The worst sort of crisis is one that you or one of your employees generates through bad judgment, ignorance or laziness.
We have a classic one today, one that could destroy a company. It’s all over social media in the form of a Texas mattress store’s Facebook ad. It’s almost too painful to watch. It ties itself to 9/11 and the falling twin towers. Watch if you must, but you get the gist.
The ad only runs for 22 seconds, mercifully, and is amateurish at best. But it’s fatal.
To its credit, the company reacted fast and forthrightly in disavowing the ad and apologizing for its creation.
Miracle Mattress owner Mike Bonanno issued the following from Houston:
Today, I was made aware of a social media video produced by our San Antonio team highlighting a promotional sale using the upcoming 9/11 anniversary as the incentive. The video was posted on Facebook without my knowledge or approval from our corporate office in Houston.
I say this unequivocally, with sincere regret: the video is tasteless and an affront to the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11. Furthermore, it disrespects the families who lost their loved ones and continue to struggle with the pain of this tragedy every day of their lives.
As bad and damaging as this idea was, the owner at least took responsibility, apologized and — it didn’t need to be spelled out — promised that it would never happen again.
This example of a crisis is laden and layered with social media significance. First, the makers posted the ad live to Facebook. If this were a TV ad, that wouldn’t be possible. Someone, several someones, would have had to review and approve it. Presumably, smarter decisions would have been made.
Also, of course, without social media — in this case FB and YouTube — this would have been a local scandal in San Antonio, TX, and maybe Houston, not a national/international one. The BBC covered it, as did CNN.
Finally, and most upsetting, is that social media lulls us into thinking that the stupid back flip we did into the lake last week and posted on all our feeds is the same thing as an ad for a mattress company. too many people have lost that filter and the ability to discern that what can be at least OK — or simply dumb, juvenile or foolish — in private, is very different in public.
Surely, this is a one- or tw0-day story. And more than likely, Miracle Mattress is looking for three new employees in its San Antonio store — which closed due to death threats, another unsavory offshoot of social.
Just as surely, this unnecessary, self-inflicted crisis will cut deeply into sales.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.