teachable moment

Snark Gone Viral

Social media's individual empowerment, immediacy and ability to embarrass are evident in Applebee's firing of a server for sharing a diner's snarky comment on Reddit. 

The incident has generated apologies, policy restatements and tons of online comment that threaten to keep the PR firestorm aflame for days or longer. 

It started when a pastor of a St. Louis church took members of her congregation to Applebee's after an evening service. When the pastor got the bill, with an 18 percent tip automatically added for the party of more than eight people, she crossed off the tip and wrote, "I give God 10%, why do you get 18%."

The server snapped a picture of the receipt and comment on her smartphone and later posted it online, where it went viral. 

The pastor was upset because the picture of the receipt included her signature, as well as the snarky comment. She demanded Applebee's fire the server responsible. Applebee's responded on its Facebook page, saying it was against restaurant policy to reveal diner personal information. The company's CEO apologized, the local Applebee's franchise operator apologized and the server was apparently fired.

Then all hell broke loose.

Seeing Crisis as a Teachable Moment

McDonald's media relations director advises getting out of the bunker and viewing a crisis as an opportunity to educate your audience.Too many corporate officials and PR professionals recoil in the face of a crisis. The director of media relations for McDonald's, who is no stranger to crisis, sees it as an opportunity "to educate."

To earn a teachable moment, Danya Proud tells Ragan's PR Daily, you must "acknowledge you're not perfect."

"If you made a mistake," Proud says, "own up to it. Let people know you're listening to them."

The temptation many succumb to when facing a crisis is to dissemble or head for the bunker, hoping the storm will blow over.

Proud's advice: "A crisis can be an opportunity to set the record straight. I seize every opportunity to educate."

"It's not about what you want to say," Proud adds. “It's about what your audience wants to hear."