The PR Lessons to Learn from the Terror of the Tide Pod Challenge

A surprising number of PR crises are self-inflicted problems caused by an issue with a marketing campaign, or a poorly-worded message. However, there are also many PR problems out there that happen regardless of a company’s efforts to stay on track. For instance, Procter and Gamble – a well-respected company, recently saw a serious PR crisis following the Tide Pod Challenge craze.

The Tide Pod Challenge involved a crowd of younger teenagers filming themselves eating the detergent pods and uploading that content to YouTube for likes and shares. Obviously, this challenge is irresponsible, dangerous, and potentially deadly. However, it was also a serious problem for Procter & Gamble, who had to respond quickly to an issue they couldn’t have possibly foreseen.

Here we’re going to look at just some of the PR lessons that companies can learn from the horrific backlash of the tide pod challenge, and Proctor and Gamble’s well-timed responses.

1. Plan for Everything

As much as entrepreneurs and business leaders try to plan for a successful future in their business, it’s impossible to predict everything that could happen to a brand. The tide pod challenge was essentially as unexpected as things can get. After all, no-one could have imagined that teenagers would suddenly decide that they should start eating laundry detergent.

The PR lesson to learn from this is that it’s hard to know what customers are going to do with a product. Ultimately, companies can’t make sure that they only use the item you create in the way the brand intends. This means that today’s businesses really do need to plan for unexpected scenarios. Tide did this by placing disclaimers on their website and issuing warnings about the dangers of ingesting a product long before the tide pod challenge emerged.

2. Be Reactive

Another lesson to learn from the tide pod challenge fiasco is that today’s companies need to know how to be reactive with their PR efforts. People need to respond to things as quickly and effectively as possible. As soon as the tide pod challenge went into viral mode, Tide launched into action with a video and message on Twitter explaining that the pods should are only usable for laundry and nothing else.

If companies can respond to any potential crisis around their brand as quickly and appropriately as possible, then they can hopefully regain some control over their reputation. Unfortunately, without the help of a PR company, a lot of problems often spread out of hand.

3. Know How to Be Proactive Too

Finally, it’s important to remember that modern brands can’t just react to the things that go wrong with their reputation, they also must take a proactive approach to protecting themselves. Aside from it’s initial and fast response to the situation, Tide also issued various public service announcements about the dangers of eating their pods. They also approached CNN to issue an official statement.

In a world where customers are more unpredictable than ever, brands that know how to take a proactive approach can gain more respect in the competitive marketplace. In Proctor and Gamble’s case, their decision to address the crisis head-on and take the initiative was great for defending their reputation.

Ronn Torossian is a leader in the public relations industry

Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian
5WPR CEO and Founderof the Ronn Torossian Foundation, Ronn Torossian was born August 25th, 1974 in Brooklyn, NY. Torossian has grown his PR Agency, 5W Public Relations, into a top 25 United States PR Firm. A life long New Yorker, Ronn currently resides with his children on the Upper West Side of New York City. Author of best selling PR Book "For Immediate Release" , you can find regular contributions of Ronn's writing on the Huffington Post, Business insider, Fox News, Everything-PR, the Observer, Wired Insights and many other publications.
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