A Lesson in PR Disasters

Yesterday, I happened across a marketing stumble made by a local restaurant. Stobie’s Pizza is a local pizzeria located in downtown London. They are a family-owned business in operation since 1997, and one of their daily promotions involves a giveaway related to a few selected names. Anyone with the chosen names can go to the store to receive a free slice of pizza that day. No strings attached.

I have seen plenty of people share their posts with friends who happen to have the magical name that day. It is a feel-good promotion, that everyone loves and it obviously helps the business, as they have over 11.4 k followers on Twitter and over 17 k followers on Facebook. Those are some impressive numbers!

The problem was that yesterday they decided to honour the untimely passing of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna—Kobe and Gianna were the names of the day. Many people were touched by this. But there were others who were not. They cried shame at the company for trying to hone in on a tragedy. That was not their intent, but the backlash was swift.

Fortunately, the company is well aware that social media marketing is a tricky thing to maneuver and requires constant vigilance and monitoring. They quickly wrote a post that they shared on their social feeds apologizing to anyone they may have inadvertently offended. I believe they handled the potential gaffe in an appropriate way and should be commended by their swift response.

The world of social media can be a hard place to work in. We live in an age where people respond immediately and sometimes unpredictably to everything and anything posted online. As a business, you need to be constantly vigilant to prevent PR disasters, like this one could have been. By ignoring it, word could have spread further, damaging their reputation. By responding to individuals, they could have become embroiled in a shouting match that again could have ended poorly. Instead, they acknowledged that people were upset, explained their reasoning, and apologized. A perfect response. They also proved they listen to their audience, as today they are using the names of the other passengers who lost their lives on the flight in their daily giveaway. Bravo.

I consider this a timely lesson in the importance of monitoring your accounts and knowing how to handle missteps when they arise. Always address issues directly and professionally. And remember that you are dealing with people. We are a fickle and diverse bunch. You can’t please everyone all of the time, but you need to be forthright and honest in your dealing with everyone regardless.

Good job Stobie’s. You earned my respect yesterday.

Oh, and if your name happens to be John, Kerri, Alyssa, Christina, Sarah, Payton, or Ara, head over to 484 Richmond St today to get your free slice.


2 thoughts on “A Lesson in PR Disasters”

  1. I’m sure Strobie’s meant no disrespect to Bryant and his daughter. Nor were they capitalizing on their deaths to bring people into their store. The shop’s apology is enough penance, if any is needed. IMHO, the problem here lies with people too easily offended, virtue signaling and trying to stir up controversy for the sake of doing so. Unfortunately, a good example of the dark side of social media.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe you are sadly correct Rick. People like to stir the pot.

      Stobie’s has a brilliant marketing campaign – free pizza to the names of the day! People love free stuff, and it is a pizza lottery that has mostly worked in Stobie’s favour. Not to mention the fact that they have used it to commemorate others along the way. But sadly, this week people got grumpy about it.

      Being on top of a potential PR nightmare is hard, but I think Stobie’s did the best they could under the circumstances—address the issue, calmly explain their side, apologize, and move on. If people continue to be nasty, you take it offline. Any business who has a presence online will have to face a disgruntled customer at some point. It is the nature of marketing. Handling it as well as Stobie’s did is a lesson in best practices.


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