Every public relations manager dreams of a viral social media campaign. Viral marketing can bring a brand to greater heights than any traditional PR or advertising effort. A successful viral social media post, whether by luck or engineering, is a goal of many. However, just as the Internet giveth, it can taketh away.  Just as your strategies for positive public relations have the potential to go viral, so does negative feedback you receive online. And negative feedback that goes viral can impact your brand – as Cracker Barrel recently learned after terminating Brad’s wife, Nanette, after 11 years of employment.  A simple post on the corporate Facebook page of Cracker Barrel resulted in a flood of comments, memes and mockery of the company demanding justice for Brad’s wife.

Ignoring Social Media Never Works

The original post dates back to February 27, but over the course of the past month the trend has grown resulting in negative reviews for the company online. News media is covering the trend, and businesses are even offering to hire Brad’s wife.


Maybe Cracker Barrel has a policy to “no comment,” or perhaps they did not take the Internet seriously. Regardless, they have a public relations issue on their hands that they need to address. Here are some things that Brad’s wife can teach you about viral social media and public relations:

Be In-the-Know

You should be the first to know when there is negative feedback about your brand, product or service. The last thing you want is to receive a call from the media before you are prepared to respond. Setup Google alerts and monitor social media to help track mentions of your company.

Compile the information you need to adequately respond to a complaint or to the media. You want to avoid “no comment.” Failing to comment allows others (in this case, the entire Internet) write the narrative of the story for you.

Take Complaints Seriously

You should take every complaint seriously and respond. Brad’s wife lost her job. Brad is angry. You cannot discuss personnel matters online, but you can offer a personal contact number to discuss the matter with the individual. For example: “Brad, thank you for contacting us. We are unable to respond to your matter over social media. However, please send us a private message so that we can connect with your wife to discuss this matter.” This at least offers the company the opportunity to resolve the matter privately, while to the public it appears there is a resolution underway.

It does not matter if you are in the right or in the wrong, show concern for every individual who reaches out to you.

Have a Plan

Before you face a crisis communications nightmare like a viral social media complaint, take stock in your resources and your process. Do you have a social media manager? Do you have customer service? Is your team trained in service recovery? Do you have a public relations consultant available in the event of a communications crisis? These are questions you should have answered and roles you need in place before you experience a negative review.

Never underestimate the importance of service recovery. Resolving an issue with a customer can bring them back, and saves you from the potential negative feedback they would otherwise share with the people they know. 


No one has all of the answers – even the experts. You cannot always prevent a public relations fiasco, but don’t make it worse.

Following any negative PR incident, stay positive, and work to recover and rebuild your brand. 

Do you have advice for Cracker Barrel regarding #BradsWife? Share them with me in the comments below or @nerdsquawk.


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