No second chances on offer as PR pros weigh up rebuttal strategies

Go long? Or short? PRWeek Global editorial director Steve Barrett writes that there's a time and a place for both strategies.

No second chances on offer as PR pros weigh up rebuttal strategies

To rebut or not to rebut is increasingly the question for PR pros. Brands and businesses are under more scrutiny than ever in a highly charged world where facts and counter-facts, opinions and propaganda fly around media at lightning-fast pace.

There are numerous ways of dealing with critical media reports or social media firestorms, ranging from dignified silence to long-form point-by-point rebuttals, the efficacy of which are debated in our Gloves Off section.

Starbucks took the high ground when its special holiday cups were criticized for not being "Christmasy enough," a topic Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump felt worth commenting on during a rally in Illinois. The coffee chain sensibly stayed relatively silent beyond noting it had a number of Christmas-themed products in its stores.

Amazon’s Jay Carney took the opposite tack and went on the offensive with a lengthy blog post on Medium, which has become a platform of choice for rebuttals. The former White House press secretary took on a negative investigation by The New York Times point by point, attempting to prove its flimsiness.

Problem was the report came out two months earlier and Carney’s blog reawakened a debate that had already died down in public consciousness. It smacked of a tactic from Carney’s days in politics, where a wartime approach to comms is pretty much constant.

The short answer? There’s a time and a place for both strategies. The conundrum for the busy PR pro is that they are the ones who must decide quickly and effectively which route to take – and there is rarely a second chance to get it right.

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