Posts Tagged ‘public relations specialist’

Crisis PR Corner: Andre Bauer’s Common Sense Gone Astray

January 26th, 2010

During a recent town hall meeting, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer compared government assistance to feeding “stray animals.”  Ugh… sometimes you can’t make this stuff up.  Here’s the money quote:

My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals.  You know why?  Because they breed!  You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply.  They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that.”

So, according to Bauer, the conclusion to draw about the poor is that they are mostly stupid and just want to have sex and eat, assuming they are capable such auto-functionality.  Other demographic populations are also stereotyped by this behavior, but I digress…

The insult cuts wide and deep.  South Carolina’s poverty rate in 2008 was almost 16% (which puts it a few points above the national average).  Comparing over 700,000 of your state’s population to animals in one fell swoop is not only disgusting and inexcusable, it’s also really stupid politics.

To really understand the impact of such dumb words, consider what appears in a simple Google News search for “Andre Bauer”:

In these situations a public relations specialist plays the role of a counselor and recommends crisis management strategies.  Bauer would have been smart to recant his words, but instead he amazingly refused to apologize when interviewed for a follow-up story, offering a ridiculous verbal tap dance to justify his ranting.  (Which brings up another good point in crisis PR: the more you have to explain, the worse the situation usually gets.)

Bauer finally wised up and apologized, but only after 5 days and mounting, bipartisan criticism.  Waiting nearly a week to explain your actions is an eternity in crisis PR, and as indicated in the picture above, the damage has been done.

Obama the PR Specialist Delivers Declassified Intelligence Report

January 7th, 2010

As the White House prepares to release a declassified report on the recent attempted bombing of Northwest flight 253, President Obama gears up to outline how the government will attempt to enhance airport security.  By addressing the nation twice in as many days, Obama is playing the role of a skilled public relations specialist – getting out in front of the report’s release before others have a chance to comment publicly.

Seen from a public affairs perspective, this is how a smart DC media relations playbook should unfold tactically.  Historically, we can look back at incredibly damaging intelligence reports and the failure to appreciate the public relations consequences from their release.

When explaining a highly sensitive issue in the world of public affairs, often the most crucial step is speaking first before others have spoken.  Now, with the report declassified, the immediate associations will always be that Obama spoke authoritatively on the matter.  This step draws a clear line between his administration and efforts to improve national security, and his political opponents will always need to rebut that association before offering any criticisms.

The lesson here?  As a public relations tactic, always appreciate the opportunity to turn a weakness into a strength.  Damaging information that could undermine stakeholder confidence can always be turned around, if the right steps are taken early.

Tale of the Tiger, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hire Public Relations Crisis Management

November 28th, 2009

In a crisis situation, clients with high visibility often are lost on the best way to interact with their crisis counselor.  In the crisis management industry, what role does the public relations specialist play when helping a client?

Take this weekend’s Tiger Woods story – or debacle, depending on who you ask.  We can thank the era of the rapidly evolving media platform for broadcasting a torrent of details in the past 24 hours.  The narrative already involves the world’s best golfer, a supermodel, possibly a mistress, rumors of prescription medication, a car crash, the parties avoiding police investigators, and who knows what else.

Here’s how smart PR crisis management should approach this media lightning rod:

First, when it comes to crisis communications, a competent public relations firm must adopt strict confidentiality protocols similar to those of a lawyer or physician.   The public relations industry doesn’t have a licensing system like law or medicine (though perhaps it should!), but a letter of engagement or contract for services must include non-disclosure agreement (“NDA”) principles.  As with these other professional services, confidentiality encourages frank discussion about the client’s problems, which allows the publicist to generate creative, thorough solutions.

Second, the publicist should recommend crisis communication steps only when they believe the client has provided all the facts.  That way the first public response – which is likely the one most media will cover immediately – can address all pertinent details and define the terms of the debate before any outspoken commentator or enemy does.  You can take control of the story and then begin driving the narrative the way you want it to go.

Third, any crisis communication plan must NEVER, ever say “no comment.”  The veritable confession of guilt before the media’s eyes, “no comment” begs reporters, pundits, bloggers and anyone else to speculate on what really happened instead of you telling people the actual facts (see the second point above).

Crisis management 101 rightfully instructs the embattled person to run straight into the crisis so you can wrestle it to the ground.  Each crisis situation is unique in its own details, but like the laws of physics, the fundamentals remain constant.  It’s a long weekend, so Tiger’s publicists still have the chance to steer the narrative favorably to their client before everyone beats their Thanksgiving hangover and gets back to the grind Monday morning.  The clock is ticking…