Interesting article I found in Techland that discussed two of my passions: video games and PR. But in a bad way, lol.
Apparently, THQ decided to promote Homefront by releasing thousands of balloons into the air (how could this possibly go wrong?). The balloons (of course) promptly landed in San Francisco Bay. Video after the jump.
Gamestop was then accused of littering because the balloons contained a Gamestop offer, so THQ had to admit that it was they who did the dirty deed, not Gamestop.
Now as a PR student, one of the biggest things drilled into my head is being proactive. There were a few things they could have done to prevent this embarrassing faux pas.
1. Plan ahead
What could possibly go wrong? Plan all of the possible disasters, even the most unlikely. Then plan the company’s response or what could be done to mitigate the possibility of disaster. A few tactics they could have implemented:
- If they really did want to go ahead with the balloon release, they should have alerted media about the biodegradable properties of the balloons. THQ could have sent a press release with a date/time to control the release of the information. This could have staved off some of the public outrage.
- Is there an alternative but equally fun way to represent this idea? Don’t stifle creativity, but maybe having the balloons on very long strings or having a net up to catch them could have been just the little trick to prevent this. Or maybe something else could represent this same idea, like lighting a candle or shining spotlights into the air.
- Ask local environmental groups for their opinion. If a company plans something that may impact more than just the place where they hold the event, they need to plan to communicate with any groups that may be affected.
Gamestop said that they were not informed about this stunt. All parties that may somehow be involved should be alerted about any PR promotions, campaigns, and stunts. In my personal opinion, Gamestop should have actually been asked if the stunt was okay, as they may have expressed concern over the delivery of the coupons if asked.
A few examples of people who should have had the information about the balloon release:
- Heads of THQ
- Heads of Gamestop
- Local neighborhood organizations
3. Identify your brand or company clearly
People should not have had to blame Gamestop for this. It should have been made clear somehow that THQ promoted this event. Gamestop may never want to work with THQ again due to this treatment. Other companies may worry and give THQ less freedom in any cross-promotion they want to do. Depending on whether or not this story becomes a big deal (right now, it appears to be a more local concern), THQ may lose a lot of business, because other companies will want to be distanced from this fiasco.
4. Do the right thing
Just about the only thing THQ did right was confess and clean up. Taking responsibility for their actions was a good move and cleaning up the bay instead of just saying “Oh, they are biodegradable…they’ll go away eventually” was helpful.
THQ could save face by promoting a day where the company helps clean the bay up and promotes the environmental cause of the Bay area. This negative could be turned into a “positive lesson” for the company. They can use a social media campaign to spread the word about their efforts and turn this all around.