Upping a price. Changing your privacy settings. A new design.
Any time you or your organization is making a change, breaking the news to those who will be affected can be challenging.
This is especially true when that change occurs to a consumer-facing service. In that scenario, you run the risk of potential backlash from the announcement. But don’t take it from me--just ask Snapchat. At the core of any reaction is this: how does this affect me, the audience? While there may be no ‘right’ way to make this kind of announcement (layoffs, for example, are rarely met with a pleasant response), there are steps one can take to minimizes the negativity.
Enter Digit, a financial app that automatically siphons off small amounts of money from your bank account to build up your savings. The algorithm takes amounts based on recent spending (think anywhere from $0.15 to $10), so you usually don’t even notice. Genius, right?
The app currently costs $2.99 a month—but as a long-time digit user, I remember a time when it was free. When that changed, a question was posed to me: did I want to remain a user? While the fee itself wasn’t a huge amount, the way Digit handled the announcement is what made me stick around. So I took a look at why that was, and how other organizations could learn from it:
Get to the point
Announce the topic at hand in a quick and concise manner. You’re presenting new information to those who will be affected by it. Don’t make them have to think (or search) too long or too hard to figure out how it’s going to affect them.
One of the most crucial ways to announce change is with complete and total clarity. What change are you making? What prompted it? And—most important—how will it affect me, the consumer?
Digit did all of these things right: They were upfront about the change being implemented; they were quick to point out why they needed to do so (to make money); and they were quick to point out why they were opting for a paid route instead.
Provide a forum for response
Give people an outlet to voice their concerns, questions or frustrations. It will enable you to control the message, and open up a forum where anyone with a strong reaction will feel heard. It will also give people a clear sense of where to get answers, should they be looking for them.
Bonus points: A Piece of Good News
Of course, dependent on the news, you won’t always have a piece of good news to offer. But if you can end the message on a high note, you should. People will always appreciate knowing something positive will come out of this.
And, at the very least, people always appreciate honesty. Giving a clear, concise explanation of why change is being implemented is always better than the cardinal sin of PR—not saying anything at all.
By Vanessa Pearce
When I first added “write a blog post” to my to-do list this week, I didn’t imagine I would write about Build-A-Bear.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m no stranger to its stores. With three young children, I’ve been a customer a time or two. Early this week, I saw news of the company’s “Pay Your Age Day” shared by other parents on social media, and I immediately thought, “That sounds like a horrible idea.” For me. (For the record, I’m not a Black Friday shopper, either. Because “time is money” and all that.)
It was obvious there would be crowds. There would certainly be more demand than supply. How would Build-A-Bear handle it? Naturally, I was curious to see how it would all play out.
Across the country, families lined up before stores even opened. Just after 7:30 a.m. ET, Build-A-Bear posted its first update to social media, warning customers of the overwhelming response and long waits, and mentioned the possibility that lines might be limited due to safety concerns. Note that most stores didn’t even open until 10:00 a.m.!
Still, lines snaked through shopping malls and stretched outside. Just a few hours later, at 11:00 a.m. ET, Build-A-Bear published an urgent update to its social media pages and blasted it out to its email lists. Lines were officially closed. People were turned away, and some of those who were already in line had waited ALL DAY. Cue pandemonium.
“How could they not have anticipated this?” people asked. A firestorm of media coverage ensued, with headlines calling it a “botched promotion,” “hellish chaos,” and of course, “a PR nightmare.”
But was it really, though? In this case, I’d argue that this just might fall under the “There’s no such thing as bad PR” cliché. While it’s true that the situation is a crisis for Build-A-Bear, it’s one that could actually benefit them in the long run, depending on the response.
Sure, there are angry and disappointed customers, but Build-A-Bear was quick to come up with a solution. As people were being turned away from the lines, they were handed $15 off coupons—an amount roughly equivalent to the discount offered by “Pay Your Age”—to come back any time (and NOT have to wait in line for hours!). The coupons were offered to those standing in the lines, too, in case they would rather bail and come back. Then, Build-A-Bear went so far as to offer the coupon to all of its Bonus Club members, even if they had never ventured out for “Pay Your Age Day.” And to ensure this madness never happens again, the company brought an existing promotion—“Count Your Candles”—to the forefront, that offers the same discount (pay your age) during a child’s birthday month.
At the time of this draft, Build-A-Bear’s “failed” promotion is still all over the media. But you know what? So are its make-good solutions. I’m positive yesterday resulted in a harried public relations team and some serious regrets, but Build-A-Bear’s CEO was on The Today Show this morning delivering key messages that reinforce Build-A-Bear’s value proposition. How else would that have happened?
Only time will tell the true impact on Build-A-Bear’s business. While there may be customers so upset that they have sworn off the company forever, the coupons are likely to bring even more new and repeat customers back to the stores over the next few months. Plus, all of the traditional and social media hoopla has undoubtedly raised awareness of Build-A-Bear’s “Count Your Candles” birthday promotion, which could drive additional sales as well.
At the end of all of this, Build-A-Bear stands to gain more than it has lost. Some may argue that the sheer number of coupons out there could cut deeply into Build-A-Bear’s profits, but to that I say: You must not be familiar with the price of the accessories!
By Heather Kowalczyk