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What kind of public relations response do users want?

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Based on the recent eRise Nigeria apology incident, this article deeply explores the key elements and strategies in brand crisis public relations, revealing the reasons and public reactions in this “public relations disaster”. Let’s take a look.

A domestic cosmetics brand’s apology became a hot search topic. Why?

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The reason is that after the incident of the first brother who brought the goods, the brand was rumored to be a Japanese brand, and it was said that the commission rebates to the anchors who brought the goods were as high as 60%-80%. This is untrue. The company also clarified before that if someone spreads rumors and slanders, the brand has the right to take legal measures to safeguard its reputation. Yesterday’s official response seemed to be intended to bring closure, but it did not meet expectations. Instead, it made witty remarks, which made people confused. Some netizens said that the team’s anxiety could be seen in the statement, which was not sincere and decisive enough. Others believe that a real apology should be concise and to the point, emphasizing that it is a domestic product in a large space, but it is more like a self-promotion.

In addition, it also mentions the wording of “occupying too many public resources.” Literally, it seems that some resources are wasted due to the public’s excessive attention to this matter. This statement is difficult to resonate with the public. There are also those who hold the opposite position.

It is believed that the crisis gives brands the opportunity to reflect, better understand consumers, and then optimize products and services, which is also a kind of growth. But from my personal perspective, the response is indeed problematic. For example, the boundaries are blurred, and I know that your boat is worth more than ten thousand pounds, but I don’t know what you want to express specifically. This also makes me think about what is the intrinsic value and role of an effective public relations apology?

01

To answer this question, we have to start with why.

Why declare?

First, because you made a mistake, you need to take responsibility for your actions and repair the damage caused by external problems;

Secondly, consumers are the cornerstone of brand survival and development. Timely issuing statements can respect consumers’ feelings and help deepen satisfaction.

Furthermore, it can help brands avoid and reduce potential legal risks; of course, admitting mistakes in front of the public, explaining the reasons, and giving corrective measures can not only win understanding, but also demonstrate core values.

Finally, the statement is an opportunity for internal learning to help teams and brands conduct self-reflection, optimize unexpected crises, and lay the foundation for the future.

Therefore, the intrinsic value and role of the statement can be briefly described as: repairing image, rebuilding trust, alleviating negative public opinion, demonstrating responsibility and transparency, promoting communication, legal considerations, and maintaining team morale. These seven points. However, a statement cannot be made by just using a template. It must be like a water master, precisely controlling every drop of water to ensure that there is no distortion.

what does that mean? You have to know your audience. Figure out who is dissatisfied with you and who is behind you. Brands do not face a single audience, including media, consumers, long-term KOLs, upstream and downstream suppliers, etc. Consumers care about product quality, the media cares about news value, and suppliers care about the sustainability of cooperation. If you don’t understand them, you can’t know what everyone is really thinking. If you can’t appease them, you will lose everything.

Now that you have your target audience, what do you do? Identify core issues. This kind of scene is like a quarrel between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.

The mother-in-law complained: This thing is too expensive to buy; the daughter-in-law said, it’s too expensive. Why is it so expensive? She has been using it for so many years at the same price and the effect is very good; the father-in-law said, I have never used it, and neither has your aunt. Say it’s expensive.

Look, what should we do? The mother-in-law cares about the family’s financial situation and saving money, while the daughter-in-law pays more attention to product quality and experience, whether to buy it or not. To calm disputes, you have to be a peacemaker and listen to real needs.

Listening means not only hearing what is said, but also deeply feeling the emotions and understanding why everyone is angry. It is the underlying cause of a certain situation, hidden beneath the surface but the driving force behind how things develop. The key point of the competition between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law has been put on the bright side: “expensive”. Is it just expensive? No, there are two conflicts behind it.

First, information conflicts are closely related to the culture, background, and personal cognition accepted by each person. The generation gap between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law means that there are differences in growth environment, education and values, which can easily lead to different views on certain things.

Second, price conflicts are related to personal perceptions of the value of items. If the mother-in-law feels that an item is not worth the price, but the daughter-in-law thinks it is worth the money, it will be difficult for both parties to reach a consensus. You say, what should we do? Should we sit down, reason calmly, and try to argue the outcome? No. Because in most cases, arguing cannot solve the problem, but intensifies the conflict. The real solution lies in communication and understanding. Communication means accepting each other’s views and feelings, finding common ground, and giving solutions; there are differences on the issue of “expensive”, but they are all related to the well-being and happiness of the family.

