Here’s something the Chinese can teach us about public relations: A child abduction should never be viewed as a marketing opportunity.
has the story of a Chinese Buick dealership that, in the wake of a child abduction in Jilin Province last week, posted a picture of the child on its Webo page—Weibo is essentially China’s version of Facebook or Twitter—with this message:
“A few thoughts following the Changchun stolen car incident: When buying a car it's completely okay to choose higher technology. Tianhe Buicks carry the OnStar GPS system, allowing the lockdown of a stolen vehicle at any time and place. An easy heart, a piece of mind, likewise why not buy a completely safe Buick!!!!! Sales Hotline: 024-86547880 86547881 QQ:521279389 2523275273 www.inthbuick.com.
After the dealership posted this, it was revealed that the child, who was taken from a Toyota RAV4, had been murdered. Users on the site were outraged at the dealership’s insensitivity, to say the least. On Wednesday, the dealership, Liaoning Tianhe Buick, apologized for the emotional damage it brought to the victim’s family.
The Buick dealership isn’t the only culprit here. A Hyundai dealer also apologized for a similar post. Form Bloomberg
“(The post) … made references to a missing child and vehicle as it promoted the safety features of the new imported Santa Fe SUV, causing a backlash from dozens of micro-bloggers on Weibo criticizing Hyundai. The posting was made by a non-Hyundai employee expressing a personal opinion and the company deleted it as soon as it was detected, Hyundai said.”
Ultimately, this incident falls under “newsjacking,” a practice in which marketers or PR pros leverage a breaking news event to sell an item or pitch a story. This practice has gotten brands such as Gap
and Kenneth Cole
into trouble when they “newsjacked” Hurricane Sandy and the Egyptian revolution, respectively.