What are the three types of PR crisis?

August 2, 2022

Written by Kimberly Monitto

Communications professionals have to be ready to adjust, adapt, and ultimately, defend their brand on a daily basis. One small mistake can send an organization into a spiraling PR crisis that can severely damage their reputation and trustworthiness with the public. 

But just how many types of crises are there? 

Companies need to be ready to navigate any issue, so we took a look at the three main types of crises that exist, which we repeatedly see both individuals and brands encounter. 

Let’s dive into the data. 

1. Reputational crisis

Brands must constantly be cognizant of their actions to avoid digital turmoil. But what many fail to realize is that a brand can mean a company as a whole or an individual person. And when an individual makes the headlines, their own personal brand becomes vulnerable. A vulnerable brand makes it that much easier for a reputation to spiral, and we were able to see that this year with two celebrity powerhouses — podcaster Joe Rogan and A-lister Will Smith. 

Will Smith faced scrutiny after he very publicly slapped comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars in March of 2022. The “slap heard around the world” was one of the most controversial single actions of the quarter, sparking huge debate about the ethical behavior of everyone involved. Reports of the incidents reached hundreds of thousands of engagements and there were almost 23M on the web alone in a three day period.

chart of articles about Will Smith

Smith apologized for his actions, but that didn’t stop the negative dialogues that followed the incident. His reputation quickly plummeted, and Smith is now banned from attending the award show for the next ten years

Often, an individual’s reputation can impact companies directly too, as Spotify being dragged into Joe Rogan’s controversies showed. 

A number of artists, including the likes of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, pulled their music from Spotify in protest at what they said was the streaming giant’s complicity in misinformation. 

2. Public safety crisis

Public safety crises are imperative to monitor as they affect not only the reputation of the company, but also the overall safety and wellbeing of its consumers. 

Take Tesla, for example.

chart of november tesla articles

In November and December of 2021, Tesla found themselves in hot water. The first crisis was over a software communication error that caused over 12,000 U.S. vehicles to be recalled. Before they even had time to do damage control, they had to recall over half a million vehicles in December because of trunk and camera defects. The company damaged their reputation by putting others in danger multiple times in just two months, a public safety crisis they hopefully learned from.

chart of december tesla articles

More recently, Abbott’s baby formula recall in February has further complicated supply issues now as we progress throughout 2022. The recall, which included the powdered formulas Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare, was the catalyst for a dire formula shortage across the US. Though their name is often mentioned in passing during the current crisis, during the recalls Abbott faced a heap of public criticism. As one of the major formula conglomerates in the nation, their recalls ultimately left them in both a reputation and public safety crisis. 

3. Financial crisis

Financial crises are all too common nowadays. Whether that be organizations filing for bankruptcy, laying off workers, or embezzling funds, it isn’t uncommon to see financial crises unfold and sink a company’s ship.

Major League Baseball is a prime example of a financial crisis. The sports conglomerate had a lockout that creeped into the 2022 season that, while ultimately resolved, did contribute to significant attention while it was ongoing. The franchise owners and MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association) could not agree on a new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) which set back the 2022 season by almost three weeks. This caused major losses in revenue for each time and MLB as a whole, as well as a reputation hit to the MLB for the delay. The public also tends to back unions, which showed in terms of interactions and engagement in support of the MLBPA.

chart of MLB articles

P&O Ferries also made headlines in March 2022 when they announced they’d be laying off hundreds of workers with no notice. Instead of a formal announcement, the company stalled ships in the ports and told them not to leave as they were being let go. Part of the issue that came out during the fallout was that there was no consultation with unions on the layoffs, and the chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite acknowledged that the company ‘broke the law’ in acting in this manner during questioning from MPs in the wake of the company’s actions. Their poor practices resulted in a media crisis, with the stories highlighting their unfair wages and financial irresponsibility reaching up to 25k engagements. 

A crisis can hit at any time, and whether you’re a notable celebrity or a sports league, it will grow until it can’t any longer. These three types of crises are common in today’s age, and the only way to monitor them is to stay ahead of the game. 

If you’re interested in keeping your brand ahead of a crisis, try a Spike demo today.

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