In a world that perhaps need no more examples, two recent PR disasters showcase how important the fundamentals of public relations are, especially to prominent brands or people.
Given the glaring missteps, the firms handling crisis communications for Toyota and Tiger Woods must have forgotten about one of them: framing.
Case Study #1: Tiger Woods
In our class last week, Dr. Matera mentioned how Woods’ unfolding scandal began to frame him as arrogant. As an aspiring PR practitioner, I believe Woods waited too long to give his side of the story. By the time Woods held his press conference, losses in endorsements were already mounting. Casualties include his five-year licensing deal with Gatorade, worth a reported $100 million; his Buick endorsement, reportedly worth $40 million; and his Gillette endorsement, reportedly worth $20 million.
Neptune points out:
Tiger’s delayed disclosure cost him credibility, and empowered others to structure this entire event on their terms, without any context from Tiger himself.
For people who aspires to prominence, as well as those who already are, the lesson from Woods would be to take control of the message immediately, and prevent others from spinning it to their own preference or liking.
The masses tend to remember what they hear first, and form their opinions around that, rather than what they hear last.
Case Study #2: Toyota
Embattled Toyota has been under fire in the media for their recent vehicle recall because of their lack of communication. Toyota did not communicate quickly with their publics, and at worst, they are accused of actively covering up their problems. According to Neptune, Toyota’s recall of the Prius and other cars is an example of :
The consequences of employing the drip philosophy of crisis management..Speculation was rampant, but the company was reluctant to initiate the recall…Now they face reputation and financial damage, and government and regulatory intrusion in their business.
In a recent article in Time magazine, Bill Saporito reports that the recall is projected to cost Toyota $2 billion in lost output and sales. Saporito says that while Toyota will fix its car problem soon, the restoration of its tattered reputation is going to take a lot longer.
Going forward, the lesson for Toyota is relatively similar to that for Woods: frame the event, get your side out first, accept responsibility and initiate the recall.
What are some other fundamentals of public relations? What are some other important elements a client should have in place as part of their crisis communications plan? Interested in all things PR? Check out the PRWeek blog.