Three lessons in crisis communications from Crock-Pot’s response to This Is Us episode

 

Fans of NBC’s hit television show This Is Us are familiar with the emotional trauma that comes with every episode. The TV drama’s Jan. 23 episode included a plot reveal that had viewers both in tears and up in arms. If you’re trying to avoid spoilers, quit reading now.

Still with me?

Let’s dive in.

Earlier episodes revealed that crowd favorite Jack Pearson had passed away. Fans of the show anxiously waited to discover his cause of death. A recent episode finally provided fans with answers: Jack suffered fatal cardiac arrest after being caught in a house fire caused by a faulty slow cooker.

After This Is Us aired, Twitter users threw their slow cookers away. Screenshot from Twitter.com.

After This Is Us aired, Twitter users threw their slow cookers away. Screenshot from Twitter.com.

Viewers quickly took to the Internet to express their outrage at the kitchen appliance.

In addition to social media outrage, Newell Brands, parent company of Crock-Pot, saw its stocks drop 24 percent in the days following the episode airing.

Crock-Pot acted quickly to mitigate the crisis. The company’s response illustrates three crucial aspects of crisis communications that other brands should follow.

  1. Speak your audience’s language

Crock-Pot could have issued a formal statement or held a press conference to address the issue. But when customers are angry, “corporate speak” can alienate them even more.

Instead, Crock-Pot took to social media, responding to complaints directly on Facebook and Instagram. The brand also created a Twitter account @CrockPotCares to join in the platform’s conversations. In each response, Crock-Pot empathized with the customers, addressing them by name and sharing in their sadness over the show’s plot.

Crock-Pot created a Twitter account to respond to concerned customers. Screenshot from Twitter.com.

Crock-Pot created a Twitter account to respond to concerned customers. Screenshot from Twitter.com.

By taking this approach, Crock-Pot connected with its customers. Customers responded positively to the authentic and often humorous posts of the brand. Just over a week after the episode originally aired, the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent was trending on Twitter.

 

  1. Stick to the facts

Crock-Pot may have taken a lighthearted approach in its statements, but the brand never backed down in its position that its products are safe. In the majority of customer responses, Crock-Pot discussed the company’s commitment to safety through quality testing. The brand also invited concerned customers to message the company directly to learn more.

#CrockPotIsInnocent was trending on Twitter. Screenshot from Twitter.com.

#CrockPotIsInnocent was trending on Twitter. Screenshot from Twitter.com.

In a crisis, misinformation spreads like a house fire. (Too soon?) By stating facts, Crock-Pot was able to counteract false information.

 

  1. Use opinion leaders outside your brand

I’m sure the CEO of Newell Brands is a wonderful man, but he wasn’t the right person to act as a spokesperson during the Crock-Pot crisis. Instead, Crock-Pot used an outside source that is very close to the issue. Milo Ventimiglia, the actor who plays Jack Pearson, appeared in a video discussing forgiveness and unity. The video dropped the day before the Super Bowl and the premiere of the next This Is Us episode and showed Ventimiglia scooping chili from none other than a Crock-Pot. Ventimiglia also shared the video on his personal Twitter account.

This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman also issued a statement to calm angry fans. I’m not sure if Crock-Pot reached out, prompting the tweet, or if Fogelman tweeted of his own accord. Either way, it was a brilliant PR move.

This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman tweeted in defense of Crock-Pot. Screenshot from Twitter.com.

This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman tweeted in defense of Crock-Pot. Screenshot from Twitter.com.

By using outside sources, Crock-Pot was able to sway public opinion back in the brand’s favor.

Madison Miller, This Is Us fanatic and graduate student at the New York Film Academy, weighed in on issue:

“When I saw that fire scene (and once I cleared up all the tears and snot from my face per my routine after every single This Is Us episode), I instantly knew Crock-Pot would have to do something to take control of the situation. Personally, I loved the brand’s response because it handled the issue in a professional and tongue-in-cheek kind of way.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Crises will happen. Crock-Pot could never have predicted that its product would have become the most loathed character on a hit TV show. But the brand was prepared with a plan and will likely escape from this crisis a lot better than Jack escaped from that fire.

Written by Maggie Kuta

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