Over the last few months, there have been many incriminating stories about Uber, and over the last 48 hours, United has been dealing with its own crisis. But the most recent stories about how these two companies are facing "PR disasters" are inaccurate and honestly quite insulting to the comms teams that do battle on the front lines for these companies on a daily basis.
Kara Swisher at Recode recently took to PR's defense when it came to Uber, Yahoo and others:
"Now, tech has not gotten quite that bad. But it does need to stop blaming PR for bad management and perhaps focus on the actual thing instead of how the thing looks."
This is relevant to United and a variety of other companies that have been facing public backlash recently as well. In fact, we covered it here many moons ago: PR shouldn't be your fall guy.
PR can be a tremendous resource and supporter in both prosperous and disastrous times for a company. But there is also only so much PR can do once actions have been taken from the business. Just like you pay your legal team for their guidance on specific situations, you pay your communications team for their expertise too. If you aren't going to listen and use it, why are they even there?
Don't make it worse by not only ignoring their guidance, but then throwing them under the bus for the mistakes made by the business. That's the immature and easy way out.
Accept the fault, learn from the situation and move on. You'll be a better and stronger company -- and leader -- for it in the future.
If you’ve been following the Olympics in Rio, and most likely even if you haven’t, you’ve heard about the scandal involving US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. Sadly, this story has taken over a news cycle that should be focused on the athletic successes and national pride associated with the Olympics.
Lochte’s scandal provides some solid PR lessons on what to do when managing a brand crisis, whether an individual or company brand.
For those of us living in or traveling through Los Angeles, we all heard about the Lufthansa plane nearly colliding with a drone over the weekend. Pretty scaring stuff. Police were everywhere. And of course, the story dominated the local news -- newspapers, broadcast, radio, etc.
Every story seemed pretty straight forward, providing details on the airline involved, time of day, the location in the air, and on and on. With all of those numbers and quotes from experts and even government officials, it seemed like nothing was amiss.
But then look at the comment sections.
You will see a variety of responses around the legitimacy of the location of the near crash from self-proclaimed drone enthusiasts. I’m not discrediting the reporter or the experts he talked to. But after looking at the comments, you have to ask yourself if this was a fully researched and neutral story.
We should certainly be protecting airspace around airports (and I’ve learned from my drone enthusiast fiance some of the restrictions already put in place) but some of the facts don’t add up and make it out to be an anti-drone scare-tactic story.
After reading this story, I immediately thought of the scene in the latest season of House of Cards when Seth Grayson, Frank Underwood’s director of communications, under extreme duress due to a major crisis (but again, isn’t everything with the Underwoods a crisis??) looks to his PR team and essentially says…”Fix the errors. Unless it is burning, don’t bother me.” I can imagine the communications and policy teams at Drone manufacturers like DJI, 3dr and Walkera were scrambling after these stories appeared, trying to better educate reporters on highly enforced airport-related regulations and logistics.
In the eyes of many readers, this was probably almost tragic story. For others, it was an opportunity to push an agenda. But for me and others in PR, it looks to have the underpinnings of a crisis comms situation. A PR person’s job isn’t always to push an agenda, product or service. Sometimes it is to educate and ensure the facts of a story are being published accurately.
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.