So, fun little fact- I have a B.A. in Communications, focusing on Public Relations: actually I double majored in PR and Psychology, and you would be surprised how much the two cross paths. But, since I don’t think anyone really wants to talk about how comorbidity of experiments leads to the validity of research results, or my personal favorite phrase in regards to personality theory- how our personalities are comprised from “deviations of the human syntax”, I’m going to instead focus on public relations and brand management particularly in the jiu jitsu community.
Back in the day when I was in Public Relations 101, they used certain events to showcase what someone should, and should not do when it came to crisis management: damage control, really. It’s bound to happen- people make mistakes, and say and do the wrong things all the time. And I feel like I’m in PR class all over again when reading about Grapple Planet vs. Dojodirect, reviewing the do’s and don’ts of how to handle a crisis.
We’ll start with the company that in the end handled themselves well: Grapple Planet. I had mentioned the parody video of a young woman, I believe her name is Cindy, attempting to poke fun at ‘sexy’ video instructionals, but it just didn’t come off so well. Grapple Planet posted the video, and by and large the jiu jitsu community was not amused. JiuJiu has the entire story on her blog, and while this started to have the makings of a PR don’t, with poor feedback (asking ‘why take things so serious?’) but eventually Grapple Planet listened to its customers, removed the video, and wrote a nice apology on their facebook page, including one on JiuJiu’s blog. In the end this company handled the situation well: they acknowledged their customers concerns, took action, apologized, and reaffirmed their commitment to the community.
The loser of the week unfortunately was Dojodirect. A female grappler pointed out to the company some spelling errors they had made on their facebook page and website, and while they technically acknowledged the error and ‘thanked’ the customer, they also took the criticism personally, insulted her and suggested the woman was premenstruating early, or was just an “angry woman in general”. While it shouldn’t matter which woman made the comment, he shouldn’t have gone there in the first place- unfortunately for him it was a pretty well known and respected female grappler, Pippa Granger. She shared the interaction with the large circle of influence, and Dojodirect has been paying for it ever since. He made a somewhat public apology on Twitter, and personally apologized to Pippa, which she again posted to her circle of influence. It was an all right gesture on his part, and an excellent gesture on hers in letting the community know that he was attempting to make amends. I’m not looking for Shakespearan prose people, I just want accountability for your actions.
What I think Dojodirect didn’t realize is yes, the guy has been working hard to build his website, offer merchandise for sale, etc. but by and large, the community doesn’t know who the hell he is, and at the moment our only impression of the company is a negative one. Reputation and image can be seen as like having a savings account at a bank- for the most part you should only be making deposits, for those (hopefully) very rare occasions where you are forced to make a withdrawl. He just didn’t have enough in his “image account” and made a huge withdrawl, and now he’s overdrafted and paying the fines. Hopefully his interactions with customers, particularly females, will improve and he can get himself out of the red.
So what did we learn today? Listen to your customers, acknowledge there’s been a misstep, apologize and take action to rectify the situation, and reaffirm your commitment in supporting said community. There have been multiple PR missteps among several BJJ companies- Dojodoirect is not the first and sadly will not be the last, but it was nice to see Grapple Planet took a potentially bad situation, turned it around and made the appropriate steps in responding to the community.