Bad News Will Always Trump Bad Press, but Avoid Abusing the Privilege
Guest post by Susan Daniels
Good public relations comes down to talent and luck. The former entails a bit of imagination and willingness to challenge suppositions; for instance, recent PR graduates from online universities would prove their mettle by describing the experience as a “demonstration of preference for technology and ability to work independently.” The latter consists of taking the never-ending swirl of ongoing activity around you and harnessing it for the bettering or preservation of your brand. While not always pretty, when your brand is on the line, it’s always necessary.
Consider the recent drama in the United Kingdom over alleged phone hacks of government officials and private citizens by members of the press in collaboration with members of the government itself. For about two weeks, News International founder Rupert Murdoch found his entire media empire being scrutinized for alleged abhorrent practices. Then there was a horrendous killing spree in Norway, the economy took a turn for the worse, and violence fell hard upon the streets of London and other British towns, which consumed the news cycle putting the phone hack inquiry on the back burner.
Everyone stopped caring about the phone hack scandal. The inevitability of tragedy ultimately encourages those with an incentive to preserve their good name to utilize the attention paid toward such events to shield themselves from further attack. It’s a tactic that’s been going on for years. One aide within the press relations wing of the British government was fired in the wake of the 9-11 attacks on the United States for an exposed email wherein she said it was “a good day to bury bad news.”
The point is not that this behavior is acceptable. That kind of judgment can only be made by those who choose to or not to use outside events to their own PR advantage. But it’s important for PR professionals to be aware of the existence of such maneuvers. More importantly, they need to understand the grace in which such tactics must be orchestrated with.
Simply put, no self-respecting public relations professional is going to let bad news go to waste, but the ethical challenges are all within the details of your approach. It’s one thing to release an embarrassing press release on the same day of an attention-grabbing criminal trial verdict being read, but it’s another to plan a complicated series of actions all meant to cash in on the alleged “fortune” of having bad news dominate the attention of most individuals for a particular period of time. None of it is criminal, but very little of it is moral.
So tread lightly. Never forget to demonstrate the proper amount of respect. But most of all, never fail to truly possess that level of respect yourself. Otherwise you could lose touch with reality, which for public relations professionals is a fatal move.
About the author
Susan Daniels is an internet marketer for 43a.com. In her spare times she likes to write guest posts for marketing related blogs.
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