To launch season 5 of Downton Abbey, a series of publicity photos was released in August 2014. Eagle-eyed fans spotted a plastic water bottle Lord Grantham and Lady Edith posing in full costume in front of a marble fireplace. The photo quickly spread like wildfire all over the internet.
How did Downton Abbey handle this PR blooper? With style!
The cast teamed up with the UK chapter of WaterAid, an international non-profit organization that tries to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation. They posed for a funny photo sporting the same kind of water bottle, showing that they care about drinking clean water instead of sipping cocktails.
An ITV spokesperson stated:
"After seeing the reaction the picture caused earlier this week, the cast and crew came up with the idea of turning some of this attention towards an issue around water that really matters. They hope that by posing for this picture they will be able to raise awareness and amplify the work of international charity - WaterAid."
This handling of the water bottle-gate is brilliant. It has all the elements of excellent crisis management:
- Respond quickly
- Do not make any (lame) excuses
- Come up with a way to turn it into an opportunity
- Link it to charity
- Use humor (if appropriate)