The Scoop: Bumble takes a stumble with anti-celibacy billboard

Plus: A look at TikTok’s “Celebrity Block Party”, AI is changing how Google search works.

Whether or not you’ve used one, dating apps are inextricably a part of our society. One of the biggest players in the dating app space, Bumble, caught criticism for a billboard that touted a “new Bumble” alongside a message that read, “You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer.”

Social media users castigated Bumble for insinuating that people couldn’t make celibacy a personal choice. Others also read the message as supporting patriarchal notions that insinuate women can’t make their own sexual choices.

Bumble was quick to apologize. In a statement posted to Instagram, Bumble said, “We made a mistake. Our ads referencing celibacy were an attempt to lean into a community frustrated by modern dating and instead of bringing joy and humor, we unintentionally did the opposite.”

Bumble also committed to pulling the ads in question, donating to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and other organizations that support women, and offering these organizations advertising space with Bumble.

Why it matters: When a major player in a given space steps in it, it’s usually going to be notable. Bumble undoubtedly overplayed its hand in an attempt to be funny and the joke didn’t land. But in the world of business and PR, optics matter, and the next steps a company takes after a major blunder to make things right matter nearly as much as the mistake itself.

In Bumble’s case, seeing it put its money where its mouth is and offering a platform for charities and organizations that support women marks a step in the right direction toward fixing this blunder. Mistakes happen a lot in the PR world — that’s why crisis PR exists. But it’s all about knowing how to make things right and take concrete steps toward rectifying a bad situation. You should always think deeply about the ramifications of any message you’re putting out there, and be ready to react to any potential pushback. Have the PR infrastructure in place to both vet the messages you’re putting out in the world and the right people to react if something goes sideways. 

Editor’s Top Reads:

  • The biggest block party around isn’t happening down the street — it’s on TikTok. According to a report from the Indy Star, a recent trend on the platform has seen videos encouraging other users to block celebrity and influencer accounts over their failure to use their platforms to speak up about the conflict in the Middle East. In particular, the movement spurred on by the perceived tone-deaf nature of the star-studded Met Gala earlier this month. The strategy is to hurt advertising revenue for these major accounts by decreasing engagement. While this movement seems nascent, it’s worth considering the potential ramifications. If you’re a PR pro or behind a brand, really consider what you’re putting out there. Could it be perceived as in poor taste, or could people think that you’re ignoring larger issues? This is all part of having a holistic PR plan, and in a world where technology is bringing closer together, it’s something you need in place.
  • Google search is so ubiquitous that the phrase “Google it” is just a part of the English lexicon now. The way that looks might change thanks to AI. According to The Verge, the tech giant is unveiling “AI Overviews”, which will give users an AI-generated summary of their search results. “What we see with generative AI is that Google can do more of the searching for you,” says Liz Reid, Google’s newly installed head of Search, who has been working on all parts of AI search for the last few years. “It can take a bunch of the hard work out of searching, so you can focus on the parts you want to do to get things done, or on the parts of exploring that you find exciting.” Such a major change is big news because of the impacts it could have on company positioning and content marketing via SEO. Additionally, companies might need to rethink how they’re presenting themselves to the world in a new AI landscape. Stay tuned for more coverage from PR Daily.
  • Boeing is in the news again, which shouldn’t come as a huge surprise at this point. According to CNN, Boeing broke a safety agreement that prevented criminal charges after several accidents with its 737 model planes. “We believe that we have honored the terms of that agreement, and look forward to the opportunity to respond to the Department on this issue,” the company said in a statement. “As we do so, we will engage with the Department with the utmost transparency, as we have throughout the entire term of the agreement.” The Boeing situation has been a prime example of crisis PR over the last few months, as between doors falling off planes and whistleblowers spilling details of safety hazards in the manufacturing process, the aerospace giant has been on its heels lately. But when a crisis arises, it’s important to show your best public face. Boeing did that not long ago when it applauded a recent whistleblower for bringing more safety issues to attention. When the going gets tough, be flexible and willing to listen to your people before speaking out.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports and hosting trivia.


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