Different PR Firms do different things. And while PMK-BNC is a great agency for celebrity publicity work, and Hollywood entertainment feel-good projects, they simply are not the right agency for a major crisis PR project. That is part of the problem for Jessica Alba’s Honest Company.
Across the blogosphere, social media – and mainstream media, the company is being attacked for problems with their reformulated 30 SPF sunscreen lotion.
As Forbes Magazine noted, “This week’s attention to the effectiveness of a zinc oxide sunscreen made by The Honest Company has renewed scrutiny of how sunscreen products are tested for effectiveness and safety in the United States. The company was originally criticized by public relations experts for their initial response over the weekend to customer complaints and negative reviews, including online customer photos of adults and children with sunburns, after using Honest’s reformulated “mineral-based” sunscreen.”
PMK BNC Public Relations for Celebrity Jessica Alba
“But within a day, co-founders Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan released a more personal message on The Honest Company’s blog, expressing their empathy with fellow parents and their pro-active desire to “make things right” with each customer who expressed dissatisfaction with the sunscreen product.”
As PR Week noted, earlier, “PR pros scolded the company for belittling customers. After customers posted pictures of their children’s sunburns on social media and complained that Honest’s products do not work, the company initially said it stood behind its products. Honest also seemed to brush off unhappy customers citing the small number of complaints, which it said constituted “[about] less than one-half of 1% of all units actually sold at honest.com.”
In Honest’s second response mentioned above, they posted on their blog, assuring people they are aware of the problem and working on it. But comments from customers poured in and way too often were met with the same response, like a canned routine – changing the name of the person, but nothing else…
“Thank you for reaching out about your experience with the Honest Sunscreen Lotion, [insert name]. We are committed to providing safe and effective products, and we take all consumer feedback very seriously.
We are dedicated to your complete satisfaction and would like to have one of our Customer Service representatives reach out a time that is convenient to you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your phone number so that we may be in touch. We look forward to hearing from you soon.”
When the Forbes reporter questioned PMK-BNC as to why the product had not been pulled from the market, the response was that the company wanted to focus on each customer’s problem and keep it more personal. Whoever thought up that idea may need a bit of mental fine-tuning. Not everyone complains, some just walk away.
The man hours required to answer so many responses could easily turn into a huge cost to the company. Not just in the employee time, but all it takes is one employee being a little off their game, and you could be facing a much bigger problem.
Even if Honest pushed for that response, it is the job of a good crisis management PR firm to keep their clients aware of the consequences of their decisions. Showing them how decisions with good motives do not necessarily translate to a good outcome
Honest made a mistake – but part of the issue is the Honest Company’s PR firm should be honest with their client Jessica Alba. They are not a crisis PR shop for consumer brands. They don’t do product recalls, big-league positioning and the like. What they primarily do is represent big-name entertainment talent such as Emma Thompson, Billy Crystal, Robert Redford, Christina Aguilera, Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, and, of course, Jessica Alba.
PMK-BNC, we advise you to know your strengths, and you have a lot of them. But also be strong enough to waive off on the things you don’t do, especially when so much could be at stake.Other agencies specialize in crisis management and are stronger than PMK-BNC in that arena – whether Michael Sitrick or another Interpublic Group Agency. Honest Company needs to hire someone with the right qualifications.
This particular situation may seem like a tempest in a teacup now. But it’s hit the minds of their consumers, and even those not affected will watch for the next product that misses the mark. It’s time now to not only deal with the existing problem but get ahead of future ones. Put a plan in place.
Honest might also consider what they can do to earn back any lost trust, not making already unhappy customers, wait on the phone forever and jump through hoops to get a store credit. Part of a good crisis management campaign is minimizing any further damage or future problems. Doing the least amount possible to fix the problem tells your customers you only care about the money you are making and not about their satisfaction.
*EVERYTHING PR invited PMK-BNC to offer a comment and did not receive a response as of press-time. This viewpoint does not necessarily represent the viewpoint of Everything PR and represents solely the author.