Are Faceless Drones Fixing Amazon’s PR Problem?
Amazon, known for the biggest, trail-blazing ideas in e-commerce, revealed to the world that it would be carrying goods to customers in 30 minutes or less, by drone. And the Internet went crazy.
The founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, showed off the vision for the new delivery concept on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, but didn’t reveal exactly when those cool new drones would arrive.
Now that the public has calmed down a bit, there’s new speculation that this was all just a PR stunt to place Amazon at the top of the ring right at the peak of its busiest season. Might it be an attempt to recover from the recent unflattering book release by Businessweek reporter Brad Stone?
The proposed new delivery service is almost too good to be true and it is for the time being… so why announce it now? The FAA says it could be 2026 before anything like that arrives. I majored in public relations, and this issue got my PR wheels turning. As a young, professional practitioner of PR, here are my thoughts.
In general, I’m not a big fan of PR stunts. Yes, they garner quick interest for the company and get people talking, but it’s a poor way to actually build a relationship with your public (stakeholders, target audiences, etc), and eventually the buzz simmers down and the whole stunt is forgotten (or mocked). It seems like Amazon released the drone information to take heat off Stone’s recent bad review of Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos. PR stunts like this only seem to be designed to distract, and don’t have the best interest of the people in mind. Any big company, like Amazon, will eventually encounter pressure and negativity; it’s inevitable. It’s how companies handle the negativity (i.e. books with bad reviews of their CEOs) that really reveals whether or not they are PR rock stars (and have the best interest of their customers at heart). As an up-and-coming PR whiz, here are five tips I’d recommend for Amazon (instead of a stunt), or any company that might be facing a similar situation. They follow the PRSA Code of Ethics:
1) Be transparent. No one wants to receive information from a company and feel like the company is hiding something or they’re being lied to. Be honest and open with your audience in addressing the issue at hand. If you’re adhering to ethical, best practices, you won’t have anything to hide.
2) Don’t write your own reviews. Bezos’s wife responded to reviews of Stone’s book ON AMAZON. Earlier this year, businesses on Yelp were in hot water for writing their own reviews to build themselves up or counteract negativity. Practice building out healthy, strong, human relationships with your audience. These types of relationships will weather the storm of negativity.
3) Respond proactively, not reactively. Bezos’s wife bombed the negative book reviews ON Amazon, calling out Stone for missing information and not checking his facts. Mrs. Bezos reacted to the book and the reviews. Amazon (and not Mrs. Bezos [see #4]) should have released correct information, counteracting the misinformation in the book in a proactive, positive tone. Think about what you say before you say it, and be careful that your wording and tone remain proactive, showing how your company adheres to ethical practices.
4) Present company information from the company as a whole. In this situation, Jeff Bezos was hung out to dry, and it seems like he’s taking the heat for all of Amazon. When responding to the negativity, keep in mind that it’s your company that’s under fire, and not the individual. Using proactive language, reiterate your company’s values in all of your messages. For example, rather than talking about Jeff’s ideas and values, all communication should echo Amazon’s ideas and values. As an individual in the company, make sure you are representing your company well in return. It’s a two-way street.
5) Realize you can’t please everyone. It’s a hard fact to face, but 100% of people won’t be happy 100% of the time. Stick to your guns and your ethical, best practices. Those making the loudest noise will eventually quiet down. It may even provide a great chance for you to reach out to those individuals and personally address them, providing a chance to humanize your brand.
I absolutely recommend that businesses begin taking proactive steps to grow, protect, and strengthen their online presence now, in the right ways and with best practices in mind. By being honest with yourself, to your company, and to your audience, you’re acknowledging your humility and that you have nothing to hide, by default. And that has the capacity to weather out any storm in your path, with or without drones.
Brittany Kiser is an Account Executive at Small Screen Producer. She received her BA from Sam Houston State University in Mass Communication with a Specialization in Public Relations and her MA from the University of Houston in Communication, Public Relations Studies. She has practiced communication and public relations nation-wide, garnering experience in Manhattan, NY with Dan Rather Reports and in Beverly Hills, CA at a boutique PR agency, Phyllis Klein and Associates Public Relations. Her bevy of communication experiences give her unique insight into all things PR.
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