Karen’s PR & Social Media Blog

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May 14, 2013

A Reputation Catastrophe Online & Offline: Amy’s Bakery & Kitchen Nightmare Episode

I thought I saw it all when it came to how brands would respond to customer reviews and interactions on social media.  Well, now I have seen one example that really surprised me from a crisis and social media perspective.

With Amy’s Baking Company in Arizona, I think they have set a whole new standard to how not to respond to online criticism via Facebook.  Here’s their Facebook page if you want to check this out for yourself. Buzzfeed gave a detailed account on the various posts, social media updates, and interactions the bakery had with others on Facebook in their article as well. Consumerist also highlighted this particular case as well on their page with some updates as well.

It all came up due to being on Gordon Ramsey’s famous reality TV show called “Kitchen Nightmares” and this actually was the first time that the well-known chef actually quit the show – which was pretty surprising in its 82 episode history. There are two videos from the show related to this business on this website as well or can watch the full episode here.

What we are seeing here is a translation from behavior offline and it is happening online – and the reputational damage for both of these cases is huge.

There are many issues here to look at with this case, but what has escalated a already tense situation on the show to a whole other level is the behavior displayed via social.  This case has become viral and everyone – from traditional media to crisis communication professionals – has started commenting, sharing, and disseminating this information across multiple platforms and channels online.

I’ve seen many crisis situations emerging from brands online, but this one I think takes the cake as being the most extreme one I’ve seen in my years working in social media and crisis communications.

I think Gordon Ramsey handled himself appropriately in the show and you could see his emotion that he wanted to help this business, but he couldn’t help people that didn’t want help. What is shocking about the clips from the show and what is being played out online is the fact that this is behavior that is displayed publicly – so we have to wonder what happens when there is no filming crew or interactions online.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Best Wishes,


November 27, 2012

Walmart & the Bangladesh Factory Fire Tragedy: A crisis case study

One of the crisis situations that will be discussed tomorrow night on “The Crisis Show” will be the Bangladesh Factory crisis that happened a few days ago. On Saturday, November 24th, a fire broke out at a factory in Bangladesh that ultimately killed 112 workers, which has initiated a day or mourning for the victims as well as thousands participating in demonstrations around the area.  These demonstrations focused on raising awareness and calling for action for better worker conditions and justice for those impacted by this tragedy.

One of the companies named in connection with the factory is Walmart, who did release a statement today saying that the Bangladesh factory was indeed making items in their factory before the fire broke out. However, the focus of the statement from Walmart was their acknowledgement that they did use the factory to produce products for them, but they discontinued this relationship due to these concerns.

Walmart made the following statement regarding this tragedy, which was reported in the Huffington Post:

“Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier. The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.”

What is challenging here for Walmart is that they have been hit with several crises all at once. Just a day before this tragedy hit the factory, there were about 100 cities participating in strikes among Walmart employees set for Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year in the US.  With the strikes going on as well as the connection with this international tragedy, these crises will impact their overall corporate reputation.

One of the more popular photos being circulated and published regarding the crisis in Bangladesh.

The current situation in which Walmart finds itself reminds me of what happened to Toyota a few years ago with their recall.  They did take responsibility for their actions, however, they also did shift the blame to their supplier of the particular brake part that was causing all of the accidents and issues with the recall.  This appears to be what is going on with Walmart.

However, it was noted that they did reference in their latest Global Responsibility Report (and mentioned in the Huffington Post article) that they stopped working with factories in India due to fire safety issues, so they have these concerns documented already from a year ago.  It is also interesting to see how the media is framing this crisis and its connection to Walmart – even having one article stating how Walmart “failed to protect” factory workers involved in this tragedy, citing that the owners and company wanted to have the cheapest operating costs possible, which means working in unsafe conditions.

t is also apparent that many voices are coming out to tell their perspectives and stories related to this crisis, and what crisis communication professionals need to be aware of in this crisis are a couple of things.

