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‘This Is Us’ fire creates social media storm and PR crisis for Crock-Pot

By Wendy Bulawa Agudelo

Communication tips for what to do when your brand unexpectedly ‘catches fire’ and you need to calm consumers

29801257_sThis week, NBC’s “This Is Us” gave viewers an emotionally gripping episode that seriously tugged their heartstrings. It also sent many to their cupboards to dispose of a kitchen appliance that was the terrifying catalyst for one of the show’s biggest tragedies. The villainous appliance? A Crock-Pot.




A faulty, hand-me-down Crock-Pot caught fire and set the Pearson family home ablaze, killing super dad Jack Pearson.


Upset fans immediately took to social media Tuesday night with comments, GIFs and memes suggesting that Crock-Pots are evil and we should destroy them all.


The pop culture backlash obviously sent Crock-Pot scrambling. To its immense credit, Crock-Pot took it all in stride and used both personality and tone to calm constituencies and turn a potential crisis into a well-played interaction with its public.


Should your company find itself in a similar situation (an unexpected crisis), use these tips to nimbly manage your communication roadmap, similar to how Crock-Pot did.

1. Meet your audience where they reside.

Crock-Pot received large sums of unexpected feedback late at night, which could have seriously denigrated its brand. However, the company’s skilled social media team met the audience where it was communicating (on social media channels) and immediately engaged. By the next day, Newell Brands (owners of Crock-Pot) released a statement. Yet, the company’s social media team had already begun to defuse the harrowing ordeal by responding to the outraged public that had amassed on social media channels.

2. Showcase your unique personality.

Social media is a direct link to customers and a way to highlight news and product wares as well as engage. Crock-Pot’s team did just that and did so with personality. The comforting, professional and thoughtful responses calmed the public and humanized the company. An “all-business” response likely wouldn’t have had the same effect and may have even fueled the fire (no pun intended). Even “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman used humor to connect.



3. Understand engagement rules.

The “This Is Us” Crock-Pot fiasco has proven once again that today’s news cycle is most definitely 24/7, and that the diverse news channels follow vastly different guidelines. Where social media focuses on posts, responses, shares, etc., mainstream media braced for an official statement and executive interviews. Crock-Pot’s social media team invested hours in responding thoughtfully and professionally across various platforms until the PR team finished crafting an official media statement. There are unique nuances to public relations and communications, especially during times of heightened engagement (e.g., crisis). Knowing how to best communicate across all channels definitely delivers strategic advantage.


The uproar that emerged from Tuesday’s “This Is Us” episode had the creators of Crock-Pot both surprised and scrambling. Yet, the result was a crisis averted, thanks in large part to charismatic social media team members and a talented PR crew, who quickly coordinated responses, engagement and even a unique hashtag to support their efforts (#CrockPotIsInnocent). Crock-Pot effectively incorporated multiple communications disciplines to rectify public outcry.

To prepare for the unexpected, Axia Public Relations offers a number of complimentary guides on social media and crisis communications. Download your copies to keep on hand should something unexpected set your social media channels on fire overnight.

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Wendy-color.jpgClients love Wendy’s compelling writing. She has nearly 20 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and nonprofit public relations. She serves on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force and is a culinary enthusiast and champion for the special needs community. Wendy has worked with Axia Public Relations since September 2014. Learn more about Wendy.


Featured image credit: 123rf.com

Topics: public relations, crisis communications, shared media

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