Our older, wiser mentors tell us that errors and failures are just a learning experience in disguise, but, boy, that is the last thing you want to hear when you’re smack in the middle of a PR disaster.
Fortunately, as with most things in life, our elders are right. Read this post now so you’ll have a little perspective the next time a PR disaster strikes.
The social media troll
Anybody who has worked in PR for any length of time has experienced him—the social media troll who hates your business and just won’t be appeased. He’ll show up on Twitter, Facebook, Planet Feedback, and even Ravelry, the social network for knitters (of all places), complaining about your company. You’ve tried to appease him with gift certificates, but nothing works.
What would Grandma say? Ignore him. And she’s right. There are some people there’s no reasoning with, and if this troll has rebuffed your good-natured attempts to rectify his hatred for your company, you’ve done what you can do. Unfortunately, online trolls can follow you from forum to forum, and other members of your audience can read what he has to say. Fortunately, trolls generally show their true colors pretty quickly, and your average Internet citizen has a pretty sharp troll detector.
The company gaffe
This PR disaster can be much harder to handle than a troll, mainly because of the guilt associated. You messed up; you know it’s your fault. Maybe you insulted a freelance writer you stole content from, as Cook’s Source Magazine
did, or maybe you complained about your difficult life while your oil well gushed animal- and economy-killing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, as BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward did. Either way, you goofed.
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What would Grandma say? Do better next time. Fortunately, Grandma loves you and is willing to give you a second chance, even though she may be disappointed in you for a while. The same goes with your audience. Keep calm, carry on, and exhibit your best behavior from now on. It works with Grandma, and it will work with your audience, too.
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a PR disaster that turned into a learning opportunity? Please tell us about it in the comments.
Mickie Kennedy is the founder of eReleases. A version of this article first appeared on PR Fuel.