We all know that silence is not golden when a crisis starts brewing for a brand because it gives the issue a chance to percolate and ultimately boil over as the news travels online, usually at the speed of light. The longer the delay, the more widespread the damage typically, and the longer it takes to reel the situation in and restore normalcy.
But new research from B2B ratings, and reviews firm Clutch has found there is a relationship between how and when companies respond to public relations crises and their ability to maintain a solid brand reputation in the long term. To confirm this, the firm conducted a survey of 500 consumers who were familiar with United Airlines, Pepsi, and Uber’s public relations crises.
The research found that brands such as United Airlines that wait to respond to negative PR crises and brands such as Uber that are relatively new to the market when they experience a PR crisis are more likely to lose customers.
United Airlines waited several weeks to respond to a video of an airline official forcibly removing a passenger from a flight. Consumers’ willingness to purchase flights from United Airlines dropped from 68 percent before the PR crisis to 42 percent immediately after. Seven months after the crisis, 30 percent of consumers say they will not buy flights from United because they lost a sense of trust and safety in the brand.
On the other hand, Pepsi responded immediately to the public’s negative feedback about a commercial featuring Kendall Jenner: Pepsi apologized and removed the ad. Consumers’ willingness to buy Pepsi products only dropped from 56 percent before the PR crisis to 55 percent immediately after.
As a young company, Uber’s customer base is relatively limited, which may hurt the brand after experiencing multiple PR crises in 2017. Consumer’s willingness to ride with Uber dropped from 60 percent before the PR crises to 47 percent immediately after the crises.
“Your long-term PR strategy hopefully builds the brand reputation that you can take to the bank when your company has a shorter-term PR issue,” said Tim Collins, principal at Grisdale Advisors and former SVP of Experiential Marketing at Wells Fargo, who was interviewed for the report.
Having a public relations strategy ready at all times is the most reliable way to ensure companies manage the long-term strength of their brand reputation in the event of a short-term PR crisis.
The report includes 500 consumers and measures their willingness to purchase products or services from United Airlines, Pepsi, and Uber before, immediately after, and seven months after each company underwent a severe PR crisis.