Predicting a PR Crisis: Shark Week Case Study, Part 5

Welcome to the conclusion of our five-part Shark Week crisis communications case study! Before checking out the fin (get it? ‘Fin’ has a double meaning because, well, never mind…) read part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4. Enjoy!

At long last, the day has come: Shark Week 2017 is finally over. Can G.W. catch his breath? Did his vegan donut shop go under? Let’s quickly recap how this PR crisis unfolded, the council we provided, and how we’d recommend moving forward.

The Crisis

G.W., a vegan donut shop owner who is also a shark, was blindsided by Shark Week and its portrayal of sharks. Concerned his business would suffer as a result, he enlisted the team at SHIFT to handle his PR crisis.

The Council

G.W.’s team counseled G.W. on the three ways to handle a PR crisis:


The crisis communications equivalent of denying fuel for the fire. By providing correct knowledge and information, you take away the rumor mill and word of mouth. Very often in a crisis, people fill in gaps of knowledge with their own suspicions. Take away that speculation with facts, and there’s less for their minds to imagine.


The crisis communications equivalent of denying oxygen for the fire. The faster you react and respond, the quicker you deny a crisis the chance to ramp up and get out of control. Speed is critical in most crises and what could be an explosive backdraft if allowed to build up can instead be controlled to a slow, manageable burn by being ahead of the news cycle and turning a juicy story into “old news”.


The crisis communications equivalent of denying heat for the fire. Taking responsibility or ownership of a situation, being out in front of the crowds, and being forthcoming about either what you did or what you’re going to do to prevent the problem from happening again. This pre-empts the blame cycle where others can pile on to assign blame – by being in front of it and owning it, the most they can do is agree with you.

By providing correct knowledge and information quickly and taking ownership of the conversation, G.W. was able to mitigate his PR crisis and his vegan donut shop did not suffer any consequences. In fact, after G.W. invited the community to his shop for a meet-and-great, donut sales spiked!

Next Steps

While G.W. weathered this PR crisis with little incident, it’s always better to anticipate potential issues that may damage your brand and business. One way to do this is by leveraging predictive analytics, which uses various techniques to blend and analyze data to make predictions about the future.

When analyzing predictive data on any metrics, there are two important things our data set needs:

  • At least one full year’s worth of data
  • At least every day in the series has an integer of one – zero’s or missing data cannot be applied

For G.W.’s sake, we analyzed Google Trends data associated with “shark attacks” and “Shark Week.” This will allow us to better prepare him for when there will be spikes in searches, signaling another potential PR crisis.

“Shark Week”

Since this is an event based search – it’s expected to have a high volume once a year. We wouldn’t request using this for predictive purposes since it’s an outlier during the year. Something that is only promoted for a one to two-week period during the year will skew the data, where as something topic based such as ‘shark attack,” will provide more accurate results.

Predictive Analytics for search queries related to “Shark Week” with a year’s worth of data and projecting a year forward. Perfect example of why outlier or one-time events aren’t useful for predictive analysis. Data Source: Google Trends

“Shark Attack”

Predictive Analytics for search queries related to “shark attack” with a year’s worth of data and projecting a year forward. Data Source: Google Trends

The time period between April 2nd and 14th, along with July 9th to the 23rd (which is the last day in the data set) both represent spikes in search volume and are projected to double next year.   Given winter months show an all-time low in terms of search volume, we can conclude crisis communications during this time period isn’t necessary. However, we would recommend G.W. conduct another meet-and-great community event at his donut shop before April and then ramp up other key initiatives in July to get ahead of Shark Week 2018 and proactively avoid a PR crisis Groundhog Day.

Have a PR crisis on your hands? Want to get ahead of a potential issue that could damage your brand and business? Let us know! We work with all types of clients. Yes, even vegan sharks.

Emily Mong, Senior Marketing Analyst
Lisa Zanchi, Marketing Analyst


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