What is a public relations professional’s job? Public relations is all about perception. If you are a PR professional, you can’t control what happens. When events occur, you know that your job is to present the truth in the most positive light. Unfortunately, you often find yourself dealing with problems caused by the people you’re trying to help. Sometimes, even when smart people get in front of a camera or post on a Twitter account, they do some pretty stupid things. Dealing with embarrassing incidents seems to be the core job function of a typical PR professional; if you couldn’t handle it, you would have a different job. Here are five of the biggest PR problems to avoid, if you can:
Viral Video Gone Wild
When one of your clients is caught on video doing or saying something stupid, you know that you’re going to be doing some serious work to mitigate the damage. Just ask Donald Sterling how much damage an unfortunate comment caught on tape can cause. When this happens to you, you have to take the initiative and release a public statement immediately.
Advertising Campaign Backfire
Sometimes, you spend a lot of time and money developing advertising only to find an embarrassing mistake after the campaign has gone live. The worst versions of this nightmare involve the appearance of sexism or racism. Make sure that all advertising campaigns are vetted by a variety of people to avoid this nightmare.
From the stuck accelerator pedals that plagued Toyota a few years ago to the all-electric Tesla automobile with the bad habit of setting its batteries on fire, faulty products are among the biggest PR problems to avoid. When a product goes bad, inform the public that all reasonable steps are being taken to ensure their safety.
Social Media Goof-Up
Social media is a great way for an organization to communicate with a large group of people very quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, many employees use social media at work. When a summer intern unwittingly posts an inappropriate photo or political comment on the company Facebook page, issue a public apology, and get rid of the intern… Don’t forget to post the apology on Facebook or wherever it ended up. Take the Taco Bell employee licking a stack of tacos during a training session went viral on Facebook and got him fired. Taco Bell responded quickly to the Facebook photo posting, reiterating its no-tolerance policy for food violations. Take immediate action to let the public know that you don’t condone inappropriate behavior.
Large companies make investments in an enormous variety of industries and areas. Everyone in business knows that this is true, but when a potentially embarrassing investment in tobacco, pornography or a foreign country with a history of human rights abuses is discovered, and highly publicized, you must immediately condemn the investment publicly, while privately rearranging the portfolio. Once the public attention has moved on to something more interesting, the investment can continue if necessary.
The life of a PR professional is always interesting, to say the least. When one of these PR nightmares to avoid hits you in the face, be sure that you are ready to respond with a press release, public statement, comment on social media, or maybe a personal letter. Understanding and defining PR problems are essential for the management process. Then you must select the appropriate strategy before putting it into action, and always monitor your progress afterwards to make sure the issue is resolved.
5 Most Epic PR Nightmares To Avoid