Learning from Amy’s Baking Company’s PR Disaster: Update!

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The drama from Amy’s Baking Company just keeps unfolding. After their initial meltdown on social media, the official Facebook page announced that they had been “hacked.” The teenage server who was fired, Katy Cipriano, did a fairly level-headed, but honest reddit AMA .

Then the power-meme couple of Amy & Sammy did something worthwhile; they hired a PR company.

I say worthwhile, because it was a great idea. In the time of a public relations crisis you should hire PR consultants to help you salvage brand reputation.

I’m not entirely sure you should hire the guy who, the day before, was trash-talking you on the radio, but it is what it is.

Shortly after that the press release went up on Amy’s Banking Company’s Facebook page saying that on Tuesday, May 21st, they’d be holding a grand re-opening following “unflattering portrayals on national television.” The press release goes on to say that, “Customers will be able to decide who is correct: a famous celebrity chef or the marketplace that has supported the small, locally-owned business for six years.”

The PR Spin? The reality show depicted us in an unfavorable light that isn’t true. These are two small business owners who have to fight the big guy for their livelihood.

Will it work? Possibly. The great thing for Amy’s Baking Company is that, for the short term, there’s going to be an influx of people interested for the sheer voyeurism of it all. Similar celebrity chef/ TV show headbutting happened during Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Season 2 when he took over  Patra’s Charbroiled Burgers in Los Angeles. The owner and Jamie went toe to toe during most of the run of the show and the controversy got people talking. A couple months later, my family and I visited and met up with the owner who said that sales were great after the initial airing of the show, but had slowed down considerably in the months after.

What should they do?

1. Apologize. A genuine apology for their behavior on the show, their behavior on social media, and lying about being hacked.

2. Make a better product. It seems that part of this grand re-opening is to prove that ABC does make good food. If so, it better be spot on for this week of scrutiny.

3. Stay off social media. Amy and Sammy need to go hands off on all social media from now on. Hire someone to do it for you who can be professional and not type in all caps 70% of the time.

4. Self-deprecating humor. One of the comments on the official ABC Facebook page was to put a grilled cheese sandwich on the menu and name it, “Amy’s Meltdown.” I think it’s genius and something Amy and Sammy should consider doing. If you can laugh about it too, it will greatly decrease the internet’s hostility.

5. Lose the ego. Be genuinely grateful for Chef Ramsey’s attempt to help. Most people understand that “reality TV” is not “real.” But, there are also a ton of small business owners who would die for a chance to have the publicity and help that Kitchen Nightmares offers. Recognize that rather than villainize the show.

Lessons Business Owners Can Learn About Social Media:

1. Never use all caps on a company social media site. It looks tacky, it enrages people, and it seems like you’re shouting. No one likes being shouted at.

2. People on the internet can be worse than private detectives. If you make them angry enough, the internet can band together to find every piece of dirty laundry that you may be trying to hide.  Do not even make them angry, but if you do – make sure you’re prepared.

3. Get help sooner, rather than later. If you make a mistake on social media that seems to be escalating quickly, reach out for professional help to calm the situation down before it becomes national news. I believe a lot of the media circus could have been avoided if the PR company had been in from day one.

4. No matter what, the customer is always right. It’s one of the hardest parts of the service business, but the customer is always right. 90% of ABC’s public image problem right now isn’t because of their food, it’s because of their treatment of people.

5. Don’t delete user comments, just because you don’t agree with them. Blocking or deleting comments doesn’t silence your critics, it gives them more fire and makes them more irate. They may blog about your company, leave a review where you can’t delete the comments, or stir up a stronger movement against your company. Extra credit: deleting your own social media statuses does not make them go away. What’s on the internet, it tends to stay on the internet.

Got any more advice for Amy & Sammy? Leave it in the comments!

5 replies
  1. Ally
    Ally says:

    I find all this fascinating. They were wholly out of hand, and rather than apologize and own it, they keep digging a deeper hole. I’m not sure it will affect them long term — depends on how strong their influence is. But it definitely speaks to the danger of having people who don’t know how to manage themselves with social media.

    Reply
    • Tabitha Grace Smith
      Tabitha Grace Smith says:

      It’s like watching a really bad soap opera, isn’t it? I really hope they get help – not just on social media, but personally as well.

      Reply
  2. Dan Shaurette
    Dan Shaurette says:

    A great article which I honestly hope Amy and Samy can gain some wisdom from. Especially the idea of the “Amy’s Meltdown” grilled cheese sandwich. I get the impression, however, that their bruised egos will not let them even run with such an idea. If their new P.R. guy suggests it, though, then maybe they’d consider it.

    Reply
  3. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    I don’t know if you have heard but they’re pretty much doing nothing but the exact opposite of your suggestions. Making several Facebook pages, fake accounts, picking fights on Twitter, picking fights on Tumblr while having a PR guy do nothing but release a lame press conference letter but do nothing for online relations.

    Reply
  4. Erin Moore
    Erin Moore says:

    This wiould be spot on advice, I like the part about self-deprecating humor, If they would be wise enough to follow your advice they could honestly end up as a hot spot becuase of the show, but something tells me their pride and egos will get in the way.

    Reply

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