  • First, the power of storytelling and human interest stories will dominate the focus and discussion related to this crisis. The emotional impact and devastation to Bangladesh will be in the spotlight as well as the actions and timeline of events of the crisis.
  • Second, Walmart’s responses and statements have to be timely and accurate – they have to provide documentation of their actions and initiatives related to this crisis as well as what they did before this crisis happened in terms of raising their concerns about the fire safety issues.
  • Third, photos and other visuals are being used as a strategic communication tool to show the global community the impact and devastation for this crisis, which crisis communicators have to determine the best message strategies and platforms to use to handle these new tools in raising awareness and advocacy for those impacted in this crisis.
  • Lastly, there needs to be messages involving Walmart and others involved on what they are going to do next to make sure that this does not happen again. Also, resilience needs to be incorporated into these messages to help those involved overcome this tragedy and bounce back into their daily lives.  This may take time, resources, and dedication – but this needs to happen to help restore trust and credibility.

In summary, this case is a cautionary tale for brands and individuals to make sure they investigate and really evaluate whether or not to do business with others and formulate long term partnerships.  Associations, even of you are not directly involved in a crisis, can get you into trouble as well.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Best Wishes,


September 12, 2012

#NBCFail on 9/11 Coverage: Reputation crisis after Today Show airs Kris Jenner Interview instead of 9/11 Moment of Silence

One thing you can always depend on is the fact that when you are in crisis communications, you will always have a job because there is always something going on. But of all days – 9/11 – there are sometimes where companies and news organizations hit a new low, and NBC’s Today Show did that yesterday.

What NBC did was instead of covering the moment of silence for those who lost their lives 11 years ago to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, they featured an interview with reality mom Kris Jenner. The response NBC released was not really addressing the core emotional reaction to this particular action with their viewers:

“NBC said that it aired other segments on ‘Today’ about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including an interview with a World Trade Center survivor earlier in the show. For its later West Coast feed, the network did show the commemoration of the first moment.” 

WIth this statement, it appears that NBC felt justified with this act since they had done some coverage earlier in the show – but this does not excuse their actions to not over the main event of the moment of silence and and memory to those who lost their lives to 9/11.  They are not taking responsibility for their actions or even apologizing for it, which is very surprising.  Not surprising is the fact they do not even acknowledge this on their Twitter handle as well.

This situation for NBC is not good at all from a crisis communications standpoint- they had issues over the summer with their coverage of the London 2012 Olympic Games.  As a result, their ratings are not as they were before and many are taking to social media to boycott the show and go to other networks. These conversations can be followed if you look for the #NBCFail on Twitter. This may just take the cake for this news organization – all of the major outlets covered the event the entire day, and this shows where NBC stands on the issue of 9/11.

Personally, I never was one for watching morning shows like “The Today Show,” but with this action and disrespect to those who lost their lives on this terrible day, their families, and everyone in the armed forces depending our daily freedoms on a daily basis abroad, I will not watch their news coverage at all in the future.

We will never forget 9/11, but it appears that NBC has already forgotten this horrific event that changed the nation forever and is instead focusing on more important matters:  Kris Jenner’s breast augmentation. This entire situation for NBC and the Today Show is just embarrassing. In some crisis situations, there are times where no matter what you do – nothing will make it better, and I think this is may be severely damaging for the news organization in terms of their reputation.

Best Wishes,



July 25, 2012

Think before you #tweet Crisis: Athlete banned from #London2012 Olympics for inappropriate tweet

The London 2012 Olympics will begin in just a few days, and we have seen some challenges and crises already emerge before the games have even started.  Security issues with the security company in London where UK troops were called in to help with the security and ticket issues have also come up with people voicing their opinions and complaints.

But what about crises involving the athletes?  We have already seen one athlete being expelled and not allowed to compete in the Olympics due to an inappropriate tweet she sent out. Voula Papachristou, the Greek triple jump champion, posted a tweet that caught the attention of the media and Olympic committee, and as a result – this single tweet resulted in Papachristou not being allowed to compete in the upcoming London Olympics. She has since apologized both on Twitter and releasing the following statement:

I would like to express my heartfelt apologies for the unfortunate and tasteless joke I published on my personal Twitter account. I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights.

