When crisis planning hits a problem

Lest you miss it, Bunnings’s issue management plan had to be activated after a communication between company stakeholders leaked about the barbecue sausage sandwich protocol: while serving barbie ‘ d bangers, the onions should be placed on the bread before the sausage to minimize the threat of onion spills that could lead to staff slips and falls, he hinted.

So really, what was so terrible about this sensible suggestion from the stakeholders?

When the Bunnings Problems and Risk team was planning scenarios for business or public relations threats, they could have been forgiven for not having served a stress test based on a sausage and onion public relations disaster. that would propel them into the spotlight of the global media. In truth, even a stress-testing sage could be wrong in not imagining such a left-field scenario.

Crisis simulation

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Still, crisis rehearsals should be the it’s time to think imaginatively, broadly and wildly about all possible operational or reputational threats and practice what, when and how you are going to communicate a response. In fairness to Bunnings, it appears there may have been some real precedent of bunion accidents (and insurance pressures, no doubt) that prompted the need for a brief for the parties. stakeholders.

While Bunnings’s review bore the hallmark of responsible (albeit somewhat nannies) PR / stakeholder relations, the company was ridiculed and taunted by a large number of social media posters (around 1763 social media posts said my monitoring portal) and many more online media with massive audiences.

Part of good scenario and problem management planning is calculating the likely response and scope of any communications your business plans to issue. It is evident that the hardware retailer has not sufficiently prepared its estimates of the potential impact of the notice on the onion.

But that’s what scenario planning and crisis rehearsals aim to do: help you look to the future.

When a good PR becomes a bad PR

The story hit a sweet spot – perhaps about overprotection – and many of the reviews created and posted online by everyday Australians were very creative and fun (which helped the virality of the film). ‘story). The tale soon posted internationally and reportedly reached tens of millions of people. The NY Times even headlined that: “Australians declare existential crisis over onion placement”.

The New York Times article

Every day, companies are criticized and castigated for not doing the right thing. Ethical and professional public relations – which essentially helps companies listen to and respond to stakeholder feedback – can help organizations behave better and communicate better.

But one of the key truths of modern reputation management is that so many audiences will take offense, even if none were actually given or expected. Have Bunnings’s good intentions been misinterpreted?
Yes, but that doesn’t mean they were blameless in assessing feelings or how they responded to the problem.

Perform a problem audit

We did an online issues audit to find Bunnings’s response to the (sorry) prank they were receiving. A cross-media audit shows where the problem lies, who is talking about it and what the feelings are on the topics and terms discussed. Without exposing what was a pretty revealing inventory, the biggest gap we spotted was resistance to using staff to help fix the problem.

Staff ambassadors in times of crisis

With real people as ambassadors for his advertising brand, did Bunnings miss an opportunity to tell his side of the story in a human, natural and maybe even humorous way? Or did squatting seem like a better strategy, for reasons outsiders may never fully understand?

Certainly, in a week where Bunnings staff were among the heroes who helped spot and foil a domestic terrorism plot, the good news of this brand story was overshadowed by the onion’s miscommunication. .

In today’s highly critical reputation environment, some businesses can’t even get a break from doing a good thing, let alone doing a bad thing.

McCusker is orchestrating a live crisis simulation at next year’s CommsCon, which will test audiences against the streamlined four-step process for better handling of modern crisis communications. Problems that arise may include: How do we deal with fake news? What about social media snipers? Reigning in this stupid employee! And where does this future minister get away with berating us…?

Book your advance tickets here.

Gerry McCusker is the author of “PR Disasters” and owner of a stress testing tool. The drill.


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