Public relations, as with most things in business, involves a lot of planning and preparation. But it also includes expecting (and being ready for) the unexpected.
You always have to stay on your toes.
Though you can and should plan for some things—for instance, reviewing a magazine’s editorial calendar to make sure you’re sending relevant pitches months in advance—you also need to be constantly aware of what’s going on in the world (and in your customers’ lives) so that you are able to respond to unexpected (and sometimes, tragic) news or events quickly and, most importantly, appropriately.
Here’s How to Do It:
- Stay on top of the news. And postpone your press release, blog post, or promotional tweet, if necessary. Very few things look worse than an oblivious company posting on Facebook about their latest sale as news of a tragic event is unfolding.
- Check the hashtag. Remember when an online retailer used the shooting in Aurora, Colorado as an opportunity to promote their Aurora dress? Not smart. Make sure you’re up-to-speed before you bandwagon any trending topic on social media. (Also? Don’t bandwagon anything that’s not relevant to your company or its mission. You’re better than that.)
- Err on the side of silence. If a big event occurs, wait until you have a better idea of the situation and can assess whether it’s fine to continue posting (or even, contacting reporters). While you may have something important and valuable to contribute to the conversation, consider staying quiet until you know all of the facts, and know whether or not you should comment.
Here’s How NOT To:
- Comment on the irrelevant. And, on that note, it’s very rare that you shouldactually comment on these major public events—unless it makes sense for you and your company to do so. Don’t comment on any topics that are sensitive in nature, or any newsworthy event that is completely irrelevant to your company and might be seen as a grab for attention (which, by the way, it would be).
- Make light of a serious situation. In business and in life, it’s sound advice to never make light of a negative situation. Were you around when Kenneth Colemade light of the protests in Egypt? Yeah, that didn’t work out very well for them—nor should it have. Serious world events are just that—serious—not an opportunity for you to promote your products at others’ expense.
- Be promotional. I hope we don’t really have to tell you this, but just to make sure…refrain from using a national tragedy to promote your business. It’s incredibly transparent and always, always in poor taste.
At the end of the day, every situation is unique and the only thing you can do—in PR and in life—is to pay attention and use your best judgment. Hopefully these tips will steer that judgment in the right direction.