Digital Crisis Management A couple of weeks ago, Airbnb – the service that allows its users to list their houses or apartments for rent online for those looking for a place to stay – finally lifted the curtain on their huge rebranding effort, including unveiling their new logo, the Bélo, to the public. According to Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, the logo was designed to be completely customizable – simple enough that anyone can draw it, but equally as basic that it’s not likely to be drawn the same way twice (representative of the diverse and unique community of hosts). “It’s a symbol anyone can create, whether drawn on a mirror or etched in the sand. Every single person can have their own impression of the brand,” Chesky shared on its release, with the company building the Create Airbnb website so that users could do just that: fully customise the Bélo in a way that represents the users and their unique stories – “about your home, your guests and your adventures.” While some people responded well to the unveiling, many people across the Internet decided took it upon themselves to redesign or adapt the logo, and soon there were heaps of innocent doodles and some very risqué parodies being shared across the web. A song about it even surfaced on YouTube. The response to the new logo snowballed in a not-so positive way. It’s not the kind of reaction that you’d hope for when unveiling months of work on a rebrand. A PR Nightmare? Whereas Airbnb could have easily gone into defence mode, they instead chose to embrace the parodies. Creating an infographic that celebrates the parodies with the message that “together we’re creating a world where every traveler, host, and avocado can #BelongAnywhere“, they embraced the criticism and turned it to their advantage: What Can We Learn From Airbnb? A few things. The first thing to do when something you’ve released out to the world doesn’t have the response you expected is to evaluate the situation. What’s at risk from what’s gone wrong? In the case of Airbnb, it didn’t seem like they’d lose out on people using the site – it was more that they’d potentially been left very red-faced. While it’s likely there was a moment of panic at the response, and certainly a less well-handled response in the first instance, careful evaluation led them to realise that the only way to turn it around is to realise that chances are that people are always going to associate their logo with a variety of other things. Their solution – to continue to promote the Create Airbnb site and keep encouraging people to craft their own Bélo – showed that, after evaluation, they realised they could turn the situation to their benefit. They’ve acknowledged the humour and continued on course. While we’d argue in most cases that the next step would be to apologise in the fact of a PR disaster, Airbnb didn’t exactly have anything to apologise for. Ignoring the problem wasn’t going to make it go away, though, so their next move, then, was to get creative. Their infographic was delivered with the message: “We wanted you to play with it, make it your own—which is why we made Create Airbnb—and you’ve certainly delivered. You’ve made us laugh, scratch our heads, gasp in amazement, blush, and sometimes do all at once.” It’s a great way to deal with the situation with humour and aplomb about their new branding. It’s shown their personality and given them the ability to move forward with their campaign. And that’s one more thing we can learn about the new age of PR disasters: in the world of digital and social media, scandals blow up and then they blow over. If you can weather the storm with some sincerity, accountability and appropriate communication, chances are you’ll make it out the other side.