My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values. Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races.

I would like to apologize to all my friends and fellow athletes, who I may have insulted or shamed, the National Team, as well as the people and companies who support my athletic career. Finally, I would like to apologize to my coach and my family.

From a crisis communications standpoint, athletes like Papchristou need to recognize they are probably at one of the biggest global events we have, representing not only themselves, but their country for the world to see.  Understanding this power and presence needs to be taken into consideration not only in personal conversations and engagements with others – but also online as well.  Athletes need to recognize that whatever they post, say, comment, or share online – it is not only for their followers and friends to see – but for others to see as well and determine their first impressions based on this.

The London 2012 Olympics has been deemed by many as the “social media” Olympics – the IOC has taken a very active role in social media by having not only a presence themselves for the games, but setting regulations and guidelines for athletes and others on what they can and cannot do with social media during the games. There is already discussion of the emergence of future crises coming from Twitter that may come during the games.

So, this case raises the social media red flag to all those who are at the games, whether it is competing or part of the support staff or even fans – the social media conversations will be monitored – so think before you tweet.

Hope you all are having a great day.

Best Wishes,


July 20, 2012

A Twitter Hashtag Hijacking Crisis Rises: How Celeb Boutique used #aurora hashtag for a dress promotion

Aurora, a town just outside of Denver, Colorado faced a horrific scene this morning where a gunman, now identified as James Holmes, went into a midnight showing of the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” and shot 71 people, and 12 of them died.  Now, what this boutique did was almost exactly what we saw Kenneth Cole do a few years ago during the Egypt Protest riots with his tweet heard around the world.

However, an online boutique named Celeb Boutique , which is based in the UK, had the following tweet that went viral and got the social media community in an uproar.  Here was the tweet they launched on Twitter related to the #aurora hashtag:

So – the company thought that the hashtag that was being used for this horrific crisis was due to their Aurora inspired dress by Kim Kardashian.  Pretty outrageous and insensitive to the horrible events that happened to the community of Aurora, Colorado.  What was the statement from the boutique?  Well, they said that the people that handle their PR were not US based and had not checked the nature of the Twitter trending hashtag for #aurora.  Several apology tweets followed this statement.

In this day of age for social media and crisis communications, all brands have to be aware of all of the characteristics and attributes related to communication via a particular social media channel.  In addition, monitoring your own brand’s comments, updates, and shares to your audiences is essential – first impressions are made instantly based on what you write and post online.  Was there a blog post or apology statement on their main page?  No – nothing about the crisis appeared on their website.

Many social media and traditional media outlets have reported on this tweet that not only was heard around the world, but it one that really ignited anger and frustration towards the brand for their insensitivity for the current crisis and situation.  For this particular brand – by not doing these items, they really took a huge hit to their reputation and credibility as a brand and company.

Several things we need to point out here to take away as social media and crisis lessons to learn from this particular extension of the bigger Aurora theater crisis.  First, hashtags need to be used to share updates, information, and links with others regarding the crisis – not to be hijacked or used inappropriately.  Second, brands and other high profile individuals who want to voice their opinion on the crisis should do so – but with empathy.  Brian Solis just wrote a great article about empathy and published it on his own personal website.

Lastly, brands who did wrong, like Celeb Boutique has done in this case, need to take responsibility and accountability for their actions and face the consequences of not being proactive in 1) monitoring conversations and updates coming from their social media profiles on various platforms; 2) Being aware of the global events happening in that could translate into trending topics online and 3) do more background research on the PR firm you hire to handle your social media activities to make sure they are qualified professionals and are familiar with the various elements associated with certain social media platforms.

During this time, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the victims and community members of Aurora who had to experience this horrific event.  My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

Best Wishes,





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