Are You Guilty Of Lame PR That Makes Your Company Look Bad?

"The management would like to express its deep regret over the series of events leading up to..."

Boring. DOA. Cliché dregs from memo hell and the leftover crumbs from legal intervention.

Yet some companies and CEOs think this is the way to resolve a public misfire. All it does is prove that the issuer of such statements is disconnected, out of touch and out of step with the rest of the world.   

“Public Relations” Could Use Some PR
Take any word designed to liberate a company from the fray, words like “authentic” or “honesty” and within months, that word has become a tool of the press and hype. Diluted in the process to meaningless dribble.

Some PR agencies forget that the “R” in PR stands for relations and choose instead to follow the antiquated “For Immediate Release” model. “For Immediate Release” is a one-sided mass communication ignoring today’s endless stream (and dialogs) of social media, tweets, comments, customer reviews and more. Those type of press releases are more a cousin of spam than news.

Fact is the average business day sees more than 2,000 press releases distributed across the wire services with more than 80% of the releases being irrelevant to the focus area of its addressee.

Why PR Has a Bad Name
In short, PR is called earned media for a reason. You have to earn it.

Just look at BP and the Gulf oil spill. How the company responded to this crisis will certainly become a case study for bad PR in the future. Advertising wouldn’t have solved it. Their form of non-English-speaking executives making public apologies certainly didn’t solve it.

"While commercials casting BP’s efforts to clean up the spill in a positive light may have seemed like a good idea, newscasters got plenty of airtime out of pointing out the fact they wanted to spend millions on commercials at the same time business owners, fishermen, and others were struggling for their livelihoods due to the spill that BP was responsible for," PR consultant Rebel Brown said. 

There’s never been a better time for great PR and there's never been a worse time for bad PR.

PR crises are nothing new. The field of crisis management originated with the environmental and industrial disasters of the 1980s (Exxon Valdez, Tylenol). But the need is more acute than ever thanks to social media. How a brand handles itself in a crisis is a greater litmus test of what the brand stands for than any mission statement it writes or marketing plan it executes.

Most brands won't face a PR disaster on the same scale of a sinking ship or some international gaffe. But every brand does face potential crisis: some ad that offends, a product that malfunctions, or a key figure caught in an a scandal. 

Waiting until a PR flap happens is no substitute for correct anticipation.

Or you could wade through the 5 stages of PR as Fishburne so succinctly illustrates here.

Tomorrow, Not Yesterday
So much of PR is based yesterday’s news when it should be connecting the dots of today’s news with tomorrow’s innovations. And in this faster-than-you-can-blink age of social media, tweets, comments, customer reviews, and more, you have to operate on tomorrow's timeline just to keep up with today.

The lesson learned so we can escape PR hell unscathed: Realize PR isn't about handling yesterday. And knowing that, handle the future by kicking today’s ass.

Related: The Ultimate Crisis-Communications Checklist: 6 Steps To Master Your Disaster

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Thanks to Tom Fishburne, founder and CEO of Marketoonist, a content marketing agency that develops cartoon campaigns for businesses such as Unilever, O2, Kronos, and the Wall Street Journal. He was previously a VP at Method, the innovative home care brand, and led brands at Nestle and General Mills. He learned how to draw cartoons at Harvard Business School. Sign up for his weekly marketoons at Marketoonist.com.

--This is the second in a series of posts on HELL and escaping its grasp. Stay tuned for upcoming installments including, How to Escape Innovation Hell, How to Escape Social Media Hell, and How to Escape Logo Hell. 

"If you're using clichés, you're promoting your category, not your business." David Brier

The secret weapon to successful businesses and cities that can't stand complacency or me-too, vanilla branding, David Brier is an award-winning brand identity specialist, package designer and branding expert. His firm's work can be regularly found in blogs, publications and award annuals. David is also the author of Defying Gravity and Rising Above the Noise. David's series of videos shed new light on real branding in these short TV interviews. His YouTube channel routinely provides inspired and thought-provoking videos which you can see here

Request your own free copy of David's eBook, "The Lucky Brand" here.

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