Sean Spicer has a lot going against him – the lowest approval rating for an incoming president in US history, a women’s march specifically aimed against the policies of his employer, the catchphrase ‘alternative facts’, having to deal with a tweeting machine of the presidency, protests over executive orders, ACLU challenges, the public firing of an Attorney General, the list goes on. From a PR standpoint, nothing can be worse than the first few weeks of the Trump administration.
The press secretary has other issues on his back, and this one is the most petty debacle that someone can have: in the past six years, the press secretary for the president of the USA, the most powerful public relations professional in the country, has angrily tweeted four times about his disdain with Dippin’ Dots. Spherical, theme-park sporting-event ice cream.
This isn’t really a crisis for Spicer – even if people considered it to be a crisis, other than some light mockery from some left-leaning blogs and some viral tweet mockery, it didn’t harm his brand any further than it’d been hurt already. However, Dippin’ Dots may view this as something of a crisis – someone who was in an appointed cabinet position by one of the most polarizing figures in US history fired out angry tweets about their brand. So they seized their chance.
Shama Hymer’s article about her contribution to the Dippin’ Dots’ response exhibits a great understanding for the need to at least respond to petty crises like these. The article, which covers the expert response of Dippin’ Dots, threw out one of the most inspiring quotes on the evolution of crisis communication in the modern age – “When companies ignore their critics, they do so at their own peril. No matter how contentious an issue, a company in today’s environment is judged more on their response than the initial negative review itself. In this case, it wasn’t simply about appeasing an unhappy customer, but more about responding to the consumer base about what was being said about the brand at large.”
Zen Marketing Group orchestrated an expert response – they had Dippin’ Dots CEO Scott Fischer write a friendly, open letter to Spicer – and surprisingly, the response that they received from Spicer was just as eloquent.
In the letter to Spicer, Fischer reached out, speaking to a ‘friends not foes’ mentality – and it used the platform of the friendly letter to both talk about the brands US production (I had no idea they were made in Kentucky – nor did I know the Dippin’ Dots brand was a sound company). Then, Fischer extended an olive branch and offered to do an ice cream social with the white house and press corps. End letter.
Dippin’ Dots not only used this as a platform to address the silly scandal that the tweets had behind them, but it also stressed being a profitable, American company.
Spicer, who needed a win with the grueling process of being the US press secretary, responded with a tweet that was actually good PR. He responded, recommending that instead of treating the white house and press, they serve Dippin’ Dots to those who have served our country and first responders.
I’m all about PR that ends well for both parties, and I feel like both ends of this issue scored a couple of PR points – Dippin’ Dots came out looking good, and Spicer, after scrutiny and some PR missteps, proved he at least kind of knows what he’s doing as the highest ranked public relations professional in the country.