Great pride comes with this particular post as it proves how valuable both public opinion AND public relations can be when crisis reaches corporate walls.
Etsy.com, a recognized visionary superstore for artisans and their customers, was recently taken to task for allowing the sale of some distasteful (albeit completely inappropriate) greeting cards. The offending seller's merchandise not only mocked individuals with intellectual disabilities, but also condoned (and seemingly celebrated) rape, violence against women, and much more.
As word of this reached the eyes and ears of major support organizations, families and consumers in general, Etsy.com began to take some heat and major criticism for allowing this type of seller to use the site as a vehicle for merchandising his wares. Although several lawyers reached out to Etsy.com in an effort to have the seller removed, they were all initially rebuffed by Etsy.com which suggested that they were providing 'free speech' to their vendors.
This is a point that is very much appreciated--especially since staffers of Image Professors also moonlight as reporters and bloggers. However, what Etsy.com wasn't realizing was that courtesy of social media (a very important vehicle these days), the company would soon receive more than a barrage of emails and calls requesting, in fact, demanding that Etsy.com pull the seller immediately.
The pressure was on and as sales started to drop and views diminish, those responsible for the site immediately decided to review their legal policies. During this process, it was decided to modify them insure compliance and safety for ALL of its sellers and artisans--and in doing so--was forced to remove the offending seller from their website.
Important to note from a public relations standpoint:
(1) Etsy.com responded to all incoming feedback. They did not hide behind invisible Internet walls. They instead, responded to constituents immediately. Very good idea!
(2) As it became evident that their policies may not be in full compliance given constituent feedback, the company took a very important step. They reviewed their policies and in seeing discrepancies, remedied those discrepancies--again, immediately. Well done Etsy.com!
(3) Upon modifying those policies, they communicated those changes and reasons for those changes with their sellers/artisans--as well as the general public. An excellent public relations maneuver.
(4) They leveraged the Internet and social media forums to aggregate feedback/data and to also update external audiences at rapid fire pace. They didn't dilly-dally around, wait too long, or ignore the situation. They instead, organized their thoughts based upon feedback and took necessary steps to 'calm' their constituents while positively managing their brand.
All in all, an excellent case study for businesses in crisis.