More than ever before, companies must figuratively walk on eggshells to avoid immediate scrutiny from millions of users on hundreds of platforms. The broad reach of media highlights any potentially offensive corporate slip-up. The holiday season seems to make the spotlight on high-profile companies even brighter.
Target came under fire for selling a sweatshirt that states “Obsessive Christmas Disorder,” which resulted in backlash from people who say that Target is minimizing mental illness. Nordstrom’s is the latest retailer to pop up in everyone’s newsfeeds for selling an item that could be perceived as offensive. They were selling (they’ve since been removed) a Hanukkah sweater that says “Chai Maintenance,” which some say enforces a negative stereotype about Jewish women.
It was impossible to dodge the “red cup” dilemma of 2015. Starbuck’s released their annual red cups in celebration of the holiday season, but it was met with disapproval from those who thought the coffee chain was taking Christianity out of the holiday season. The dilemma blew up in the media and even prompted the hashtags #redcup and #ItsJustACup on Twitter.
It seems that a company can’t do anything without upsetting someone and projecting their feelings on social media. So how do PR professionals not only handle these crises, but avoid them?