One of the most basic rules of good public relations is that you should not dismiss concerns or complaints coming from your customers. In the majority of cases, negative feedback should be acknowledged and addressed, whether the recipient agrees with the sentiment or not. Jessica Alba and The Honest Company are learning this the hard way.
The company has been widely criticized on social media over the summer with customers complaining about ineffective sunscreen lotion. Unhappy purchasers of the product voiced their complaints and posted pictures of themselves and their children with badly sunburned skin.
The Honest Company reacted defensively in its initial response, saying that its product meets all the FDA standards “when used as directed.” The company added that the number of complaints it received about the sunscreen lotion “constitute less than one half of one percent of all units actually sold.”
Honest’s initial crisis communications came across as dismissive of the customers’ complaints, essentially blaming them for applying the sunscreen incorrectly. Such a move was a clear mistake on the part of The Honest Company’s PR department.
In short order, the brand adjusted its communications strategy and thereby managed to avoid dealing serious damage to its reputation.
In a later public statement, Alba and Christopher Gavigan, The Honest Company’s co-founders, declared that the company takes all concerns seriously and that they would do “what it takes to make it right.”
Consistency is a major decisive factor in any crisis response, as the Red Banyan Group blog has repeated time and again. Ideally, The Honest Company would have thought through its crisis response strategy and delivered a more on-point message in its first statement. However, the company does deserve credit for adapting and quickly changing course in favor of a more effective solution that came across as more empathetic to upset customers.
A good PR strategy proactively shields your reputation, much like a good sunscreen protects your skin. The Honest Company got burned by its initial response, but moved fast to soothe its customers and cool the controversy.