5 crisis lessons from Crock-Pot and ‘This Is Us’

At the end of season two, episode 13, we finally get a glimpse of how Jack
dies. The Crock-Pot, or more accurately a slow cooker, catches on fire—and
the internet freaked out.

For the past week, Crock-Pot has been working day and night to reframe the
conversation, protect its brand, do some serious damage control and throw
in some humor at the same time.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has not recorded
any injuries or fatalities
due to faulty slow cookers, but that hasn’t stopped the whole world from
blaming Crock-Pot for killing their favorite TV dad.

An issue versus a crisis

difference between an issue and a crisis is the latter affects stock price, revenue or reputation in a way that’s
hard to come back from.

What makes something an issue, only:

  • It is not harmful to an organization’s reputation.
  • It does not affect the bottom line.
  • It can almost always be avoided.
  • It can escalate into a crisis, if not handled immediately.
  • It’s a blip in the 24/7 news cycle.

What defines a crisis:

  • It has long-term repercussion on an organization’s reputation.
  • It precipitates a loss of money…usually a big one.
  • It can be managed if there is a swift response and quick action.

As people took to Twitter to knock the brand, its stock plummeted and it begged for “This Is Us” to help properly educate fans.

In a statement they released the very next day, it asked for help in spreading the truth about the product’s safety:

Our hope is that the team at NBC’s ‘This Is Us’ will help us spread factual
information regarding our product’s safety. While we know their primary
mission is to entertain—something they have continued to excel in—we also
feel they have a responsibility to inform. Just like many fans, we will be
watching next week’s episode to see how Jack’s story progresses and,
regardless of the outcome, we want consumers first and foremost to know
they are safe when using their Crock-Pot.

That’s not the only thing it did well.

Here’s a look at what it’s been doing since January 23 to protect its nearly 50-year-old brand and 5 takeaways for communicators of all stripes:

1. A swift response and quick action

Though it’s awfully strange the brand didn’t already have a Twitter
account, they
quickly created one
to respond to the concerns of crazed fans. Using the hashtag
#crockpotisinnocent, it was able to respond to people who were throwing
out their Crock-Pots—and to those who had real concerns about the product’s

It also posted
this message to Facebook, complete with broken heart emojis and a photo of a Pittsburgh
Steelers-branded Crock-Pot:


SPOILER ALERT. We’re still trying to mend our heart after watching

This Is Us

on Tuesday night. America’s favorite dad and husband deserved a better
exit and Crock-Pot shares in your devastation. Don’t further add to
this tragedy by throwing your Crock-Pot Slow Cooker away. It’s hard to
pass something down from generation to generation if you throw it away
(grandma won’t be too happy). Spending time with his family while
enjoying comfort food from his Crock-Pot was one of his favorite things
to do. Let’s all do our part and honor his legacy in the kitchen with

[RELATED: Prepare, protect and promote your organization and brand in a climate of crisis.]

2. A key display of empathy

The person in charge of responding to the masses both knows what he or she
is doing and watches the show.

It’s what created the empathy used in these responses:




Sympathy is great in a crisis; empathy is better.

In the Crock-Pot crisis, empathy is winning.

3. A follow-up with facts

In the above responses, you can see Crock-Pot empathize and then follow-up with
the facts:

Since the ’70s we’ve been providing families with quality & safe

We’re committed to safety & you can continue to use our products
with confidence.

It also distributed a news release—combining both traditional and digital methods to make sure everyone knows
the facts.

For nearly 50 years, with over 100 million Crock-Pots sold, we have
never received any consumer complaints similar to the fictional events
portrayed in last night’s episode. In fact, the safety and design of
our product renders this type of event nearly impossible.

In addition, and most relevant to the concerns consumers are having
after watching the recent

This Is Us

episode, our Crock-Pot slow cookers are low current, low wattage
(typically no more than 200 or 300 watts) appliances with
self-regulating, heating elements.

4. A plan that preempts your vulnerabilities

Though Crock-Pot did nothing wrong, it’s a great case study on what can
happen when you’re caught in the middle of something you didn’t know was
coming. The Crock-Pot crisis was no fault of its own—it’s not like its executives were caught with high-school girls or were falsifying
accounting reports. A fictional character on one of the best shows on
television died, and the company took the brunt of the blame. It just goes to show
that you must have a plan.

This might provide you with a great reason to speak with your leadership
team or your clients about having a crisis planning meeting.

You must imagine the worst-case scenarios (and now you can add this as one
of your examples) and devise a plan for how you’ll respond. Are you already
on social media and monitoring the conversations daily, or, like Crock-Pot,
will you have to play catch-up when something unexpected happens?

Don’t play catch-up. Have a plan.

5. A perfect time for advocates

During the Crock-Pot crisis, brand managers were not shy in talking with
celebrities and asking for help from “This Is Us.” Some of their biggest
advocates have been Stephen Colbert,
Milo Ventimiglia
himself, and Dan Fogleman, the show’s creator. They used Twitter to reach
those people very quickly, and the results speak for themselves: mentions
on “The Late Show” and a Super Bowl Sunday Crock-Pot promo, free of charge.

It was all PR—and it was priceless.

Gini Dietrich
is the founder and CEO of
Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of

Spin Sucks
. A version of this article originally appeared on
the Spin Sucks blog.

(Image via)

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