Turning Crisis to Community Involvement


A local business has used Social Media to turn a potentially business-ending crisis into an unheard of Community positive. Its lessons, not only in the ability to see a positive in a sea of woes, but also the opportunity for creative marketing, is one that any small business can only teach themselves how to do, it may well ignite your imagination in business possibilities.

In a neighbourhood going through the growing pains of up-scaling itself, a local so-called ‘anarchy group’ has taken to acts of petty vandalism against businesses, in order to scare off potential homeowners. They hope that by making everyday life uncomfortable for both visitors, and the businesses in the area that work for them, they can keep the neighbourhood at its current general income area. This has, obviously, proved problematic for the ‘High Street’ businesses trying to make a living. They are either attacked with petty, but intrusive vandalism, or are waiting in fear for ‘their turn’, and the additional expense that these attacks incur. One local business has used a recent incident to turn the tables on these hooligans, and make the proverbial Lemonade from the situation.

A small store front has, for years, been somewhat famous for a sign that was prominently placed on the sidewalk outside of its front door. During one early evening period last week, the sign was stolen. Millions of people have, over the years, seen that sign, and its value to the store is one of being naked without it. Any kind of new sign wouldn’t be the same as the original, and would lose the look that the owner wanted to portray. To build and paint an exact replica would only be inviting another theft. So, how to restore the store’s look and claim a victory in these tense political times: By using the incident itself as the starting point for change, and a very clever way of ‘fighting back’.

Our store owner noticed how many column inches of interest the story had gained both in print locally and on line. This was PR that he hadn’t paid for, but cast the business in an obvious sympathetic light. He had to be careful in how he extended the story to an ending (A happy one, of course.), without further antagonizing the violent element that had damaged his business in the first place: In fact, how could he help their situation, and to do it quickly, so that the original story didn’t run out of steam in the meantime. An offer from a local craftsman to replace the sign was the first piece of the answer.

He agreed to the sign (along with a generous ad for the craftsman, another local) but with a change that made the sign very heavy, and unable to be carried away so easily. This extra weight was in the form of a frame that passers-by could model themselves in. Not only was this a wonderfully fun idea, it would lead to even more marketing as people used their smart phones to photograph their friends posing, and would upload them to their social networks giving exponentially more people a subtle ad. of the place. Then he went one step further.

For every photograph posted and liked, the company would donate to a local charity that would help out the disadvantaged, and put the store squarely in the camp of those that had damaged it. The help came in the form of vouchers that those in need could buy from the store. In one brilliant stroke of PR genius, the store upgraded its sign at little cost, gave an opportunity for people to engage with it, offered them a free way to promote it, and spent some of its future earnings supporting a section of the community that a) needed it, and b) would be a favorite of those that may attack it again in the future. Of course, they also doubled their free press coverage and provided a happy ending in less than a week.

The power of social media to spread a good news story is unparalleled in human history. Whatever situation you are in, a few minutes’ brainstorming using Facebook or Twitter as its core, and leaving open the chance to do good in the community may triple or quadruple your businesses’ marketing over an incredibly short period of time, and may even avert crisis, taking your bad news into a windfall of positive marketing, and perhaps, more profits.


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