Hey, PR pros! A new year is finally here. Whether or not 2016 was as bad for you as it seemed for others, let’s go ahead and catalog the public relations mistakes of last year so you can use them to prepare for PR success in this new one. It’s time to take on the goals of 2017. Make it your resolution to look at this list periodically so your new year keeps shining bright all year long.
PR mistake #1: “Trending” does not make a topic “relevant.”
An example of the disconnect between a “trending” and “relevant” topic presented itself in 2016 after the tragic passing of Prince, when Cheerios decided to take advantage of the trending topic. As Fast Company pointed out, attempting to capitalize on a death of a high-profile celebrity almost never works out and users called the brand out for its insensitivity.
Similar to brands that piggyback on irrelevant topics for the sake of media exposure, newsjacking can also backfire, regardless of relevance. One of the most infamous moments of 2016 arrived as the country remembered 9/11. In a thoughtless TV spot, a Texas mattress company decided it would be an opportune time to advertise a “special” themed sale… and months later they’re still dealing with the fallout. Yikes.
PR mistake #2: A “correct” response isn’t necessarily the “fastest” response.
A common problem in crisis management is compounding the issue at hand by making a hasty and careless response.
When the right response is released, however, it can help to quell a troubling situation, if even for just a moment. After the enormous outrage at the ongoing lack of diversity ahead of the 2016 Oscars, the president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Association of America released a well-received and carefully examined statement acknowledging the need for more diversity and promising changes in the future that would yield more diverse nominations. While the issue is still being worked on, and there will hopefully be progress in 2017, the careful response illustrated a mature and appropriate answer for that time.
PR mistake #3: ”New” ideas aren’t inherently “better” ideas.
Okay, so it was hard to miss this one last year, but if you had a good reason to get off Twitter, you may not have seen that the tech teams at Microsoft came up with a pretty ingenious little bot device for the social media platform. Only, it didn’t quite turn out that way.
Called “the AI with zero chill,” the social media bot named Tay focused on how tech can better understand human speech patterns and pick up common phrases and word structures to improve its own speaking habits. While the team may have built the bot on good intentions, the “content neutral” programming quickly began spouting hateful and racist speech. Tay made the point that just because an idea is new, it doesn’t necessarily make the idea great.
We know that mistakes are inevitable in any line of work. In fact, they’re an important part of learning. But to keep your clients impressed and happy, form a proactive plan of best practices using the lessons above.
You’ll be glad you did.
What are your lessons for public relations in 2016? Sound off below!