RCG Blog To The Point

Breaking News & Public Relations: What’s ‘Off-Limits’?

With news of the government shutdown, it is inevitable that misguided minds behind the social media pages of major brands and companies will commit an onslaught of content to file under the category, “Major Faux Pas.”

Although it is “PR & Marketing 101” to try and tie into timely news cycles, the number one lesson that must be learned is extreme sensitivity and consideration to those who are directly affected. A natural tragedy, the assassination of a public enemy or amidst a government shutdown – where scores of people are placed on unpaid furlough for an undetermined period of time – is not the time to actively promote your latest sales or marketing initiative in a classless, irrelevant way. It is nothing short of exploitive and the long-term harm it can cause your brand often is irreversible.

Public Relations, Marketing & Social Media professionals can be the biggest offenders of such and some have to learn this lesson in a very hard – and sometimes, public – way that can damage the brands you represent as well as your creditability as a media resource.

The best guidance one can give is to simply use your common sense. While there are many, many news topics that should be completely “off-limits” to ethical PR & Marketing professionals, there are other topics – non-controversial or tragic in nature – that can be used to one’s advantage if framed and pitched in an appropriate, timely way.

A very simple breakdown, if you represent lifestyle clients:

  • DO:
    • When the price of gold plummets to a record-low for the first time in decades, jump on that news cycle and find a clever way to have that luxury jeweler client comment on the gold market or try and secure some features on fun pieces that might now be (more) affordable to potential consumers. When the price of gold soars to an all-time record high, find fun, “affordable” ways people can still indulge without paying the true market value. Look for clients that use 24K gold leafing in their culinary and cocktail offerings or in beauty products and get creative by giving it a new spin.
  • DON’T:
    • When a natural disaster hits, it is not the time to create a new, specially-priced “Hurricane” cocktail special at your client’s bar or restaurant or to announce that the clothing store you represent will be donating a measly 10% of its sales to a disaster relief fund. These are transparent, insensitive ploys to even the most untrained eye.

In conclusion, always trust your instinct and remain compassionate in all surroundings. If you are second-guessing it, there is likely a glaring reason.

-Lindsay Rotondi, Vice President

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