Module 9 Blog Topic: Find an example of a public relations ‘crisis’. What did the company do to cope with the crisis? In your opinion, has the action helped or hindered the company’s reputation?
A ‘public relations (PR) crisis’ is a significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly. There is also a PR conflict management life cycle to be followed due to the potential damage that a crisis can inflict on an organisation, its stakeholders, and industry. Wilcox et al. (2013) clarifies the four phases in a PR conflict management life cycle:
- Proactive – Try prevent the crisis or minimise its severity as much as possible
- Strategic – Determine risk communication, conflict positioning and crisis management plan
- Reactive – Once crisis reaches critical level, react with the determined risk communication, conflict positioning and crisis management plan
- Recovery – Repair reputation
Fast food giant McDonalds have had to deal with a PR crisis or two, or ten. The funniest thing is though most of them have all been their own fault. One example of a major McDonalds PR crisis is the ‘McResource Line’ blunder. The ‘McResource Line’ was an employee only website but in 2013 there weren’t ANY security measures found in place to verify the person actually signing up was an employee, therefore ANYONE IN THE WORLD had access to all areas of the website and a variety of private information (Bernstein Crisis Management Blog 2013). When the media caught on, there was a picture highly publicised from the website which embarrassed McDonalds even further; it was health advice they gave their employees which strongly did not support their own products, and just to add to it, their advice promoted Subway instead (News Corp Australia Network 2013).
The McDonalds proactive, strategic, reactive and recovery phases of this crisis led quickly to the website simply being shut down by CEO Don Johnson. McDonalds has proven to have a resilience in overcoming PR crises before and the ‘McResource Line’ blunder of 2013 has proven to be no different either. But still it needs to be said… that particular PR crisis was a very big McFail on so many levels!
Bernstein Crisis Management Blog 2013, ‘Crisis Management Advice for McDonalds after ANOTHER Web Content Fail’, Blog post, viewed 2 January 2014, http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com/blog/crisis-management-advice-mcdonalds-another-web-content-fail/
News Corp Australia Network 2013, McDonalds shuts down McResource Line employee website that warned about dangers of fast food, News.com.au, http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/mcdonalds-shuts-down-mcresource-line-employee-website-that-warned-about-dangers-of-fast-food/story-fnda1bsz-1226789580718
Wlicox D, Cameron G, Reber B and Shin JH 2013, Think Public Relations, 2nd edn, Pearson Education, New Jersey.