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Crisis communications April 2023: Kid Rock, Bud Light and Dylan Mulvaney; discrimination at The Ritz and Etihad's non sustainable comms

Bud Light, Dylan Mulvaney and a media hyped ‘crisis’

Kid Rock, American singer, Trump supporter and gun enthusiast recorded a video of himself shooting a case of Bud Light with a assault rifle this week, saying “F*&k Bud Light and F*&k Anheuser-Busch.” He took offence at Bud Light’s partnership with influencer and trans activist, Dylan Mulvaney, after Anheuser-Busch (which owns Bud Light) sent Mulvaney beer cans featuring her image to celebrate the one-year anniversary of her gender affirmation.

Kid Rock (real name Robert James Ritchie) is adding transphobia to a long list of his views. He used to display the confederate flag in concerts, and he’s been repeatedly heard making sexist, homophobic and racist remarks (and defending his right to do so).

He’s not the only person who’s taken exception to Bud’s move. The media has jumped on reports of distributors and bar owners claiming sales are down in the US’ rural Mid-West and Southern states, hyping the story.

These reports are entirely anecdotal, and not backed by any hard sales figures, although Bud Light sales have been declining over the past, year. Maybe a change in direction from the traditional sales heartland is a good thing.

Media seems to be traditionally divided over the issue: Fox News, The Daily Mail and the Telegraph are up in arms, reporting ‘anger’ from conservative customers; The Independent and LGBTQ+ titles report the backlash against Kid Rock’s response.

Sadly, these backlash events are becoming more common in a media and social media world that’s ever more polarised. We’re often asked how brands should handle it, and I quote a client who said to me: “Perhaps we’re getting to the point where we have to decide which customers we want, and which we don’t.” Sometimes it helps to look around at the company you keep. Then look to the future and ask yourself: which side of history to you want to land on?

Discrimination at The Ritz

Jerelle Jules, who applied for a job at The Ritz hotel as a dining reservations supervisor (and got through to the final interview stage), has spoken to the media about his experience of being told his natural hair did not meet the hotel’s employee grooming policy. The policy said “unusual hairstyles” such as “spiky hair, afro style” were not allowed.

The Ritz has apologised, saying it was an old policy – but the date on it said it was updated in 2021. The hotel issued a fairly meaningless statement to media, saying “The Ritz London does not condone discrimination of any form and we are genuinely committed to fostering an inclusive and non-discriminatory environment for all of our colleagues and guests.”

What it notably doesn’t say, is: 1. sorry; 2. how this happened in the first place; and 3. what action it’s taking to make sure it never happens again. Corporate statements in a crisis are worth nothing if they don’t address the problem.

Etihad can’t claim it’s a ‘sustainable aviation’ option, says ASA

Etihad Airways’ claim of ‘sustainable aviation’ has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority. I’m always amazed at airlines claiming environmental credentials, as though cutting back on single-use plastic cutlery is enough to offset the emissions from a flight between London and Abu Dhabi.

It should be a given that airlines are investing in sustainable fuel trials and doing everything they can to reduce the environmental impact of flying. Etihad is doing some great research into sustainable aviation fuel, but until this is a reality, claims of sustainable aviation are nothing but greenwashing. Beware of false claims – they’ll come back to bite you.

Article wriiten by Kate Hartley is co-founder of crisis simulation company Polpeo, and author of ‘Communicate in a Crisis’ 

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