From this perspective, both parties can find more suitable solutions. So, as an intermediary, how do you solve this problem? Appease my wife, I will make money someday and give it to you quietly, but there is a condition. Mom is an old man. Do you think you can argue with her? He who knows the current affairs is a hero. Tell the old mother, my wife thinks you are right and I won’t buy it. , is there a consensus?

Switching to the perspective of a domestic brand, the logic is similar. Reduce prices to satisfy those consumers who often shop. If you really need it, you can launch an “entry model” to let people who want to take advantage of it feel the benefits. This can also give consumers who have not tried it a good reputation.

02

Obviously, the core of public relations is tacit knowledge, which corresponds to explicit knowledge. This concept was proposed by Michael Polanyi.

What’s the meaning?

Tacit knowledge is a kind of knowledge that is difficult to convey in words, experiential and acquired through practice. It must be acquired through practice, imitation, observation and participation, and is difficult to teach directly through words or teaching methods.

Just like: our intuition and sixth sense can often help you make accurate judgments, but it is difficult to explain in words why such decisions are made; explicit knowledge is knowledge that can be clearly expressed, recorded and disseminated, such as books , manuals, tutorials or content in databases. If someone gives you the drawings and patents, can you build the machine? If the coach tells you the movements, can you know how to swim? With a public relations response template, can public relations be done well? Not so.

The tacit knowledge in public relations response includes how to deal with emergencies, how to deal with people of different personalities and backgrounds, and how to adjust communication language according to specific cultures and situations.

… Public relations “macro and fixed-focus lenses” are difficult to express in words and numbers, and it cannot be solved by reading a book or copying them. It requires deep insight and keen analysis of the opinions of various people in the interest chain, and every sentence must positively imply a specific situation; in the face of major issues, simple verbal replies often lead to strategy failure and may even be counterproductive.

Therefore, in the face of word-of-mouth building (public response) from various roles such as the media, consumers, supply chain, partners, etc., it is simply childish to want to make some wisecracks. It’s like: a child gets a complicated Lego toy and only sees the cool photo on the cover and thinks “I know it, it’s very simple”. As a result, he often loses everything. Because hastily, casually, ignoring the wisdom behind the design of each small part is disrespectful to the designer and irresponsible for every detail of LEGO toys.

After all, each component and structure has its own unique meaning and function. Any missing or wrong splicing may lead to the failure of the overall work. Similarly, every step and decision should be based on careful consideration and in-depth understanding of the market; ignoring details, blind imitation or hasty decision-making is disrespectful to the public relations profession and industry, disrespectful to consumers, and disrespectful to the brand image. Responsible.

In the past few years, I have seen many failures caused by companies not “responding”, making what was originally a small matter become a bigger problem. For example: Regarding the ice cream incident at an auto show, I originally simply apologized, but in the end, the apology letter stated that I was “caring for employees” instead of “worshipping foreigners.” What’s even more egregious is that they pushed two small employees out as scapegoats; later, in the face of everyone’s anger, they apologized twice and asked everyone to forgive. This approach is really confusing.

Of course, we can’t entirely blame “PR”. In fact, every statement is the result of a consensus reached within the company through internal negotiations. The public relations team only provides the final decision-maker with several options to choose from; therefore, the decision-maker attaches equal importance to response as to reputation and brand image.

03

So, what kind of response will be recognized by the public?

Many people would say, sincere, timely, clear and responsible. That’s right. But I prefer to analyze it from the perspective of the chain of interests; simply put, we need to clarify who and what is involved in this matter. Take a certain domestic cosmetics product as an example: the people who pay attention are mainly consumers, media and KOL. This means that any response should focus on three types of concerns and doubts and provide precise and targeted answers and action plans. The media pursues news value and social impact.

Therefore, it is crucial for the brand to come up with its attitude, stance, and subsequent action plan; everyone wants to know whether the brand is aware of the indirect problems, what their severity is, and what measures are taken. When responding, a clear, direct, and non-evasive attitude is most likely to gain positive media coverage. The Fat Donglai incident is one of the best cases. A sincere and people-oriented response is praised by the media.

