When is PR appropriate?
The media’s response to Monday’s news about the death of David Bowie has been overwhelming and the speed and efficiency of broadcasters’ response, impressive. Playlists were ripped up and schedules adapted within minutes. News and tribute programmes were introduced, paying homage to the music legend that he was (whether you are a fan or not, there are few who doubt he had an instrumental role in the development of music). It was an appropriate reaction to the situation.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case across the board. There were regrettably some brands which responded by turning this into an ‘opportunity’ for themselves, with Crocs and BA being two such examples resulting in a Twitter backlash. So when is it not appropriate to ‘jump on the bandwagon’?
Most brand owners would agree that it’s not appropriate to be seen to capitalise on a situation which is essentially about grief, unless that individual or organisation is intrinsically linked to the person through a personal relationship. What’s immediately evident is the zero tolerance reaction from consumers to such irrelevant and frankly inappropriate PR behaviour.
The digital era has delivered a level of transparency and immediacy which results in instant and high profile judgement on how brands react. Be it Twitter, Facebook or any of the other social channels, commentators are quick to publically rip such activity to shreds – and brands can be quickly destroyed with cutting remarks that resonate.
In this instance, it’s difficult to have sympathy for those that sought to benefit from this situation. However, we acknowledge the difficulties in always getting it right – whether it is appropriateness, tone or choice of channel, knowing the right time, place and thing to say can be a challenge.
So whilst we applaud the media’s reaction, we hope companies will take a step back before making impetuous public statements. Instead of just jumping on the bandwagon, check the relevance, what you are trying to achieve and whether it’s an area or topic that really aligns to your organisation’s brand values. And finally, take the ‘gut feel’ test – we’re a great believer in not forgetting that if it doesn’t feel quite right, it usually isn’t….
Because it’s easy to lose the value that a brand has built over years of careful planning with a few ill-conceived comments that simply don’t match up, and worse, actually cause offence or hurt the intended audience.
Director & Co-Owner of Firework PR
Follow Firework PR on Twitter @fireworkpr