UnexPected contRoversies

This was a busy, unpredictable week for public relations practitioners. From the upstate jailbreak to the church massacre, Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriages and Obamacare, plus Taylor Swift and Apple and more, there were incredible news events, each creating a need for professional communicators to move messages quickly and correctly.

Now, one might suggest it’s the media’s job to dispense information with speed and accuracy. But for those who still don’t understand PR, it can be noted little gets to the media without assistance from an “information broker,” a liaison between authorities and reporters. During last week’s major events, PR people coordinated news conferences, issued statements, prepped politicians and experts, gathered information, posted and tweeted, and served as reliable sources.

DylannRoofFor example, after Dylann Roof admitted murdering nine people in South Carolina, law enforcement, religious institutions, gun control advocates, the NRA, spokespersons, civil rights leaders, and many others were no doubt coached and assisted by PR people. More unpredictable events followed.

Roof’s online racist manifesto and photographs led to unexpected controversies. Seemingly inconsequential was what he wore: a Gold’s Gym t-shirt. But Twitter lit up with comments including, “Just cancelled my membership at Gold’s Gym after the recent tragedy in Charleston,” and “Gold’s Gym must be proud…worst advertising ever?” Gold’s responded by tweeting repeatedly, including, “We have no affiliation with Dylann Roof and are saddened by the tragedies in Charleston.” Gold’s Gym handled its unforeseen PR crisis well.

Meanwhile, major retailers joined state governments in denouncing and purging the Confederate flag, which surrounded Roof in the photos. Others continue to defend the symbol. One, the South Carolina Sons of the Confederacy, posted a carefully worded statement, no doubt also created by professionals. “(We extend) our heartfelt sympathy to the families who have lost loved ones in this tragedy,” but added, “There is absolutely no link between The Charleston Massacre and The Confederate Memorial Banner. Don’t try to create one.”

When news happens, PR people become the primary information brokers, sometimes dealing with most joyous or tragic of circumstances. It’s all part of this complicated and exciting profession. Your thoughts?


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