Mixed Signals is an occasional column in which Erin Straza muses about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

Momentum. It’s what gets wheels turning and rocks rolling and online mobs . . . um . . . flashing.

The flash mob phenomenon occurs when many people gather up the strength of their cyberspace voices and unleash it in a particular direction. Typically, it’s toward a person or organization or idea that has gained attention for unpopular views or improper behavior or something of the sort.

Take the recent mob action taken against Amy’s Bakery Company (ABC), located in Scottsdale, Ariz. According to a Huffington Post article, ABC and its owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo were featured on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, hosted by the often-vitriolic but typically entertaining chef Gordon Ramsay. The Bouzaglos behaved so poorly, Ramsay walked off the shoot and refused to finish the episode.

As the news spread, each party played their part. It looks like the Bouzaglos were trying to save face via Internet (Facebook, Twitter, and company Web site). A previous employee was trying to capitalize on the press to share her horror stories. And disgruntled patrons were getting the flash mob rolling via negative Yelp reviews and Reddit fodder.

Pressure built until melt-down level messages appeared via ABC’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Using all caps, spicy language, and claims to be on God’s side, the posts merely fueled the mob and brought greater attention to the debacle. The Bouzaglos attribute the messages to a hacker, and claim the FBI is investigating on their behalf.

Graphic from Social Media Today.

Whatever the resolution, this is no PR success story.

Some might consider PR merely a strategy for putting forth a fake front to the world. The way I see it, a proper PR mentality will give you something to hang onto when the unexpected hits. Organizations that are committed to serving people with whatever it is they do best will use their PR strategy as a filter through which they run their first reactions. I don’t know about you, but there are plenty of times my first reactions are in need of some filtering. With the Gospel as my “PR filter,” if you will, some of my not-so-lovely first reactions to the daily stressors and disappointments in life have been filtered out before they reach the public. Sometimes emotions cause me to forget who I want to be, who I intend to be; remembering Jesus and running my responses through the filter of the Gospel helps.

This ABC fiasco reminds me how quickly situations can disintegrate when I’m not running my life through the proper filter.

1 Comment

  1. I am struggling with this piece. You’ve taken a sensationalized incident, which you have not fully researched, to say the Gospel is your PR filter. Sometimes you fail to put things through your PR filter, as do I (often). Is your point that if they had a PR filter, this would not have happened? If you are, you need to watch that episode of Kitchen Nightmares (available in two parts on youtube). I did. I watched the meltdown on their webpage and Yelp as well. These self-proclaimed Christians are two of the worst ambassadors for our Faith I’ve seen (televised). They don’t need a PR filter (they did hire a PR firm after the meltdown; their relationship was over in less than a week), they need large doses of Thorazine, a couple of straightjackets, and to repent!

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