Parade of missteps shows basic PR rules should not be ignored

One of the questions I ask myself when editing copy is, "Does this provide an a-ha moment?"

One of the questions I ask myself when editing copy is, "Does this provide an a-ha moment?" In this, our Digital Issue, it seemed even more imperative to include ideas that pushed the envelope. Unfortunately I found I had more copy than I had room for. Some full-length stories will run online, but for print something had to go.

Our story on effective newsjacking had a section with the heading, "Proceed with caution on negative stories." It included input from author David Meerman Scott about how brands without a real tie to an issue will be subject to a backlash if they try to insert themselves into the story. That's a decent point, I thought, but might be somewhat of a 'no kidding' for our readers. So, I deleted it.

That was on September 2. What followed was a parade of missteps by some well-known brands that made me wonder whether digital and social media pros are forgetting to funnel messaging through some of the very basic, but critical, filters that are the foundation for good PR and communications.

Backlash was swift to an AT&T tweet commemorating the 12th anniversary of 9/11. The tweet, taken down within an hour, showed someone holding a smartphone taking a photo of the World Trade Center Tribute in Light memorial. The company apologized and said the post, "was solely meant to pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy." People did not view the apology as genuine, making things worse.

A graphics glitch on Esquire's website mashed up a photo of a man falling from the World Trade Center and the headline, "Making your morning commute more stylish." Graphics glitch or not, the apology was appalling. Esquire's tweet read, "Relax, everybody. There was a stupid technical glitch on our 'Falling Man' story and it was fixed asap. We're sorry for the confusion." The response by @balfeC says it best, "After you offend the world, you may want a softer apology."

And Kenneth Cole once again proved there is no major geopolitical event he won't inappropriately use to sell more shoes.

The current real-time revolution in marketing is without a doubt an amazing opportunity for brands and partners and an area the industry has just started to tap. But as the industry strives to measure and monitor more accurately, respond in real time, and geo-target, the basic golden rules of PR and communications should never wind up on the cutting-room floor. No kidding.

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