Puppies, Unicorns, and Crisis Communications
Quick disclaimer for loyal and first-time readers: this is a reflective post based mostly on my personal opinion. I will try to steer clear of a full-out rant…
A lot has been said about the Susan G. Komen public relations and social media spiral that occurred last week.
If you are knee-deep in the PR biz, or just a social media junkie like me, then you know what I’m talking about when I say that.
If not, there have been several analytic posts about this particular case and what it means for crisis communications.
Gini Dietrich, as always, had a good take on it. So did Shonali Burke and Mike Shaffer. And a former colleague who’s back in the blogging business Michael Parks had a great recap of the whole series of events before suggesting key takeaways.
But this all got me thinking that of that old expression “hindsight is 20/20.”
Of course, it’s easy for all of us to sit back, fold our arms, and talk about what we would or wouldn’t do in the Komen case.
But that’s just our opinion based in our own experiences.
We were not in that room with the Komen leaders when the decisions were made. We didn’t have to write their announcement, and we didn’t have to respond to the horror show as it unfolded on social media.
For me, this whole situation reminds me that, especially in PR, but in communications work in general, it’s not always about puppies and unicorns.
As much as we want to do good work and do well by our companies and clients, there is that underlying possibility that things aren’t going to be as rosy as we want them to be.
It’s going to happen that leadership makes a poor decision about funding like Komen did.
And it might happen that your company does something horrible to the environment.
Or it might go down that your company runs a poorly advised ad that angers an influential population.
In the worst-case scenario, your client/company ends up a textbook case study in crisis communications for the future PR and communications students to study.
What a crappy legacy, right?
Heck no—we need to be stronger and smarter than that.
Another expression that always sticks in my mind is how Vince McMahon explains how professional wrestling really is as rough and tumble as it looks, much to critics who claim it is fake.
He always says, “it (wrestling) ain’t ballet,” which I’ve always interpreted to mean that as polished and practiced as those huge wrestlers are, they’re going to take hits and get hurt no matter what.
And that’s not to put down ballet dancers, who clearly put their bodies through just as much duress as a professional wrestler. But I digress…
Communications is not an easy profession all of the time.
Not every company or client we represent is going to have a clean slate and not be vulnerable to mistakes.
I’ve even learned in alumni relations that as much as I want the warm and fuzzy feel of good alumni programs (read: puppies and unicorns), that doesn’t help when the governor of Pennsylvania cuts education funding, which will have a direct effect on my institution.
The key is to go through these experiences, take a few bumps, roll with the punches but always, always be learning how to do better and to never make the same mistake twice.
What’s your take on the Komen case? Any silver lining to crisis communications situations you’ve been in?
And just to prove that I still have a soul, here for your viewing pleasure is a cute puppy falling asleep (sorry, there were no “cute unicorns falling asleep” videos)