The Public Relations Teeter-Totter

Perhaps it’s social media that allows us to globally see and hear the blunders major corporations have been making recently, or maybe it’s a game of one-upmanship or a ‘hold my beer’ mentality that keeps these companies trending on Twitter. But maybe, just maybe, it’s all planned! You’ve heard it touted as “any publicity, is good publicity.” But, would you agree?

If only we could sit in on the internal communication debriefs for Uber, Pepsi, or United Airlines, would we then have a definitive answer. Sure, Uber had a mutiny of employees leave the company for rival ride-sharing company Lyft, and both Pepsi and United Airlines saw their stock price take a mild dip in times of turmoil – fun fact: PepsiCo is actually trending up right now! But overall, their monetary value remains relatively unaffected in the short time since the following events (recapped below for those living under rocks).

  • Uber faced criticism over its position on President Donald Trump’s advisory council and subsequent views on immigration
  • PepsiCo created (and pulled) an ad in which Kendall Jenner solved protest tensions with a can of Pepsi
  • United Airlines is taking heat for its flight overbooking policy which led to a customer getting bloodied and dragged off a plane

While shareholders of these companies can breathe a sigh of relief that their dollars remain intact, public perception has been ripping them in the news and social media. There have been outcries of racism, blatant corporate arrogance, and scariest of all, boycotts. Yes, we’re all talking about these companies or boosting their impressions on social, making their presence stronger, but for questionable reasons.

We can shape our own realities and the way to do it is by perception. None of these situations can be regarded as improving their perceived value, and neither is it the nail in the coffin yet, we can believe these companies have taken a few hits to their popularity. My perception is that they’ve taken risks and tried to push the boundaries, but they haven’t given me a good reason to seek them out in the future. Overall, I don’t think this will have swayed public opinion in the long term.

Only time will tell how these actions affect their bottom lines, but we do get a glimpse into their company culture, values, and leadership. I haven’t read any tweets saying they want to purchase more products from these three companies because of these mix-ups, but I have read numerous accounts of people at least voicing their intent to never support them again. To me, you’ve lost more than you’ve gained.

Consider this: if a company is constantly in the news for defrauding investors, ripping off customers and generally providing the lowest level of customer service, is any publicity still good publicity? No, I won’t buy it.

Tell us what you think.