Tuesday, September 23, 2014

GM death toll continues to rise

It’s a terrible prospect. You’re a company whose products bring joy to millions, and provides a useful and practical service. Then, a series of mistakes creates the absolute worst-case scenario. A defect that takes lives. It’s horrific, 5W PR CEO Ronn Torossian says. And when your public relations message involves counting bodies, you definitely don’t want to over-estimate the cost of the mistake. But when you under estimate that number, insult follows injury.

And that’s where GM finds itself in the latest update from their ongoing public relations nightmare. In a preliminary report, the company estimated 12 deaths directly resulting from a mechanical defect that was announced too late. But now an independent investigator has raised that number to 19 … and counting. (http://online.wsj.com/articles/nineteen-confirmed-deaths-now-linked-to-faulty-gm-ignition-switch-report-finds-1410793611)

Due to the widespread report of the earlier, lower number, GMnot only has to deal with the fallout from the actual tragedy, now they are dealing with the PR issue of incorrect expectations. A horrified consumer public sees not only the number discrepancy but also the number of claims still to be investigated—more than 400.

The increase, combined with the hundreds of claims actually submitted, allows the public to speculate on just how high the number of deaths will reach. And, for the most part, the public is not known for UNDER estimating. Many will assume the worst. Scuttlebutt and memes and speculation will follow—at work, in homes, and online.

The more these numbers are discussed, the less the actual numbers will matter. The increase and unknown will become the focus of conversation. GM is right to get the facts out there, but they must regain control of this narrative. It’s not a conversation any brand wants to engage in, but the sooner all the facts are out, the sooner GM can move on to the next stage in their PR campaign—rebuilding trust.

Other brands have been there, and recently. The formula is proven. Make amends as best as can be made. Then begin to tell stories of happy people cruising around in their favorite cars. Safe, secure, and quality automobiles. There are millions out there on the road, but, for the moment, the only number that matters is seven … and counting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

5 ways to bring Pizza Hut back from the brink

Decreasing sales at Pizza Hut have led analysts to speculate that YUM Brands should consider selling the pizza chain, especially in light of the continuing growth from Taco Bell and KFC. YUM Brands, the parent company of all three restaurants, has stated that it is working on several ideas for improving sales at Pizza Hut.

RonnTorossian reveals five of the strategies that could be used to revitalize the failing pizza chain, and increase sales.

In this digital age, it is essential that people be able to order online from their mobile devices. Although most companies have a web presence, many have not streamlined their websites for smartphones and tablets. By optimizing their online ordering process for smartphones and tablets, Pizza Hut would make it faster, easier, and more appealing for people to place an online order.

One way to draw attention back to Pizza Hut is to release new products. Recently, Pizza Hut began making a giant cookie pizza cut into slices just like a pizza. This is a good start towards expanding the menu to encompass more choices and options for dining.

There are no shortages of pizza joints out there, and Pizza Hut needs to stand out from the crowd if it wants to increase sales. Between local mom-and-pop places as well as competing chains such as Dominos and Papa Johns, there is a lot of competition in the world of pizza, and Pizza Hut needs something to differentiate itself from all the other options out there.

Many consumers complain about the taste of Pizza Hut’s pizza. By stating that they will work on taste and focusing an advertising campaign around improving the overall quality of their product, Pizza Hut could gain back some of the sales lost. This strategy also shows consumers that the restaurant cares about the opinions of the people who eat there and is willing to make changes to satisfy its customers.

More and more people are being careful about what they eat. This means that they are examining the quality of the ingredients that go into their food more closely. By using organic and local ingredients, Pizza Hut would improve its image and appeal to all of the people who are more aware of where their food is coming from. This will not only improve the chain’s image, but also garner more customers.

Sales may have decreased at Pizza Hut, but Ronn Torossian says that by implementing some of these five strategies, the pizza chain could make a comeback. For now, YUM Brands has no immediate plans to sell Pizza Hut, especially with so many options available for making improvements.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Terrorism causing the ‘net to self edit?

The recent beheading of an American journalist shocked and disgusted viewers in the west, even as it, apparently, delighted some anti-American partisans. But by far the largest and loudest voice in the aftermath came from those who, collectively, did NOT want to see that on their newsfeed. Now it seems at least one online media source is listening.

LiveLeak is known for endless available video content, and up to the second crowdsourced news content. When viewers could not find controversial or gruesome or offensive content on YouTube, they clicked over to LiveLink. But, according to a spokesman with the company, those days are over. At least where ISIS is concerned.

LiveLeak has come out and publicly said it will no longer host or make available videos of beheadings by ISIS, removing one of the terror groups major “marketing” and fear mongering tools. Here’s the statement from LiveLeak:

"We've shown the world the true horror of this form of execution more than once in the past and we cannot find any compelling reason to even be thought of as promoting the actions of this group…there is no reason."

The move surprised many media watchdogs, but Ronn Torossian says he is not surprised. From a PR standpoint, it was a smart decision. LiveLeak was teetering on a branding precipice. When YouTube blocked the videos and Twitter pulled the stills, everyone flooded to LiveLeak. That prompted decision makers there to ask a very important question: “Is this who we are to people? Snuff dealers?”

Apparently not. It may not seem like it, but in the world of the Internet, this sort of self-policing is a strong statement, and it should bode well for LiveLeak’s continued growth as a legitimate media source.

But that does not necessarily mean they won’t be willing to get their hands dirty. A follow up to the initial release clearly drew a single line - no more beheadings - but it also indicated the site would not shy away from difficult images or video deemed worthwhile from an informational standpoint.

This clear line also sends a clear message to the market. This is who LiveLeak is, like it or not. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chick Fil A answers the call

You might say it had to happen sooner or later. And Ronn Torossian believes you would be right. Delighting fans everywhere, Chick Fil A recently announced that they would be pairing their world famous chicken with the one perfect – and perfectly American – side dish. That’s right. Chick Fil A is making waffles. At least, Torossian reports, they are trying it.

The chain is experimenting with the combination in a location sure to be at least amiable to the idea – Central Georgia. There is no doubt that chicken and waffles is incredible southern comfort food. And there is no doubt that if the meal is not fit for the southern palette, it probably won’t fly anywhere.

But Chick Fil A isn’t putting all its egg in one basket. The company is also testing the chicken and waffles combination in Memphis, Tennessee, Philadelphia, and California. Depending on the results of the tests, Chick Fil A might roll out the combination in all its stores. Fans of both the breakfast and the chain are hopeful.

It’s no secret the Chick Fil A has been on a public relations roller coaster in recent years. Caught up in political and social issues, the restaurant began to make enemies. There were protests for and against. Multiple news stories said nothing about the food and everything they could about every other aspect of the business.

Then, more and more people began to express the opinion that Chick Fil A just needed to shut up and make chicken.

The company responded by rolling out several new menu options, including the chicken and waffles breakfast. Other choices included specialty coffee, egg-white chicken grill sandwich, and even Greek yogurt. Yes, Greek yogurt.

Though the chain has had “some success” with its chicken tenders and waffles combo, they say it’s far too early to know where they will go from here. One thing’s for sure, though. Chick Fil A was right to get out of politics and get back into the food business.