PR disasters and powder-puff apologies

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It gets up my nose when PRs access the ‘lazy file’ when their clients do dumb stuff.

I mean, why do acclaimed professional communicators deliver hollow, default statements when required to craft and coach authentic and credible expressions of responsibility and regret in the event of celebrity PR disasters? What’s the purpose of these generic communications? Why do we get apology by cut ‘n’ paste?

We continually get a predictable grab-bag of cliches, half-truths and wholly unconvincing claims of accountability and remorse. Read this generic statement and you can pretty much substitute the name of the un-saintly football player with the name of any basketballer, cyclist, rugby or soccer player caught with his pants down, brain addled, veins full or fists balled.

In PR disasters, perhaps many PRs don’t craft connective, meaningful, believable and winning crisis management statements because they don’t have the emotional intelligence in themselves to be able to help the client process and express? It’s also true, though, that spin doctors are often hamstrung by the instructions given by lawyers advising the company, club or code.

Next time a sports star or celebrity makes “a mistake” (a patronising misnomer), PRs should try asking: A) what really went on for YOU that time? B) why did YOU the player make that choice ? C) what was ingesting the substance all about for YOU? D) didn’t YOU fear getting caught? and E) what feelings did YOU have at the time, and what do YOU feel right now ?

Then a PR might prefer to compose something like this:

“First off, this was not a mistake; this was about my decisions, actions and stupidity.  It was also about me thinking I was too cool and too big to ever be caught.          Honestly? I was partying hard and intoxicated. I thought my edgy “cool” lifestyle would make me look like a rockstar to my mates.

I don’t know why I feel the need to impress them when I should be impressing the code, the club and the fans who have genuinely trusted and respected me. I will think about that and get to the bottom of it most likely with a specialist counsellor.

Recording the incident was simply stupid. I’ve done courses and had advice to be careful with online media but I made a daft choice which lead to this trouble. Again, my mistake was in thinking I was too special, too cool to be caught. Right now, I am full of self-recrimination and shame for the hurt I’ve caused to everyone who cares about me. I will work on this and hopefully emerge a better, more mature and trustworthy person as a result.”

No-one expects footy players to be angels or Saints (geddit?). But with the myriad of PR disasters – and subsequent player education courses about using social media and drugs – you’d half-expect these young men to use at least half of the wits they have! (Note; not many female athletes do such dumb sh*t!).

Generic PR apology statements appear to say all the right things but they only tell us one thing for sure: THAT THE ATHLETE DID NOT ACTUALLY SAY THESE WORDS!

And that shows they’re reluctant to be truly responsible and remorseful as they look to recover from being rumbled.
Hat-tip ColorCube for image loan.

 

 

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Social media seminar – where digital PR meets customer service

Sydneyside social media fans might want to consider an imminent (21/22 March), crisis-orientated social media training conference. It’s a “…must-attend for heads of service, consumer affairs leaders, emergency managers with an interest in stakeholder management, managers of contact centres and heads of complaints handling teams OR anyone who is responsible for customer interactions in times of crisis.”

Fiji government hires US PR guns to polish its global image

PR expert Gerry McCusker was interviewed by Radio Australia this am – exploring the Fiji Govt’s use of online PR and social media. McCusker told Radio Australia it makes perfect sense: “If an organisation posts regularly online through blogs and tweets and online press releases, and by feeding this material with the kinds of search terms that people are using online PR can influence what is said about any organisation, any corporate, any brand, any government, whether it is a democratic government or slightly less democratic one,” he said.

Does China pay an army of astroturf bloggers?

Writing in The Guardian, Malik Fareed claims that the Chinese government is payrolling opinion shapers and influencers 50 Chinese cents or five mao per blog post, to refute and replace negative online coverage about China and related issues (better rates than blogging for Fairfax then?)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/sep/22/chinathemedia.marketingandpr
While astroturfing is seen by some as ethically dubious, it is still growing in popularity, thanks, in part, to the ease with which web 2.0 technologies – the likes of Twitter, Wikipedia and YouTube all feature heavily – can be employed to sway public opinion using the elusive power of word-of-mouth marketing.

Bank PR 'outed' via Social Media interview

National Australia Bank has distanced itself from a PR consultancy (p’raps Cox & Inall), which attempted to spam post commercial messages on several leading Aussie sports blogs. Local SEO practitioner Jim Stewart tele-interviewed NAB PR Felicity Glennie Holmes who asserted that ‘this activity was poorly executed by our PR agency”. Jim Stewart primarily challenged Felicity on corporate spamming & the ethics of placing covert NAB ads disguised as blog posts. Felicity kinda defended her employers decision.

Interesting note to PR practitioners; be wary of responding to a blog query. As you would with a journo query, ask if they plan to broadcast your communication and if you’re uncomfortable with their response, decide if you wanna participate (or not). For eg: Jim Stewart conducts his interview with Felicity, filming himself for vodcast, and putting her on speakerphone – his body language, facial expressions and other non-verbal silently ‘spin’ his take on her responses. Judging by Jim’s raised eyebrows in his vodcast of the telecon, he couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing from FGH.

I’ve called Cox Inall to see if they were involved and if so, to hear their side of the story. Someone called ‘Killingly’ is supposed to contact me; after almost 18hrs, am still awaiting any call or email. Agency head Tim Powell left a voice mail for me around 9am and is happy to speak to me later today…stay tuned.