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Owning up to PR Blunders

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Thanks to the Internet and the ability it provides to reach audiences on a massive scale, brand successes are magnified exponentially. Unfortunately, the same can be said for their missteps, too. This is where seasoned PR professionals come into play. It is our job to look at every piece of content from all possible angles and anticipate any potential negative reactions. Cubby Tees, a Chicago clothing company, could have used similar guidance recently.

Cubby Tees designed and sold a t-shirt sporting the slogan “Chicago Stronger,” a play on the “Boston Strong” slogan that emerged following the tragic Boston Marathon bombing a few months ago. The company’s intention was to show support for the Chicago Blackhawks, the NHL team currently competing against the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Droves of outraged people took to Twitter with their complaints, and eventually Cubby Tees took the shirt off the market. It also posted on the company blog a lengthy explanation of the reasoning behind the shirt’s design, which, unfortunately, offered no apology to the offended parties. Instead, Cubby Tees claimed that because the “Boston Strong” slogan was taken over by sports fans supporting New England teams, the Chicago Stronger” t-shirt was appropriate in this specific context.

Whether you agree with that reasoning or not, any experienced PR firm would likely have advised Cubby Tees that not everyone would accept its explanation, and that the shirt itself was probably a bad idea from a company branding perspective. Given the serious origin of the original slogan, the risk wasn’t worth the reward. This was made even worse by the fact that Cubby Tees went on the defensive, arguably drawing even more attention to the company, and not in a good way.

We all make mistakes, despite our best efforts to avoid them. But, rather than damage control, Cubby Tees likely made its situation that much worse by handling it in this manner. At least this provides other brand with a good PR lesson in what not to do.

*This post originally appeared on March Communications' blog, PR Nonsense, by Erika Hansen.

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