The Dangers of Celebrity Endorsers and the Wisdom of Crisis Planning
You work hard to bring unique promotional products to the marketplace every day. Ideas that help differentiate your customers from their competitors. At the same time, whether you are a supplier or a distributor, a little of that differentiation rubs off on you, too. After all, you want to be viewed as a “Value-add” partner in the industry—someone who always has something to catch a customer’s eye.
You always hope the attention is positive, of course. But, just when you think nothing could go wrong with your brilliant idea, it does. Due to something totally out of your control.
As a random example, let’s say that you’ve worked closely with a transportation company. You’ve provided a wide variety of brand merchandise for their taxi division, and the customer is really pleased. Even better, ridership is way up. The customer decides to take a real chance and goes for a celebrity endorsement. For the sake of this discussion, let’s say they secure one of the stars of the popular TV series “Taxi,” none other than Danny DeVito. You’re instructed by the client to gear up for a whole new campaign—soft goods, die-cast taxis, drinkware, etc., all bearing his likeness. You find out that the launch of these products will luckily coincide with Mr. DeVito’s appearance on the national TV morning show “The View.” This could be exciting—not to mention profitable.
But then, you find out that the TV appearance you thought would be such a good thing, was actually a disaster.
In real life, Danny DeVito was doing some TV appearances recently and behaved very oddly. According to several news reports, DeVito appeared to be suffering the effects from the previous night out on the town. In the midst of the discussion on live TV, he mentioned an overindulgence specifically of Limoncello. Then, in a really bizarre twist, rather than choosing a strategy of public relations damage control, he apparently decided instead to launch his own line of Limoncello.
While the Taxi-related celebrity endorsement campaign is fiction, the antics of a real-life TV celebrity aren't, and this example shows how one misstep on the part of a celebrity endorser or brand ambassador could potentially put you, your client and your merchandise at risk. So, what can you do to protect your great ideas and brand campaigns? Here are some easy, yet important, things to do:
Monitor the Web
You need to know what is being said about you and your products online—this is called “reputation management” and it’s smart. A couple of monitoring tools you can use include TalkWalker and Mention, both of which are free and easy to set up.
Crisis Communications Plan
Don’t wait to have a crisis until you develop a crisis communications plan—develop it well in advance. You’ll be glad you did. Plan ahead and have have your army of brand ambassadors ready. You may never have a spokesperson over-indulge, or a politician with radical views associate themselves suddenly with your product, but you need to be ready to keep them at arm’s length if they do. Work hard to foster great relationships with your customers (who are your best brand ambassadors), do all you can to provide stellar products and customer service so that they’ll generate positive reviews for you, and wherever possible, get them promoted and published. Brand ambassadors will defend you voluntarily when the chips are down, and they are credible beyond anything in paid media.
Finally, speaking of ambassadors, don’t forget about the power of the voices of your employees. No one knows your products and your company better than they do. And you need to understand that you should offer regular and ongoing training—social media training, crisis management training, as well as customer service training, so that when and if a crisis happens, they’ll be prepared beyond measure to do and say the right things.
How about you—have you endured a crisis not of your making? We’d like to hear about it, and share what you did to weather the storm.
Here are some additional resources:
Jeff is executive director of the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA). Prior to that, he was responsible for developing safe and compliant brand merchandise for Michelin. He has worked with brands in publishing, consumer products, broadcasting and film for over 30 years. Follow Jeff on Twitter, and QCA on Facebook.