By: Sebastian Faura
If there is one thing that is important as a public relations professional, it’s keeping true to the alleged promises your company makes in terms of incentives, announced commitments or otherwise binding elements that mean the company has some sort of obligation. Sometimes, though, that’s not followed as closely as it should be.
The first one that comes to mind is honestly a silly case, but nonetheless proof of the idea “Don’t say what you don’t mean”. Pepsi was trying to gain traction for its points program, where any Pepsi product you buy you could register online and gain points for it. So to add a little bit of hyperbole into the mix, they put a CGI harrier jet on the TV ad for it, listed at 7 million points. John Leonard took this claim seriously, and ended up actually gathering 7 million points. Despite this, however, Pepsi did not, in fact, dole out a military aircraft, much to the chagrin of Leonard, who attempted to sue.
Didn’t think someone’d go for it, did you, Pepsi?
The second case, while incredulously elaborate, is nonetheless a true instance. Back in 2002, a waitress at a Hooters in Panama City, FL beat out all the other servers to sell the most beer in a month, under the impression that the restaurant will award the winner with a Toyota. Unfortunately, the miscommunication (intentionally so, for the sake of April Fool’s) merely awarded the woman with a “toy Yoda”, as in the Star Wars character. The woman, not amused, sued the restaurant and the company, quitting the job, and settling the suit in favor of her.
Jodee Berry, former Hooters waitress and roundabout winner
So, what’s the lesson to learn here? Simple: People will take anything a company says seriously, unless otherwise indicated differently, or given the context of a joke or otherwise facetious remark. Tone is key in communication, and when that’s lost, you lose face.