One of the UKs largest online money saving websites ran a competition that was alleged to have breached The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rules and guidelines. The company knew that the results of the investigation were due to be announced and that punishment was likely to be the result.
The brand also knew that its competitors would seize on this both in terms of publicly distancing themselves from carrying out similar activities as well as using their strong web presence to ensure any negative articles remained high in search engines.
The issue was caused by the unapproved actions of one employee who was dismissed by the company upon completion of an internal investigation. The situation was further complicated and amplified by the fact it was the last case to be dealt with by a soon to be closed down Government department, before issues of this nature were investigated by a newly set up, and different, government department.
10 Yetis knew from prior experience of Government investigations that the company would be given less than 15 hours notice of the findings of the investigation. The team also knew that the results would immediately be placed in the public domain and also potentially pre-briefed in by civil servants, to the media.
We had to move quickly in order to prepare the Chief Executive Officer for media interviews and also identify a small number of key messages that would both defend the company and reassure its consumers. The company had already identified how the issue had happened, apologised to its consumers and stakeholders and announced the results of its own investigation.
Alongside the company leadership team, we drew up a Q&A document of every potential negative question and identified the correct tone of voice and angle to take should those questions be asked. We also identified case studies of people who had saved thousands of pounds via the website in order to restore any lost credibility and prepared them for being circulated to the media.
We also needed to highlight to the media how this particular case had become a far bigger incident, because of inter-governmental-department arguing, compared to similar situations and how small the actual wrong-doing was in comparison to other cases being investigated. We were able to do this via one to one journalist briefings with individuals that we know and trust via our years of building strong relationships.
We addressed the potential situation of experiencing online negativity through several activities. Firstly we had statements for every situation and outcome prepared, and our Search Engine Optimisation knowledge we ensured that when it went live on the client site, it was implemented in such a way that it would be the first thing that consumers and the media saw when looking into the story. In addition to this, we prepared a range of proactive, positive stories for the media that we knew would be popular in print as well as online versions of authority news websites.
The coverage of the story was limited to mainly trade advertising and marketing media and some of the national media business press. The briefings we had given on the run up to the announcement meant that every story referenced the tension between the outgoing and incoming Government department changes.
The online impact was quickly mitigated by the Search Engine Optimisation work, and the company newsletter database actually grew faster than normal due to most press write-ups referencing the client as a money saving website, encouraging people to learn more about its offering.
There was no financial impact from this potential negative situation and the planning and campaigns put in place by 10 Yetis were referenced by the public relations trade media as being a strong example of a success story.