Consumers are the end users of brands and care about product prices and brand responsibility. When a dispute arises, they want to know whether the brand really listens to everyone’s opinions and how to improve it. Opinion leaders (the top brother) are not only the source of the incident, but also an important partner of the brand; after an incident occurs, in-depth communication with them is an essential step. When responding publicly, brands should not only consider their own position, but also pay attention to their cooperative relationships with KOLs to ensure that their responses are “face to face.”

In order to maintain a harmonious relationship among the three parties, the brand must also ensure that every cooperation is conducted on the basis of mutual satisfaction and mutual respect, thereby avoiding embarrassment to fans, KOLs or the brand itself. Is it difficult to respond? Disaster. The skills and details involved in “carrying water” are unexpected. Many seemingly simple things in life contain rich connotations and knowledge, not to mention that in today’s fierce business competition, it is still difficult to carry water on an uneven road.

04

So how do you apologize? What? Are you teaching me how to do things? I can not. But I want to share with you an interesting conversation about a couple that I saw on Douyin some time ago.

The content is roughly like this: The daughter-in-law asks her husband one after another, are you wrong? What went wrong? Why is it wrong? How to change it? After thinking deeply, organize it in complete and sincere language and express it. I think it’s quite interesting and should be used in public relations responses.

Why?

First of all, the public and consumers need to know clearly whether the brand realizes its mistakes. This is the first step in building trust. Even if you are accidentally injured, you should also think about why you were accidentally injured.

Secondly, point out the specific mistakes made and explain why such problems occurred. This step is about demonstrating brand transparency and accountability. Then, you need to indicate what steps you will take to correct it.

Finally, integrating these elements into a complete, sincere response that expresses genuine apology and determination is likely to win public understanding and help rebuild trust and connection with consumers. Do you need to mention vision and values ​​in your response? In my opinion, mentioning the two is not necessary, after all, it strengthens the brand impression and long-term commitment. Here are two specific scenarios where it can be a powerful strategic tool when brought to the table.

1. Direct conflict

When a company that has always emphasized environmental protection is suddenly exposed as polluting the environment, its response should focus on highlighting its environmental commitment and core values. The so-called direct conflict usually refers to when multiple behaviors, opinions or interests are obviously inconsistent or antagonistic. This kind of conflict often occurs between enterprises upstream and downstream of the supply chain.

For example, a company that specializes in the production of imaging components may not only cooperate with Xiaomi, but also have business dealings with Huawei, Apple and other companies. These cooperative relationships may not be problematic when viewed individually, but when they exist at the same time, they are likely to cause some disputes of interest; therefore, this type of conflict is especially common among enterprises, especially when competing for resources and distributing benefits.

To be honest, I don’t understand the logic of a certain domestic cosmetic product. The box is so luxuriously made and looks high-end, but in fact the amount of product inside is just that little. But the problem is that true high-end should not only be reflected in packaging, but also in product services and consumer satisfaction. This is obviously inconsistent with values ​​and vision.

2. Moral stance

When a company or brand publicly expresses its position, especially when it comes to controversial or sensitive issues, core values ​​and corporate culture are often involved behind such decisions. Do you still remember the incident in March 2021 when a British fashion brand supported human rights and environmental protection issues in the upstream of the cotton supply chain? Their official website banned the use of Xinjiang cotton and claimed that “forced labor” existed in Xinjiang, which later caused various celebrities to terminate cooperation.

In this kind of incident, the brand may think that it is fulfilling social responsibilities and protecting human rights and the environment; but if it makes decisions without fully understanding the facts and certain cultural or social backgrounds, consumers will feel that the brand has misunderstood or biased against their own culture. .

Therefore, morality pays attention to the overall situation and has the genes of faith and education; it is the recognition of principles and norms. Choosing which side to stand on or which point of view to hold are all decisions made by the company after careful consideration. Vision, values ​​cannot be used as a bargaining chip for response, it is the core of the brand, it is embedded in its DNA, and it is easy to be self-deprecating when it is brought out.

By the way, you may say that I am teaching you skills; in fact, I want to tell you that there is a lot of tacit knowledge in public relations responses. When this linear knowledge is transferred again, it means that you really need to think about whether you really understand their needs and expectations in today’s consumer-oriented world.

In general:

The only one who can save you is yourself. Previously, I watched a public training video on crisis management for startups by Mark Suster, a partner at venture capital firm GRP Partners. The first piece of advice was, “If you don’t explain things clearly yourself, someone will explain it to you. , the problem becomes more complicated.”

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