The most popular and well known of all Public Relations jobs is crisis control. When something goes terribly wrong, these are the people that come to the rescue and do all they can to “save the company’s face.”
Let’s look at the latest Krispy Kreme crisis that happened just a few weeks ago in the United Kingdom. A Krispy Kreme store in Hull, England shared this photo on social media promoting the week’s activities that their store was holding.
Notice anything alarming happening on Wednesday? That’s not a mistake, Krispy Kreme was promoting “KKK Wednesday” on February 18th. It was only after this was promoted on social media, that Krispy Kreme realized what they had done. “KKK Wednesday” was meant to be an acronym for “Krispy Kreme Klub” which is an activities group that children were invited to attend to decorate donuts as students were out of school due to a holiday this week (Campbell, 2015).
Lafeea Watson, Krispy Kreme’s PR manager, told the Huffington Post in a statement, “We are aware of the Hull store’s unfortunate naming choice for its Club program and we are truly sorry for any inconvenience or offense this misstep may have caused our fans” (Campbell, 2015).
“We do believe this was a completely unintentional oversight on the part of our longtime franchise partners in the UK. They have taken quick and appropriate actions to remove the materials online and in-shops, and have wholeheartedly apologized to their consumers.” Watson went on to say that the UK franchises “will be taking greater precautions with their publicity materials in the future” (Campbell, 2015).
Looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, one can understand that their intentions were good, and when one takes into account that they are located in the United Kingdom, they probably thought nothing of creating an acronym of all K’s and promoting it to the public. But here in America, it’s a whole different ballgame. Krispy Kreme handled the issue eloquently, professionally, and quickly which is why I believe that their brand reputation will not alter much. But who am I to say that? Let’s look at some more credible sources and see if they truly handled the crisis in the best way possible.
Linda Ashcroft has complied a list of basic rules when it comes to crisis management, the first one being the importance of telling the truth(1997). In Krispy Kreme’s response to their mishap, Watson informed the public that there was no alterer motive when it came to naming Wednesday’s activity, it was simply an oversight.
Ashcroft goes on to state the second rule of PR: “rather than let the media network speculate, use the media network as a opportunity to disseminate your information. Leave no room for speculation – if you can’t tell them something, tell them why you can’t tell them” (1997). In this case, most -if not all- the details were shared with the public. Promotional tools, such as this poster, are not created, edited, and approved by one person, but rather a team of people, so it was not the result of one person’s oversight, but rather a larger group. Thus not making it relevant to release the names of those who were apart of that team, but rather accepting responsibility of the issue as a whole company.
The third and final rule is to apologize when apologies are necessary. There are two schools of thought when it comes to this rule. The first school of thought is to apologize even if you aren’t sure whether you actually did something wrong or not. And the second school of thought is to wait until you are sure you did something wrong before issuing an apology (Ashcroft, 1997).
Sir Jeremy Morse, banker and past chairman of the Institute of Bankers, believes in the first school of thought and goes on to say:
“Nevertheless, there are two central reasons why this is usually the right course. First, externally, the public respect an apology freely given rather than one that comes after a considerable period of stonewalling. Secondly, internally, an early apology frees managers to sort out the problems far more effectively than if they are still maintaining an outward front that nothing is wrong (Haywood 1994).”
Krispy Kreme apologized almost immediately and took action where it needed to be taken. They knew that they were responsible for the issue and knew that they needed to take action as quickly as possible in order to maintain their good reputation with the public.
When looking at all three rules of an appropriate response to a PR crisis, Krispy Kreme did in fact handle the situation respectively and in a way that will cause the least amount of repercussions. They told the truth, they were translucent to the public, and they apologized. All in all, allowing Krispy Kreme to keep doing what they do best: making donuts.
Ashcroft, L. S. (1997). Crisis management – public relations. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 12(5), 325-332. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/docview/215863770?accountid=39473
Campbell, HDMJ. (Feb 17, 2015). Krispy Kreme Hull drops ‘KKK Wednesdays’ name over Ku Klux Klan blunder. Hull Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/Krispy-Kreme-Hull-drops-KKK-Wednesdays-Ku-Klux/story-26038167-detail/story.html#ixzz3TRzLDnVU
Haywood, R. (1994). Managing your Reputation, New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.