Via Ragan, news that a US Tea Party supporter sent an email depicting President Obama as a baby monkey. Clearly the pathetic racist slur says more about the immaturity and hatred that thrives in the sender – Marilyn Davenport, Orange County – than the intended object of her bile. As for her jenny-come-lately attempt at an apology; it has PR pressure – not authenticity – written all over it. Let’s hope this is a PR disaster for Davenport’s career.
The Australian Defence Force is buckling under the weight of several horrific PR disasters caused by its ’employee’ abuse of social media. It’s rumoured that one of the main problems dogging ADF’s reputation-protecting practices is that their 100-strong Comms teams lack staff with proven and cutting-edge PR issues expertise. I contacted ADF and asked about their social media policy and practices (they made me put my enquiry into writing and responded promptly yet obtusely). In short, the reply I received suggests that there is no dedicated social media policy in place for Australian defence forces, but that the organisation relies on existing media and conduct policies for protection. Clearly, old media policies just don’t work for new media environments (as anyone who has attended a social media conference in the last 4 years would attest!!).The new media landscape has changed rules/policies for managing PR. For those unfamiliar with the unsavoury PR pickles currently being experienced by ADF, they are:
I contacted a trusted and respected colleague – who has served in the Aussie military – and he told me that ADF would not even be interested in hearing from “an outsider” with expertise in creating social media policy and/or managing PR issues or crises. It could be that their insularity and inward-thinking is contributing to the blinkered attitudes that only exacerbate their PR problems in the new media arena.
Here in Australia, an academic/lawyer and indigenous affairs adviser seems to have got off lightly after having sent a Tweet suggesting that watching bestiality with a horse wasn’t as offensive as watching an(other) indigenous representative speak on television. While at first suggesting that people were taking her derogatory remark “out of context” (as if context could excuse away such a mean-minded barb), Larissa Behrendt offered an apology one day later (no doubt after being advised by government or similar PRs) which has been rejected by the object of Behrendt’s disrespect. Why can’t allegedly ‘smart’ people understand that commenting on Twitter is the same as sending out a personal press release to any and every media outlet in the world? Twitter is the no1 PR disaster platform of the social media space, and is the medium that reveals more about an individual’s true nature and character than a polished and prepared resume ever could.
The news media’s endless obsession with Charlie Sheen’s celebrity Tweets and other self-obsessed publishing twits, plus the blurred speed and fuzzy footage of social media footage is killing good quality news reporting, claims Gerry McCusker author of “PR Disasters”.
As documented in my book ‘Public Relations Disasters’, Andy Coulson is a major UK media player heavily linked to deceptive and unsavoury media practices. He’s just left the Tories in the lurch after resigning as Comms Director for David Cameron. I’ve long had this bee in my bonnet, that ex-journos are not ideal fodder for top communications roles. But clients often believe ex-journos to be all-powerful – how wrong.
As a former editor of the less-than-sparkling-clean newspaper the News of the World (c2007), Coulson elected to resign when his reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for hacking messages of personal telephones of the rich, famous and influential. At the time, Coulson said he took responsibility for it happening on his watch but denied knowing about it. If it’s possible to believe that a national newspaper editor did not know that his staff were covertly involved in hacking phones to steal the editorial march on competitors then he was a spectacularly inept newspaperman. If he did know about it, then Coulson has been lying all the while. The truth will out. Either way, it’s a PR disaster for him.
Hollywood’s newest trailer stars Russell Crowe as Julian Assange in an eerily-similar reworking of Michael Mann’s blockbuster, The Insider. Movie like this would be a major PR disaster for governments and corporations all over the world!
Over at Australia’s pre-eminent business affairs website – Business Spectator – PR disaster expert Gerry McCusker has published an article looking at how bank customers are hitting back at unfair practices, using social media as a potent weapon to damage banks’ online reputations, and force operational change. McCusker’s article cites cases from Australia as well as the USA.
Interviewed by Ninemsn’s Nick Pearson, Australian PR experts Gerry McCusker and Jim Macnamara concur that Mark Zuckerberg’s charm offensive (using media-driven PR) seems appropriate, legitimate and ultimately, productive in repairing a potential PR disaster and restoring balance, after the way Zuckerberg is portrayed in the hit movie ‘The Social Network’.
Here’s a mind-boggling PR disaster story. A (Scottish) News Of The World editor (nicknamed The Beast) is alleged to have stripped down to his boxer undies to watch a video (incriminating a Member of the Scottish Parliament MSP) which a former pal of the MSP was offering to sell The Beast for 200,000 quid. The ‘pal’ – best man at the MSPs wedding – had ALLEGEDLY secretly filmed the MSP admitting to attending swingers’ parties and sex clubs. And just to further complicate matters and implicate others, David Cameron’s controversial (ALLEGED phone-hacking supremo) Communications Director Andy Coulson, was named in a court-produced email as the man who would personally sign the News of the World cheque for the pal’s implicating video.
Parallel universes, clearly.
How to create a PR disaster: Lie to customers, exacerbate their frustration and, then, have your Social Media Manager (a wonderfully named Mr Pissant, geddit??) get flamed while defending your employee engagement practices, rather than empathising with the affected family. Subsequently, the family created a blog and Twitter account – and a PR nightmare for the airline. The blog – Alaska Airlines Hates Families – made bad headlines for the airline, after it was publicised in several mainstream media including The Vancouver Sun, Toronto Star, Edmonton Journal and the UKs Daily Mail. The young family had a “nappy/diaper emergency” at the airport, which forced them to miss booking in for their flight by just 1 minute. Watch it unfold from there…