A Crisis Ain’t What it Used to Be

Did you hear about the crisis rocking Mountain Dew soda? Yeah,  neither did we. It appears the rapper Mountain Dew hired to shill for them, Lil Wayne, said something offensive in a song. The company dropped Mr. Wayne pronto with apologies all around. You may now return to drinking Mountain Dew without guilt, or at least the guilt that might come from putting a few more bucks into Mr. Wayne’s pocket. The guilt over your health should continue.

While you might question Mountain Dew’s wisdom in hiring a spokesman with a long history of enjoying his First Amendment rights, what we find interesting is what this dust up suggests about the nature of a corporate “crisis” and the role of crisis communications. In the Internet and social media age, two new realities have reshaped the nature of crisis communications.

For one, audiences are fragmented. An issue that might be a crisis for a small section of the general population might not make a ripple in the broader community. Two, the speed of news–and thus the speed of a crisis–has accelerated dramatically. The bad news is that issues can blow up in a matter of hours or even minutes. The good news is, a crisis can have a very short shelf life. Got a crisis today? Tomorrow your target audience is on to the next shiny new thing.

We are oversimplifying a little bit to make a point. Businesses should still prepare for the inevitable crisis, should still plan a robust communications response, and should still do the right thing. But the fact is, crises don’t seem to have the impact they used to: they might arise faster, but they also disappear faster, and in some cases affect smaller and smaller segments of the market. At the same time, many corporations (though certainly not all) are getting better at recognizing and responding to crises quickly. That’s a good thing.

Of course, the occasional colossal crisis will still break through to the general public and can still linger for a long time–the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State situation comes to mind–but even here you have to wonder about the lasting impact. The Lions still play to packed stadiums, and Penn State still has a full complement of freshman arriving this fall.

The corporate black eyes seem to be healing faster than ever.

About The Wellynn Group

The Wellynn Group provides senior level counsel in marketing, communications, and public affairs. Hey, and we're nice people, too.
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