and humanize the brand whenever possible.


- Don’t retaliate to the negative feedback that customers would shove on you. Especially with social media. Be tactful and always show empathy and be apologetic when it's apt and needed.


-This is also a fine opening to turn a threat into an opportunity. Reach out to customers; as said before humanize the brand and take advantage to make the brand better looking than it was before. Two Cadbury chocolate bars were found infested with worms in Mumbai, India. The company was under severe scrutiny, however with the relaunch of its brand, with the introduction of new packaging advertising and educational PR projects the brand recovered eight months after and was able to regain its consumer confidence.


-Check, check and recheck. This should always be the golden rule to abide by. Say you are releasing a communiqué after upsetting the apple cart, make sure you’ve got all aspects covered with careful consideration about how you have addressed it, the solution given and whether it covers the concerns of all stakeholders.


- Consider if it’s a must to use the carrot and stick approach if it’s an employee who has messed up. You can also use this opportunity to make it a learning experience. Replacing an employee with years of experience can be somewhat of an unpleasant task. So take advantage of the opportunity to build trust, loyalty and improve the performance of your team.


-Start rebuilding your reputation. It takes a fraction of a second to destroy your image but years of handwork to build a new one. Look at options you can team up with to help you in the process. Let the process revolve around trust. Keep in mind that everything that would be put forward in future will be questioned even if it’s a slight blunder that has been made. So again reevaluate your process again and again until you’re dead sure and can vouch for it 200%.


- Tale the extra mile to give out a personalized apology whenever possible. Johnson & Johnson’s feminine hygiene brand was boycotted by women everywhere after the discontinuance of the Ultra tampon. How they reacted to this was by including a personalized video apologizing to their customer. 


So there you go, they say that to err is human to forgive divine! After all, we are all human. But brace yourself. Be safe than sorry. However, when it’s too late, get about the disaster management side of things. Learn from your mistakes and put into good use the experiences gained along the way. 


“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn't trying.” – Tony Robbins


 Created: June 30th, 2016


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