Public Relations Crisis Communication and Mistakes
Public Relations - Handling Rumors, Lies and Propaganda
Public Relations - Handling Rumors, Lies and Propaganda
Why Most PR Products Get Ignored
Most press releases don't get used. The same thing is true of op-eds, posts on Facebook and tweets on Twitter. This is because people tend to treat Facebook and Twitter -- along with press releases and op-eds -- as a one-way street. The best communication isn't one-way. It's not a monologue, a lecture or a self-centered diary of your daily...
Facebook Gets Caught in PR Scandal
In a case that seems more fitting for the middle of a mud-slinging presidential primary, Facebook just got caught using a hired PR firm to plant unflattering stories about Google. Is this really a PR no-no? What should Facebook have done instead? And now that Facebook got caught, what should they do? Ethics in PR really aren't that hard. You...
Palin Goes Rogue on Paul Revere's Ride
When you're running for president -- or doing a national bus tour while teasing the press that you might run for president -- everything you say is fair game. Especially whatever you say in front of a TV camera. So when Sarah Palin was asked about Paul Revere and gave a mangled summary of his ride, it made the news. Gaffes happen to every public...
3 Key Lessons from the Charlie Sheen PR Debacle
When professional athletes, politicians or rock stars self-destruct, people naturally pay attention to the celebrity train wreck. Charlie Sheen's fiery wreckage certainly caught our attention. He did things different -- he didn't go into hiding or rehab. He took control of his own publicity and media appearance. He created internet memes at...
Thank You for Suing Us
For a fast-food chain, the news should have been devastating: two California law firms joining forces to file a class-action lawsuit claiming that the beef Taco Bell served customers was mostly things other than beef. Then Taco Bell did the unexpected. It didn't hunker down. It didn't get defensive. It went on the offense with an advertising and...
Egypt: The First Twitter Revolution?
We may be witnessing the first revolution that started out with a Twitter hashtag: #jan25. If it succeeds, it will be in no small part due to a public relations failure by Hosni Mubarak, ruler of Egypt since 1981. Organizers used Twitter and other social media to start protests on January 25, despite the fact that such protests are not allowed...
The Arizona Shootings: Reacting to a National Tragedy
How did President Obama, other national figures and Sarah Palin respond to the shootings in Arizona? It's easy for public figures to get wrapped up in defending themselves and attacking the other side, especially when emotions run high. But in cases of national tragedy, and national tragedies such as this, you have to focus on the victims, the...
Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminates His Good Public Image
Scandals involving public figures usually revolve around two things: money or sex. The worst ones, however, are really about something else entirely: secrecy, betrayal and hypocrisy. The cover-up is worse than the crime. Arnold Schwarzenegger hid the fact that he fathered a child with a maid who worked for his family for 20 years. This scandal...
Weinergate: The Fall of a Promising Politician
How does a random photo on Twitter become fodder for scandal that might bring down a member of Congress -- a man who many expected to be the next mayor of New York City? There are key differences between the kinds of mistakes that get forgiven by the press and public and the kind that don't. The two key questions are these: First, can you see...
How You Can Defeat Propaganda
It's hard to fight fire with fire, especially when you can't use the same evil techniques, manipulations and lies as the other side and you are typically David in a fight against Goliath, since propaganda is a tool of those in power and on top. Use leaks to undermine propaganda, subvert the propaganda itself and create your own ways to communicate directly with the public.
What is Propaganda, and How Does It Work?
Rumors and lies are typically organic and viral. Typically, there's no organized campaign with funding and muscle. Instead, it's usually fueled by water-cooler gossip, e-mail chains and other person-to-person contact. Propaganda is different. It's an organized effort to manipulate the public using mass media, including censorship, misinformation, half-truths and lies. Propaganda relies on images and emotions, especially fear.
Fighting Back Against Lies
When confronted with a lie, it's not enough to simply lay out the facts. Given a strong enough motive, people will continue to believe a lie, no matter how many facts they're exposed to or how much you undercut their supposed proof. That's why you have to attack lies from different directions.
How Lies Work
A rumor can persist when there's a vacuum, especially when it's referring to events that haven't happened yet. Lies are different. The facts are known. The tough thing is for a lot of people -- because of ideology, personal beliefs and other reasons -- don't care about proof and evidence and facts. They want to believe certain things, whether they are true or not.
How to Fight Rumors
A common mistake when confronting rumors is to repeat the damaging statement when defending it against it. You have to confront rumors carefully. Always stay calm, no matter how horrible the rumors are. Ignore common, everyday rumors. Let others defend you. Refute big rumors quickly, before they fester. You can't wound rumors -- you have to kill them.
Examples of Rumors and Public Relations
The biggest corporations in the world use rumors. Every day, rumors cause stock prices to rise and fall, competitors to start madly developing products -- or abandoning them. Public officials, political campaigns and advocacy groups traffic in rumors to hurt rivals, kill legislation or advance an agenda. Many big corporations and public figures have a policy of never commenting on rumors. This is typically smart, because rumors only get stronger when you feed them with attention.
Rumors Can Plant False Memories
Hearing a rumor can make you not only think it might be true, and believe it -- hearing a rumor can actually implant false memories that it actually happened to you.
Why Rumors are So Viral and Damaging
Rumors are inherently tough to squash because they have built-in defenses. Nobody can know the future. There's never any proof of another person's innermost thoughts, feeling and motivations. You can only guess about the future, and about the secrets other people keep. This is why rumors are born and persist.