Feature: Reputation management - No such thing as bad publicity?

A brand's reputation depends on it standing out, but what if it hits the headlines for the wrong reasons? Alex Blyth finds out how to get the balance right.

Top Gear: BBC flooded with complaints after presenters called Mexicans "lazy, flatulent, feckless and overweight" [pic Rex Features]
Top Gear: BBC flooded with complaints after presenters called Mexicans "lazy, flatulent, feckless and overweight" [pic Rex Features]

It appears that 2011 is already the year of the public gaffe. Following the description of Mexican people by Top Gear presenters as 'lazy, flatulent, feckless and overweight' in February, the BBC came under significant pressure to issue an apology, or even do what Sky Sports did with Richard Keys and Andy Gray and sack the presenters.

Elsewhere, questions have recently been asked following designer Kenneth Cole's tweet about Egyptian protests and deals website GroupOn's use of the Chinese occupation of Tibet as a marketing ploy.

This all comes on top of the attack by comedian Mark Watson on once untouchable shock stand-up Frankie Boyle, and their subsequent Twitter spat.

The question of good taste is therefore very much in the headlines, and this should matter to any PR professional who advises a personality or company that wants to develop a brand. To a great extent developing a brand is about saying something different. It is about being outspoken, but this approach brings a real danger of causing offence.

This potential for damage is greatly exacerbated by the growing use of blogs and Twitter.

Their greatest strengths - that they are immediate and have viral potential - are also their greatest weaknesses. Get it wrong and everyone knows about it. PROs need to be able to advise their clients so they walk this tightrope successfully.

Five steps to getting it right

Five ways to manage the fallout

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