The month of April has given business owners a crash course in what not to do when their company is having a PR issue.
Between the blatantly out of touch Pepsi ad, a passenger being dragged off a United plane, and a couple of FinTech companies who clearly stopped listening to their customers, it's been one meme-worthy mess after another.
Unfortunately, PR catastrophes aren't just for giant companies. They can happen to any business owner. Here are just a few of the ways you may be sabotaging your business with bad PR.
Your marketing is out of touch.
Pepsi isn't the only company that has come up with bad commercials. There's actually a whole litany of them. Not only that, but data also suggests that American companies are spending billions on advertising that just doesn't work with consumers.
In other words, Pepsi's ad wasn't some sort of fluke, it was a product of an entire marketing industry that isn't working anymore.
Your best bet in avoiding making the same mistake is to actually listen to your consumers. Run surveys, pay attention to what they are saying on social media, learn about how to effectively use multicultural marketing in a changing landscape and don't ever make the assumption that you know what your market will love without asking them.
You blame the customer when something goes wrong.
There's no way I can address bad PR this month without bringing up United Airlines and the media nightmare that won't go away.
At this point, we all know what happened. The flight was overbooked, United needed to get their crew to a location, no one volunteered to get up and a passenger was beaten and dragged off a plane. To make matters worse, the CEO actually blamed the victim for something that was clearly United's fault.
Victim blaming is a last ditch PR effort that will undoubtedly backfire. Not to mention it will spread like wildfire on social media as it did with United. By this point in the saga, their competitors were having a ball with memes on Twitter while United's stock tanked.
Moral of the story is don't blame the victim for your screw up. You'll only dig a deeper grave for your company.
You blatantly ignore customers and industry experts.
Part of my job as a personal finance and business expert is to stay in the loop of what's going on in FinTech. While it may not have made headline news, those of us in the FinTech experienced another PR catastrophe this month when a popular savings app sent a poorly written email about how they were going to start charging users after years of free service.
The worst part is there was some good news for customers in that email, but the email itself was such a mess that all anyone could see was "monthly fee."
To make matters worse - because of course, it got worse - when customers, including myself, took their concerns to Twitter, they were blatantly ignored or met with meaningless platitudes. Meanwhile, competing apps saw huge percentages of new sign ups that week.
There is a lot that went wrong in this situation, but the main takeaway is to know your market. Also, don't ignore them when they are clearly upset. And finally, at the very least, get in a room with experts and customers to test your ideas before sending out bad emails.
Many of the PR mistakes I mention in this article could be avoided by paying attention to your market. Whatever you do and no matter how big your company gets, don't lose touch with the people who are responsible for your success - your customers.