Thursday, May 30, 2013

Amy's Baking Company outrage

There's a number of problems that Amy's Baking Company has to address in order to get the business on track. But the main relevant issue in this particular case is that both owners do not realize the importance of feedback and criticism. "KitchenNightmares" episode featuring their business proved that they don't have what we call people skills and are absolutely not familiar with restaurant ethics. It was a nightmare in a true sense of this word: customers got insulted and kicked out of the place, employees were treated like garbage, quality of dishes could not get any worse, etc. Nothing  stopped the owners, married couple, from swearing and yelling at each other, staff, and customers - neither the TV cameras, nor the common sense. The main goal of the TV show was to help the striving business to revive by creating a "teachable moment", which was supposed to only improve the service. There was an obvious need for that in Amy and Sammy Bouzaglos' company as their mistakes included:

- wrong handling customer's feedback,
- not leading by example;
- assurance that the customer is not always right;
- blaming online reviews, taking them as attacks, and thereby making them worse.

Referring to Grunig and Hunt's models of publicrelations can help in establishing company's Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. The models are perhaps the most commonly used theories in the field and help to separate problems to address their different parts in particular. Amy's Baking Company perfectly fits into Press Agentry, or Publicity model, which deals with the activities of those who will do anything to gain publicity in a style of one-way communication (organisation to target public) typically involving ones personal emotions. The information given by a company is often distorted, half-true or incomplete. Amy was caught lying in front of the TV camera: she ardently denied firing about 50 employees, when her husband Sammy "honestly" admitted firing approximately 100 of them. The model's main purpose is propaganda as Amy considered her dishes as perfect, delicious, and nothing else serving undercooked pizza and frozen ravioli. The model also involves little research, while in this case no research takes place whatsoever as the owners don't even care whether customers liked the food or not. Nine times out of ten the food goes straight to the trash bin passing the main chef, who actually should know about the dish being thrown away. Sammy just does not bother telling his wife that the order was not eaten because "stupid customers don't know what the real good food is".

Amy's Baking Company marketing strategy is focused on a specific type of customer. They position themselves as European Bistro, Pizzeria, Bar, and Cafeteria. They also serve vegetarian food, fanciful cakes and desserts. Thus, their target market are homemade bakery and fine European food lovers including teens, students, young adults, families and children, seniors, vegetarians, lunch and happy hour crowd, take-away customers. According to the About Us section of company's official web-site they assure with confidence that customers will not be disappointed. However, as we were following the media blow up on their disastrous services it turned out to be false. They do not meet the expectations set up by themselves and wanted to be seen as the restaurant striving for quality over quantity. But Amy blindly believed that her cooking was superb, even though many customers expressed dissatisfaction about it. Not to mention Chef Ramsey. The Review section only contains good but outdated comments from 2012, which suggests that the website was moderated in order to keep only positive feedback. The Bouzaglos are notorious for their outrageous responses to the reviews on Yelp.

This case generated a lot of conversations about what not to do on social media as a brand. Such behaviour is not acceptable in modern business world. It may become a big lesson for anyone, including new entrepreneurs and companies that were around for a while.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Comments on PR-related blogs

Not the time for politics or clever PR # Fail. By Brittany Falconer. April 19th, 2013.

My comment. May 23, 2013 at 9-47pm.
From my own observations as a PR student I distinguished two aspects of Bad PR during crisis times: a company takes poor action or creates poor communication surrounding the crisis. This kind of publicity is never welcomed and can ruine the business very easily. That’s why PR practitioners should think several steps futher before using the crisis for their own benefit.
However, if the damage to company’s reputation is already done due to somebody’s poor performance from inside, there are ways to limit the damage. The mistake should be reviewed immediately when found because today bad publicity speed is beyond belief. “No comments” situations must always be avoided, it will only make the bubble become even bigger. All media questions should be answered; otherwise, company may look like it’s hiding the facts. Company’s spokesperson should not be reading a prepared report at the press conference, it creates an impression of insincerity. An apology to both shareholders and stakeholders is the best way to show that responsibilities have been taken very seriously. After all the necessary steps to prevent the spread of bad publicity, the situation should be reviewed overall. But it does not mean that it’s the time to relax; building relations with all the parties, supporting charity or any other positive cause is very critical. The future of the company will depend on the bad publicity or crisis handling.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PR Campaign failure

Many entrepreneurs and brand managers run PR campaigns supporting their "new, useful, and safe" products without proper research, or any research at all. Their confidence about products' indispensability in consumer life drives them at a risky speed, as they often see products' features to be self-evident for its target market. However, practice shows the importance of getting people interested in buying before investing time and effort. It is about dialog, interaction with prospect customers.

According to Harward Business Review, over 50% out of 120 recently surveyed entrepreneurs from all over the world admitted that not selling before making often leads to complete flops of campaigns. Neither strong brand mane, nor picth will help to push sales up if people weren't interested in the first place. Proper market research makes up for campaign success in the long term.

In 2004, Coca-Cola C2 was introduced to the market and became a big disappointment for the company with $50 million spent on advertising. With its half calories and carbs C2 was rejected by 20- to 40-year-old men, who were targeted primarily during the disastrous launch. The price was set as premium comparing to regular Coke. Nobody wanted half the calories and carbs; either full-flavor or no calories, plain and simple. Even the fact that low-carb diets were evolving at that time contributed to the list of Coca-Cola's mistakes.

Marketers together with PR practitioners should have test the product first to make sure its features are distinctive enough. And if they would have done that, Coke Zero could be on the shelves instead of C2 satisfying its consumer with full-flavor and no calories and the same time. As per company statements, C2 dropped total sales by 3% in North America just over a summer of that year. Nevertheless, Coke Zero came out in 2005 completing the learned lesson.

Coca-cola C2 is one of many examples out there. Lack of preparation is the biggest factor, but other numerous factors can influence new PR campaign to fail. We live in the era of interaction between corporations and consumer who needs adequate education on the products and/or services offered. Before campaign launch PR people should always ask themselves what do they want to achieve, what the audience gets from this, what is the call to action in their PR campaign. It's about the time to craft a plan for campaign when those questions are answered. A series of press releases and solid PR tactics should serve as the tools for customer education. And that requires a lot of commitment. The message should be consistent, but not overwhelming or confusing for audience. And the last but not the least is social media! Today, it would be very imprudently to neglect its mindblowing potential.