If you are like my wife or millions of others, Amazon’s Prime Day announcement on July 5 came with great excitement. The original press release and media coverage that followed promised it would be beat Black Friday. You likely started envisioning deeply discounted electronics, clothes and jewelry, among other items. Why wouldn’t you? Amazon sells everything so imagine what could be possible with promises like that floating around!

As soon as the clock struck midnight and deals started rolling out, consumers began voicing their disappointment. While Amazon started trumpeting Prime Day’s success only hours after it began, the reality is that it missed the mark for nearly everyone else, inspiring the creation of the #PrimeFail hashtag on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Even Amazon realized that they fell short and promised to do better next year in the days that followed.

Obviously, Amazon has immense goodwill so the impact to their brand and reputation can be survived. The question is: Can brands that don’t have the gravitas of Amazon survive this type of misfire? Also, could PR and marketing have worked more closely together to avoid this large of a chasm between the promises that were made and customers’ actual experience?

Let’s tackle the first question by looking at a few stats. First off, 71 percent of consumers say positive reviews increase their trust in a business. Positive reviews are generated when a consumer’s experience matches the perception the brand has built and the promises it has made. For Amazon, Prime was just that – a service that met expectations. People received their purchased products at their door in two days for free and a host of entertainment options were available to them on-demand in their living rooms. For loyal Prime customers, this perception likely won’t change due to the #PrimeFail. However, for customers that signed up for Prime to take advantage of the promises made about Prime Day and don’t have the same existing sentiment in place, the negative experience will make it easier to cut bait and cancel. Their online feedback may also dissuade other potential customers from trying it out for themselves.

This above scenario has happened to other businesses. Deloitte’s recent reputation risk survey found that 41 percent of respondents who have experienced a negative reputation event identified loss of revenue and loss of brand value as the two largest impacts to the organization. This simply can’t happen as there is too much at stake, and not just with revenue. In fact, it is estimated that 25 percent of a company’s value is directly attributable to its reputation. Brand value extends beyond just your market capitalization or value to a potential acquirer too. It can come into who will partner with you or buy from you, as well.

Now onto the topic of how PR and marketing could have avoided this all together. We come across this very scenario frequently – a new, hot technology or company initiative is on the horizon and will enable a critical business need or goal to be achieved when it arrives. Typically, everyone instantly becomes focused on generating as much buzz as they can in order to make the biggest splash possible. The gut reaction is to simply fall in line and tell a large story that aims to generate interest from the broadest audience possible and makes some pretty lofty promises. I haven’t come across a situation where this isn’t what the client thinks they want.

Unfortunately, this very approach is what has led to PR getting a bad rap over the years and many perceiving PR professionals as simply “spin-doctors.” We believe that PR’s job isn’t just to do what the client wants (this is the easy way out) – it is to protect the brand image and reputation, and help shape perceptions with external audiences based on the truth. This means we often must play Devil’s Advocate by asking the tough questions and looking at things with a touch of skepticism. Not because we don’t believe the product, service or initiative could be great, but because we have to look at things through the customers’ eyes to ensure we shape a story and communicate promises that will align with their experience and with reality.

In our experience, the larger the story, the greater the skepticism we must apply. This isn’t always the easiest conversation to have; however, it is critical to the overall success of the launch and the brand’s reputation improving, whether the announcement can or can’t live up to the hype. At McGrath/Power we tell every new business prospect and client that the pieces of a great story can be found in the acronym TRUTH. We use this acronym to lead conversations with the client to get to the bottom of the story and see what can be supported.

During these conversations we will walk clients through questions like the below in order to unveil each component of the TRUTH acronym and build a story that not only has impact, but just as importantly can be supported:

  • T – Timely
    • Why is this product/initiative/news important now?
  • R – Relevant
    • Who is this product/initiative/news important to and why? Is there anything happening within our market or industry that this relates to or solves?
  • U – Unusual
    • How does our product/initiative/news differ from other competing offerings? What are we bringing to market that is truly unique and why is this needed?
  • T – True
    • What proof points do we have to support the claims we are making? Do we have any third party validation to support these claims?
  • H – Human
    • How will this product/initiative/news impact our key audiences? How will life be different following its announcement?

It is PR’s job to ask the questions necessary to prevent miscommunication between a brand and their various audiences, including customers. If PR doesn’t do its due diligence and look at things critically, your own #PrimeFail could be on the horizon, and chances are your brand will take a hit in the process.

Image courtesy of jk1991 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net