Public Relations Nightmares that Aren’t that Big of a Deal

You wake up in the morning and check your phone – uh oh, from the million and one messages, there must be trouble. Undoubtedly there was something done or said or some other scandal last night while you were asleep. Is it worth even going into the office today to fix it or should you just shut down the business and flee to Bolivia? 

Oops signNo need to panic yet! These days, there are actually only a handful of PR scenarios that should elicit that panic. As long as you’ve had a good public relations plan up to this point, the following “nightmares” really are just that: a scary dream you can wake up from.

Someone Said Something Ridiculous 

This one happens all the time: a CEO or other representative of a brand or company goes on a TV show or is caught out at dinner and says something horrific. Their statement instantly causes a chain reaction of social media outrage, news reports, and then calls to dismantle the whole company.

The thing about these disasters is they are easily forgotten with the proper steps. If the employee or representative said something along the lines of “Hitler was right,” it’s probably best to just let them go and apologize to the world.

If it’s something less than that or was simply taken out of context, make sure to apologize but also explain what the situation was. While some may not believe you, this simple act will go a long way in placating most of the angry people.

Product Broke or Hurt Someone 

This one is all about having a solid business plan. Remember the poisoned Tylenol scare back in the 80’s? If handled improperly, it could’ve been a PR nightmare for the company. However, instead of risking anything, they pulled their entire stock and introduced the safety seals you see today. Tylenol didn’t exactly go out of business.

Things happen, and people understand this. The only thing they won’t deem acceptable is if they feel like you’re being irresponsible. Not pulling their entire stock could have seemed irresponsible to Tylenol’s customers and the public at large, so they did the right thing.

As long as you’re authentically trying to fix the problem and apologize profusely (and making it up to any injured parties), you should be fine. Just make sure you take all the accusations seriously.

Mix Up Between Social Media Accounts 

You’re looking at your Twitter feed when suddenly one of your favorite brands, Super Serious National Bank, tweets out “time to get wasted breh!” You experience a period of cognitive dissonance where you try to justify why a bank would be talking about getting wasted…but eventually you realize it was just a huge error on the operator’s end.

This happens occasionally and once in a while it can be really bad if something awful is said. For example, if the above tweet was sent out by the Betty Ford Clinic, that would not be a good day for that social media operator.

Something similar happened to the Red Cross a few years back. The PR pro who ran their Twitter accidentally tweeted about their evening out and what kind of beer they were drinking. Luckily the PR manager apologized and made light of the situation so there was no harm. It actually lead to more blood donations and an endorsement from the beer mentioned in the tweet!

Honestly, just keeping your head is a big part of saving a situation from becoming a nightmare. Having a plan ahead of time is also a huge help.

What’s the biggest PR nightmare you’ve overcome?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 7 Cheap PR Tactics for Success in Any Economy here:

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