This Is Crisis Management

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How Crock-Pot® killed Jack Pearson and lived to tell about it

Warning: spoiler alert! If you’re a This Is Us (TIU) fan, stop reading if you haven’t watched the most recent episode. You know, the one where the emotionally manipulative, flashback-wielding family drama finally revealed a major clue in what has been a series-long tease: how did fictional patriarch Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) die?

If you don’t watch the show, all you really need to know is that Jack Pearson – with his impossibly crooked grin and unfaltering ability to speak what’s in his heart – has usurped nearly every TV husband and dad ever as America’s bestest (Sorry, Danny Tanner.) That, and that he apparently dies as the result of a house fire started by a slow cooker with a faulty switch.

So how exactly is a sappy TV death a PR crisis?

Enter the droves of devastated fans admonishing the nearly half-century-old Crock-Pot® brand and threatening to throw away their slow cookers in protest. Never mind that TIU never actually showed the appliance’s brand name, that the slow cooker in question was 20-odd years old, or that Jack Pearson is, you know, fictional. Someone had to pay, and the internet decided it was Crock-Pot. It got so bad that TIU creator Dan Fogelman weighed in:

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The brand suffered offline, too, with its stock prices dropping by as much as 24 percent since the fateful episode aired. But fear not, Crock-Pot (ironically known for its slow cooking) whipped up a lightning-fast crisis management plan.

Crock-Pot joined Twitter for the occasion

Yep, you read that correctly. The brand was not currently a part of the Twitter-verse but began tweeting under the handle @CrockPotCares the very next day. OK, A. That’s a fast-moving PR team. B. That handle is delightfully tongue in cheek. And C. The entire feed is on point. The brand is responding to angsty Crock-Pot haters left and right, and each reply is full of endearing “we’re all in this together” heartache, a playful array of emojis, and fun hashtags like #TrusttheCrock and #CrockPotIsInnocent. Not to mention brief safety tidbits and invitations to DM for more info.

Crock-Pot is spreading love, not hate, on Facebook

Two days after the notorious TIU episode, Crock-Pot posted the following to its Facebook page as a faux tribute to the late, great Jack Pearson:

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The broken heart emoji, the stoic insistence that Jack Pearson deserved better, the act of evoking grandmas everywhere, the use of the fictional character’s favorite football team on the Crock-Pot product – it’s hard to imagine a better played response. The tone is pitch perfect. And it only gets better when you pour through the thousands of comments and see that the brand has responded to every single one – and often with a personal touch.

The brand isn’t afraid to drop some knowledge

In addition to the cheeky social media conversations, Crock-Pot made an official statement to TVLine. It begins with the now recognizable Crock-Pot empathy – “We too are heartbroken by the latest development in Jack’s storyline” – but quickly shifts to a straightforward breakdown of the product’s safety protocol. Specific stuff like electrical current types and wattages and very official sounding safety test names. Why bother? Because the brand realized that some of these hoards of Crock-Pot dissing TIU fans may actually be afraid.

Don’t watch This Is Us?

Well, that’s a crisis of another kind… namely, that your cold dead heart will never be awakened by the resilient love of this resplendent TV family. However, you can still learn from Crock-Pot’s savvy communications. The key takeaways here are:

  • Respond to everyone – yes, everyone
  • Validate the feelings behind the complaint
  • Speak like a person not a corporation  
  • Provide a few solid facts, but not enough to seem defensive
  • Invite further conversation offline    

Does your brand have reputation issues simmering? Need help developing a strategy? Give us a shout... just not on Super Bowl Sunday after the big game. We'll be eating Crock-Pot chili and watching Jack Pearson go down, presumably, a hero.

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