By Camden Smith
As business owners, we think we can do no wrong sometimes, until of course a customer brings to our attention the fact that we may be wrong. The simple solution is to remember the customer is always right; however when it comes to publicity and the public’s reaction it is much tougher to control the result.
Recently, news arose about a young life guard who saved a drowning person outside of his protection zone and was then fired because he went out of his employer’s insured or covered area. The media blitz that has proceeded has provided a clear picture that where the consumers’ minds are could be entirely different than a company’s CEO and managers.
Following the news of the young life guard’s firing, millions of people from all over the world have commented online and directly to the company about how they feel it is wrong he was fired.
As a marketing agency owner, what has amazed media experts is the clueless nature of management that discussing the company’s controversial decision to fire the life guard is a bad idea. Although insurance may be a valid reason for the young life guard’s firing, management commented to newspapers he should have left the man he saw drowning alone.
This is what has outraged so many people. While there are usually two sides to a story, it is important to keep in mind talking your way out of a controversy is often the worst decision you can make.
If it sounds bad as a sound bite on the news, it probably should not be said. Basic public relations plans include a crisis communication plan. A crisis communication plan provides steps for better public relations or public reaction. Media plans often suggest rather than control media interviews and direct management, to instead release a statement focused on the positives with few mentions about the controversial points.
In this case, a release or statement may have focused on the heroic nature of the company’s life guard who saved a drowning man’s life and then towards the end could have discussed briefly a reason for the firing.
In life as in business, there are few actions that are right or wrong, but a consumer’s perception is reality so think hard and fast before you react to a controversy.
Lesson of the week: have a PR plan and keep news positive even if your company is in the hot seat.
Camden Smith, owner of DREAMFly Marketing LLC, has more than eight years expertise in branding and marketing strategy and 13 years in public relations. Smith is an award-winning PR strategist and lives in Naples with her husband. Visit Smith at dreamflymarketing.com