We see this statement all too frequently in the news. A default response when someone does not want to address an issue, it’s the equivalent of a child plugging his ears and shouting at the top of his lungs, thinking that if he doesn’t have to deal with something unpleasant, then it doesn’t exist. However, an individual or corporation’s assertion that there is “no comment” with regard to a specific issue usually means just the opposite, and the decision to stay silent about a controversial issue often snowballs into a nightmare of negative publicity.
When news broke about Tiger Woods’s SUV accident and the subsequent controversy that followed, his PR camp stayed silent as Tiger was slammed in the news, first for his actions and subsequently, for not addressing them publicly. They lost control of the message by not reacting swiftly, and public opinion of Tiger Woods plummeted to an all time low.
Contrast this with a recent Walmart story. The company was recently in the news for a racial comment made over a loudspeaker at one of its New Jersey locations, prompting outrage and confusion. Walmart, a company that touts its regard for diversity and ethics, immediately issued an apology over the store’s P.A. system, followed up with a formal public apology, offered counseling services for customers in the store at the time of the incident, and emphasized that they would collaborate with local officials to investigate the comment, which is being investigated as a bias crime. By reacting swiftly, Walmart projected an image of corporate responsibility and devotion to its customers.
Static PR campaigns that lack an acute sensitivity to the audience and a solid, cohesive messaging plan are largely unsuccessful, which is why at Articulate we are constantly readjusting and reevaluating to suit our clients’ changing needs. An open dialogue between agency and client is a key element of a mutually beneficial relationship with tangible benefits, and we strive to foster that relationship by proactive outreach, getting our desired message through loud and clear.
A recent Google news search with the keywords, “Walmart, racial comment” brings up 812 articles: a search for “Tiger Woods, affair” brings up 5,935 results. Though the Walmart incident was recent and the storm surrounding Tiger’s dalliances has been brewing since last year, it’s still evident that Walmart’s proactive PR response minimized its negative news coverage and in fact, garnered positive sentiment from consumers, far surpassing the code of silence that Tiger’s PR camp imposed for months after his SUV accident. So while all PR isn’t necessarily good PR, a swift response is better than squeezing one’s eyes shut and hoping that negative publicity will just disappear.
By Courtney Hart