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Crisis Management Lessons from an Unintentional TV Scandal

February 8, 2018 Julia Motis

SPOILER ALERT: This blog discusses a key plot point from the show “This Is Us.”

In the world of the media, crises happen, and they’re hardly ever intentional. A TV show could base a plot point around a brand and it could end badly for everyone. That’s how NBC got themselves – and a well-known slow-cooker brand – in trouble, and that brand had to kick their crisis management skills into high gear.

At this point, the whole nation has Pearson fever as the second season of the award-winning show “This Is Us” continues its saga on primetime TV. The NBC show centers around Jack and Rebecca Pearson and their three kids, and we learn about the family’s past and present as they relate to the untimely death of Jack.

Last week’s episode, titled ‘That’ll Be the Day,’ ended in tragedy when viewers finally got a glimpse of the cause of Jack’s death: an old, finicky Crock-Pot slow-cooker. The couple receives it from a neighbor who is downsizing while Rebecca is pregnant with the triplets, and 18 years later it sets the house on fire. We see the switch flicker after Jack supposedly turned it off, but then it sparks and the device ignites.

Needless to say, fans were devastated as they watched the flames spread and eventually envelope the beloved Pearson house. Unfortunately for Crock-Pot, the company bore the brunt of the fans’ grief, getting called out in angry social media posts across the internet.

Crock-Pot didn’t realize that it was about to be thrown under the bus by one of TV’s most popular shows. So what crisis management skills did it use to deal with the backlash, and what can we learn from the situation?

Crock-Pot made several clever and apologetic posts.

This post for example, explains the whole misunderstanding in a way that got the attention of the show’s fans.

The Pearsons are big Steelers fans, and Jack dies on Super Bowl Sunday, so this was a great way to encompass all the feelings these fans have toward the show.

The company even had the actor who plays Jack, Milo Ventimiglia, speak out on behalf of the safety and reliability of their product. Who better to explain it than “Jack” himself? The company knew that fans are in love with this guy, so this was crisis management genius.

Crock-Pot responded to the grieving fans.

Knowing that many people were scared and upset over their alleged faulty products, Crock-Pot apologized the old-fashioned way, by reaching out to everyone they could through comments and messages on social media.

For example, they responded to one fan who claimed they’d never use a Crock-Pot again saying, “Jack Pearson was our Valentine so we equally understand your pain with his loss. We love him and we love you too,” the company wrote back. “Don’t further add to our heartbreak by no longer using Crock-Pot Slow Cookers, rest assured our products have been generationally tested by your family and friends.”

The company knew that fans are in love with this guy, so this was crisis management genius.

It’s hard to say for sure if the attitude of that fan was changed by the company’s remarks, but the effort was evident, and that will help set any brand reputation back on track.

Crock-Pot leveraged NBC’s widespread popularity.

The Crock-Pot company called out NBC in a statement saying, “Our hope is that the team at NBC’s This Is Us will help us spread factual information regarding our product’s safety. While we know their primary mission is to entertain — something they have continued to excel in — we also feel they have a responsibility to inform.”

Crock-Pot knows that NBC is on the hook for casting them in a bad light, and the company also understands NBC’s role as a well-known spreader of information, so it has played on that fact to help pull itself out of this trench that NBC dug.

The response from the show’s creator, Dan Fogelman, most likely helped save them too. He told EW that he sent a tweet to all his loyal fans “reminding everybody that this was a fictional Crock-Pot with a faulty switch that was 20 years old. So, I don’t think the entire Crock-Pot community should be blamed for this.”

With the large number of followers of NBC and Fogelman, there is a huge audience there with whom to make amends.

The outlook is still good for Crock-Pot, as hundreds of fans have publicly pledged their undying love for their Crock-Pots, despite the show’s plot twist. While crisis management is all too important in any situation like this one, keep in mind that information moves fast, and before you know it, the 15 minutes in the spotlight ends. Get on top of the situation in that “15 minutes of fame” and your brand should make it out alive.

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