This morning, I read a story that inspired me. An autoshop in Roanoke, VA completely made over Radford university student Jordan Addison’s car after it had been vandalized four times in three months as a result of anti-gay bullying. The damage included slashed tires, keyed anti-gay slurs and the word “die”.
Richard Henegar, Jr., the manager at Quality Auto Paint and Body, decided to pool his resources and connections with 10 other local businesses, to do $10,000 and 100 hours work free of charge. He stated, ”Once I saw the vandalism that was done to it I said, ‘that’s uncalled for we’re gonna fix your car–that’s the least we can do.’” Here’s Jordan’s face after he saw his new car.
I can’t embed the video reaction directly, but it’s definitely worth the two minutes to watch. Check it out here.
Stories like these are inspiring and give great publicity to businesses that deserve them. Here’s my analysis of the PR aftermath for all parties involved:
Richard Henegar, Jr. and the other workers at this autoshop are (deservedly) getting a lot of attention for their good deeds. Popular news networks such as CBS, New York Daily News and even widely read gossip columnist PerezHilton.com are all reporting on the story. Fantastic news! How’s this small business handling the attention?
Very well. Their Facebook page, up to 803 likes, is blowing up with comments and responses. They released a plan to add a “Bully Car Project” section to their website, repeatedly thank commenters and well-wishers, share other positive small business stories, and most importantly, list all the other businesses and donors who made this project possible.
How could they be doing better? The company is also getting lots of positive buzz on Twitter, but they don’t have an account. It might be worth it to get one just to thank all the well-wishers! There are going to be a lot of people wanting to support the business and wondering how–Twitter is a great avenue to communicate that quickly. Finally, this isn’t the first good deed Quality Auto Paint and Body has done or the first time someone has written about them. They also re-modelled a deployed Navy soldier’s car while he was away on duty in a campaign called Operation Pay it Forward that was featured in The Roanoke Times. This shop needs a press page! If this many people are writing positive news stories on you, you should make it as easy as possible to find them.
Ok, I’m pretty torn on this one, so bear with me.
First, the obvious. Three of the times Jordan Addison’s car got demolished were on Radford University campus. Of course, I can understand how a random act of hate and property destruction can come out of left field on any college campus. Yet, after the first incident, somehow campus security let it happen again. Twice. Yikes.
If I were a student’s parent, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable sending my incoming freshman baby onto a campus where security is so lax and bullying is blatantly ignored by the administration. However, this story broke exactly at the time where most are going back to or starting school. What’s Radford’s reaction to the potential negative press?
A combination of avoidance and reactions to individuals. Radford’s Facebook page is full of back to school news, happy students and fun activities for new students. However, check out what happens when someone alludes to the story:
Honestly, this isn’t so bad. Would I like to see a statement from Radford University with an apology to Jordan, an active plan to improve security, gay-straight relations and crack down on bullying? Absolutely! However, I understand why they wouldn’t.
Right now, the story is mainly reported as a local business doing good, not a college doing bad. Why would they want to draw more attention to their failure right before a big “first impression”? They are avoiding making a blanket statement, press release or reporting the news on press page, but at least they are acknowledging the issue and responding to dissenters individually. It’s not the ideal crisis management technique, but it’s better than the gag order of silence that Penn State used on their social media during a very critical time. Even on their Twitter page, the majority of tweets are about move-in day today. Since this is an important day to 100% of their customers, they probably should be.
In terms of administration, this story is an enormous fail for Radford University that I hope they learn from and take action to correct. In terms of PR, while it’s not what I would like to see happen, they’re doing alright.
However, at the very least they do owe an apology to a student that they failed to keep safe. Once moving day dies down, the university should publicly apologize to Jordan Addison for so poorly protecting his property and, ideally, introduce a plan to do better. Radford Gay-Straight Alliance, it’s time to put on the pressure and hold your administration accountable!
Jordan Addison, College Student
As a recently graduated student, I know how tight money can get sometimes. Incurring such an enormous cost from simply parking your car at your home or school is something no person should ever expect to deal with it, especially on multiple occasions. Hope you enjoy your newly repaired wheels!
Thank y’all for reading! As a Tennessean, it makes me happy to report on local Southern businesses doing good. Hope you guys enjoyed. Lindsey Kirchoff