The art of damage control
People in all fields have their own conceptualizations of what a media relations or PR person does. (I'll use the terms interchangeably for the purposes of this piece, even though one is a subset of the other.) The idiom most folks have of a PR person is that they are a glad-hander, always smiling, always smug -- a know-it-all with an angle that is usually somewhat deceptive. Aaron Eckhart's great depiction of a big tobacco industry lobbyist in "Thank You for Smoking" comes to mind. The term for these folks is "slick," and it's not intended favorably.
Another image many people have for PR types is that they don't know anything about their subject. Reporters forward email pitches to me all the time with "can you believe this idiot?" (or worse) in the header. Ask any of the top reporters covering our space, and they'll tell you that 95 percent of all PR people are horrible because they waste their time or they spam or they push releases and commercial pitches all the time.
The kind of "PR types" that are being described negatively above likely have no idea that this is the image they convey, assuming they are still reading. But, the fact is that the best PR practitioners in the business are as fastidious as a top attorney, as creative as a top designer or writer, and as industrious and resourceful as the most sought-after sales talent. That is why brands that have issues requiring constant attention can afford to work only with the top talent.
And top talent is always prepared. That is the theme of this feature -- preparation. And it's not just preparation about a given issue or a reporter's coverage preference. It's preparation of the clients themselves and what they need -- and need to understand -- in advance of any given engagement.
Here are five scenarios in which brands often find themselves in the digital age -- scenarios that, although common, make PR people cringe. In this article, we'll explore the recommended remedies and the points that brands should understand when coordinating with their PR teams.