Inside the Profession

Friday Five: Mistakes, Crises and Bad Publicity Lead to PR Lessons Learned

Companies and brands work tirelessly to build a strong image and protect the reputation of what that entity represents. Even the most guarded company and/or brand can make mistakes that lead to bad press. Some are able to make a comeback that leaves any negative association in the past, while others suffer from disastrous PR crises that leave the media saying, “let a sleeping dog lie.” Regardless, media attention, good or bad, still means visibility and for some that’s the ultimate end game. 

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary —we look at how companies, brands and public figures recover from public relations blunders and how media attention drives behavior. We see, also, how even the smallest mistake can turn a company on its head when the unthinkable occurs.

How Do You Handle a PR Disaster Like Greg Smith? (New York Magazine)

We all remember Greg Smith’s departure from Goldman Sachs. His resignation in a New York Times op-ed went viral after Smith shone a bright light on Goldman’s ethical transgressions. Since then, Goldman Sachs corporate communications chief Jack Siewert, has had his hands full trying to diminish Smith’s allegations and redeem Goldman Sachs’ reputation after being depicted as “toxic and destructive”.

New York Magazine’s Kevin Roose had the opportunity to interview Siewert about the public relations crisis behind the Wall Street curtain. 

Election 2012: Trump Announcement Small, But PR Lesson Huge (PR News)

With all of the hoopla around Trump’s big reveal, PR News’ Jamar Hudson has the right idea about Trump and his need for media attention. Hudson writes, “Love him or hate him, Donald Trump knows how to get your attention.” So what was the big announcement? Basically, Trump agreed to donate $5 million to President Obama’s charity of choice if the president agreed to publicize his college records and applications, as well as his passport applications and records. Without fail, Trump’s announcement via Twitter garnered plenty of media attention and the big reveal on YouTube put Trump back in the spotlight. So whether Trump is an ornery old man with a compulsive need for media attention or the next thing to go viral, he accomplished what he set out to do, obtain another 5 seconds of fame. Who knows what’s next to come from the sensation known as Donald Trump?

Dow Scrambles After Releasing Layoffs News Prematurely (PR Daily)

Dow Chemical planned to announce layoffs along with its third-quarter earnings this past Thursday, October 25. That plan got axed when a draft copy of the press release was accidentally sent to Bloomberg News on Tuesday night, October 23. Dow did not respond to PRDaily with a comment but in a New York Times article, a Dow spokesman said, “We had an inadvertent premature release, and we moved quickly to take care of it.” Dow is the largest chemical maker in the U.S. and plans to cut nearly 2,400 jobs in an attempt to cut significant costs. Google did something similar recently when the search giant released disappointing third-quarter numbers before the closing bell on Wall Street. Their original plan was to release the numbers after the closing bell to diminish the tanking effect in Google stock. Jeff Corbin, CEO of KCSA Strategic Communications, identifies some important lessons that each company lends from its mistake. 

Lance Armstrong’s Giant Lie Has Finally Turned On Him (Huffington Post)

This week, Huffington Posts’s Jordan Schultz takes a closer look at Lance Armstrong’s recent public relations battle over the doping charges. Schultz describes Armstrong as the “epitome of class: a clean-cut cancer survivor at the very top of his game”. With so many organizations and corporations shutting the door on future opportunities for Armstrong, the question still hovering is can he make a comeback. A number of media outlets are reporting that his reputation is set in stone. Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union, went as far as to say, “Armstrong…deserves to be forgotten in cycling.” What about all of the awareness he’s raised through his cancer foundation? While this will continue to be a personal issue for Armstrong, time can only tell how disastrously this hits the empire that was built upon fraudulent success.

Apple Grudgingly Posts Notice Saying Samsung Did Not Copy the iPad in the UK (Mashable)

Another company that can’t seem to stay out of the media is Apple; though, not all the publicity has been good. Recently the company has faced a number of challenges as a result of the massive court battles with Samsung over patent infringement.  This week, Apple took the opportunity to turn some not-so-good publicity into a PR stunt that allowed the company to shine and left the competition feeling somewhat inadequate. Apple published a notice on its UK website, as directed by UK courts, announcing that the court ruled that Samsung did not copy iPad technology when designing the Galaxy tablet. While Apple did a great job at following the court order, they went a step further by quoting parts of the court’s decision that depicted the Samsung Galaxy as a subpar product compared to the iPad. Apple also made it their duty to point out that the court decisions in Germany and the U.S. were in fact the opposite of that in the U.K. 

Nicole Castro is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.

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Nicole Castro

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