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A case for ‘slow PR’

When our culture runs at the speed of social media outrage, organisations can feel obliged to respond in kind and at a hurried pace.

Professionals ought to be more careful. We have obligations to customers and clients, staff, stakeholders and shareholders. We have obligations to accuracy, and to the history and future of our organisations.

If you don’t pause to think before acting or speaking, you can get things seriously wrong.

NASCAR got it wrong when it responded rashly to the claim by black driver Bubba Wallace that a noose had been placed in the team garage.

NASCAR immediately said “We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act.”

While the emotive language is well expressed, NASCAR assumed the claim was true. It wasn’t.

An FBI investigation found the noose was a loop on the end of a rope used to open and close the door. It had been in place for a long time, way before the Wallace team moved in.

It is arguable that NASCAR lost nothing in over-reacting. It scored a victory by stating its values. In these circumstances, no one is going to point out that they were foolish in being precipitous.

The problem is that their rash response created an unnecessary risk. It’s very common for the truth to turn out different to the original story. NASCAR would have lost nothing by preceding their original reaction with the simple phrase “If this is true…”.

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