Engaging Culture

Why Keeping Quiet Might Be Bad Public Relations

Hearing about scandals and problems in the religious media world makes me think of how we handle public relations in the Internet era when information is so readily available. Remember the Tylenol scare a number of years ago, when some poisoned pills were discovered? The President of the company dealt with it immediately, and they spent a fortune in advertising and public service announcements talking to the public. Remember Jet Blue’ scheduling disaster last winter that left hundreds of people stuck on planes for hours? The President of the company immediately
went on national TV, took the blame, and explained what they were doing to fix it.

Mattel did the same with the lead poisoning issue with toys made in China. Organizations not dealing with problems like this are in the past. Today, the strategy is to face up to your problems, talk to the public, and share your strategy for fixing the problem. That wins enormous goodwill from the public.

We need to change the way we think about PR in the age of Google. Yes, it was created as a search engine, but it’s really about reputation management. Numerous organizations have discovered the disastrous side of this equation when they did a search on their company or CEO, only to find negative stories from the past rise to the top. The blogosphere has become such a powerful entity that we can’t ignore it anymore. That old DUI you thought everyone had forgotten, the accusation of sexual impropriety, or the nasty e-mail exchange with an ex-employee all find a way to flow into the Google river of information. Religious organizations, companies, and individuals all need to be aware. So what can you do?

First — keep the junk to a minimum, by living a transparent life. Straighten up, so there isn’t any negative information to get out there.

Second — there will be some, because if you’ve accomplished anything in life, you’ve probably generated some critics. So make sure the good stuff gets out. Press releases, and other positive stories need to tell the real story of your organization. The more that get out there, the better the chance of the good stuff rising to the top.

Last — use the bloggers. If you have employees, friends, vendors, or supporters who blog, encourage them to write positive stories about the organization. Technorati.com — the company that tracks blogs, rates their influence via the number of links. So the more websites and blogs that link to stories about you – once again — the good stuff rises.

Change your thinking from just “searching” to managing your reputation, and start changing the perception of the public.

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  1. OK, I may be reading between the lines a bit too much but it looks to me like there may soon be some scandalous reports naming Phil and he's already starting a subtle PR campaign to dilute the impact.  Brilliant!

  2. Now I'm depressed.  Where once upon a time a link referring to me, personally – the One True Calix – would appear as the first "hit" when I would Google myself, now not only does my son (scion of Calix, also known as Calix) not show up until results page 4, I didn't find a reference to moi until page 15 – and that, in a delicious irony, was a reference to a post I did on this very Phil Cooke blog – https://philcooke.com/unify_the_brand – which was a tongue-in-cheek response to this selfsame issue.

    I guess I need to manage my "brand" better!  Or at least cook up some delicious Hollywood scandal to increase the name recognition …  

  3. As someone who has handled crisis pr managment in varoius scenarios, here are some generel thoughts…

    Church Ministry Crisis PR management often consists of getting out in front of a bad situation, be it personal conflict, embarassing information, organziational crisis, or disaster. Crisis PR consists of managing information being driven by circusmtances beyond our immediate control.

    Having a plan ahead of time allows for a more orderly caretaking of the crisis. Knowing who will be the spokesperson, who will handle officials, and who will deal with the internal issues will offer a more balanced perspective than the siege mentality that can take hold in a crisis.  Media training should also take place long before the principals are asked to respond to the hard quesitons on camera.

    Additionally, stating the situation as accurately as possible defies the media's attempts at embelishments, rumors, and innuendo likely to occur if the information vaccum is left unattended.

    Saying nothig is not a succesfull strategy!

    By taking the following steps the publics responce can be managed to illicit a sympathetic response and educate an informaiton hungry media.

    1. Craft a message detailing the situation

    2. Identify all remediations being administered

    3. Speak truthfully and as thoroughly as as posible about the events

    4. Remain clam, positive, and non-defensive

    5. Follow up as the situation unfolds

    6. Offer one to one interviews if appropriate

    7. Identify leaders tht can speak on your behalf – offer them briefings, if necesary 

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