There are a lot of things missing from grocery and big box store shelves, but nothing has become more emblematic of the COVID-19 crisis than shelves without toilet paper. Panic buying caused sales of toilet paper to more than double what they were in March 2019. And, if anything, demand has only increased each day the supply is limited.
Because of this, and largely through no fault of their own, paper products manufacturers have become the target of massive criticism and consumer anger requiring clear and consistent counter-messaging. Social media pages for Charmin, Angel Soft, Cottonelle, and other leading brands exploded with consumers demanding to know when their products would become available. One company, Georgia Pacific, reported receiving more than 11,000 messages in less than a monTP Manufacturers Respond to Consumer Complaintsth, nearly all of them related to two product brands: Quilted Northern and Angel Soft.
The company was well-positioned to quickly and effectively address the consumer concern, because their social media team worked under the corporate communications umbrella, making planning and execution of a response faster and simpler. The company’s internal and customer-facing messaging was “cohesive and coordinated” according to the team, offering a coherent message that gave customers a clear view of the situation from the company’s perspective.
The result? According to Georgia-Pacific, their two brands earned a three-day jump on the competition in responding to the crisis. That’s a massive head start in terms of establishing long-term brand loyalty going forward.
And what was the message they had out sooner than their competition? The began by wisely acknowledging the massive elephant in the room: customers were very, very unhappy. They were quick to relate to that deep frustration and assured consumers that more paper was being made as fast as possible.
That, of course, led to consumers asking “where the new stuff was” that was being “made so fast.” Georgia-Pacific’s PR team used those confrontations as opportunities to bolster their messaging, repeating it in a way that also connected with the consumer’s ongoing frustration. They posted videos addressing the issue, FAQs answering questions, and infographics explaining the process, always inviting two-way communication from customers.
A key part of that message was reminding people to only buy in quantities they actually needed, a “we’re all in this together” message that transfers responsibility all around, rather than leaving it all on the company to give the people what they need.
Procter & Gamble brand, Charmin, and Kimberly-Clark brands Cottonelle, Scott, Viva, and Kleenex made similar inroads on social media. Charmin made it a focus to let frustrated customers know their concerns were being heard and addressed as well as possible. They even used the opportunity to introduce customers to the workers who are making the products they’re searching for.
Kimberly-Clark’s team let people know they were working hard to address this “unprecedented situation,” while thanking customers for their patience and their support. And, in response to the “spare a square” hashta\\\g on social media, Cottonelle launched “#ShareaSquare,” asking consumers to stop stockpiling and be generous, promising to donate to the United Way every time a customer uses that hashtag.
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