The last year has proved that a corporate comms crisis can come in many shapes and sizes for brands, and stem from anything from a product recall to an individual’s behavior.
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Individuals in the news
Individuals were a major part of many crises that hit the headlines in Q1, sometimes in relation to brands, and sometimes simply through their own actions.
The three we have chosen as examples for this section include Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock at the Oscars, musicians boycotting Spotify over its deal with Joe Rogan, and Novak Djokovic’s visa to Australia being canceled amid a Covid vaccination controversy.
What is immediately obvious is the sheer scale of the coverage of Smith’s slap. While the Joe Rogan discourse went on for weeks, and may have felt ubiquitous, the reality is that articles about the slap were more engaged in four days than the Rogan story was over the course of six weeks.
This isn’t to say that the Rogan/Spotify narrative was not also a huge one — 16.3 million engagements is a very high number as we will see later in this report — it is simply dwarfed by the Smith news.
Djokovic having his visa revoked saw a higher media interest over the course of six weeks than the Rogan narrative, but coverage of Joe Rogan and Spotify saw much more engagement overall, with an average engagement around 4x higher per article for the latter.
Media and public interest in celebrity scandals
Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars was one of the most controversial single actions of the quarter, sparking huge debate about the ethical behavior of everyone involved.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the most engaged single story about it, framing it as a “bad, bad thing” in his Substack, which had almost half a million engagements. Jim Carrey also commented on the situation, calling the attendees “spineless” for applauding Smith when he won the ‘Best Actor’ award.
The chart opposite shows the sheer scale of the coverage, with hundreds of articles and hundreds of thousands of engagements per hour to the news and analysis.
Articles written about Will Smith’s slap at the Oscars
Public and media interest in Will Smith’s slap
Product recalls are perhaps the most consistent source of comms crisis for brands, due to the required reporting standards, and that was once again the case at the beginning of this year.
But that is not to say that these were not significant in their own way, to particular audiences that are either customers or know somebody that might be a customer of one of the products that was recalled.
In this section we’ll look at two products that had failures with the potential to cause fires — though on vastly different scales — and one recall that was to do with potentially contaminated food.
For the former group, we’re looking at Kia, Hyundai, and Fitbit, while a ground beef recall affected a number of different retailers, and saw a lot of coverage.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the scale of potential damage, though Fitbit was written about more frequently, potential fires caused by Kias and Hyundais captured the public’s attention most dramatically. Let’s take a deeper look.
Media and public interest in various product recalls
Hyundai & Kia
The lack of public interest in the Fitbit story did not translate to potential fires involving cars made by Kia and Hyundai.
One of the most frequently occurring pieces for this narrative was a syndicated article by the AP’s Tom Krisher, which appeared in dozens of outlets and drove thousands of engagements across various websites.
Part of this recall narrative was that owners were told to ‘park outside’ due to the fire risk, perhaps increasing the urgency and immediacy of the danger. There is an interesting divergence in the public and media interest here, too. While media interest fell away after the first day of coverage, public interest surged after a brief lull during the middle of the night, and carried over well into the next day too.
Media and public interest in the Hyundai/Kia recall
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