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How to avoid the public back down



IN THIS ISSUE



HOW TO AVOID THE PUBLIC BACK DOWN MAXIMISING POLITICAL VISITS TO YOUR PREMISES



THE THREE MISTAKES THAT LEAD TO PUBLIC BACK -DOWN



Lotto pulled its Six60 Instant Kiwi scratchie promotion after criticism it would promote gambling among young people.



Back-downs happen more often than they should because organisations make one of three mistakes:



1. Don’t anticipate the downsides. The projects that go bad are often logical answers to the needs of an organisation, and are sustained by enthusiasm. Someone needs to objectively assess how these ideas will look when they get out into the wild. That’s usually the job of the PR person. There’s absolutely no excuse for not spending time black hatting a pet project.



2. Anticipate the problem, adjust and prepare, but lose nerve under pressure. Even when negativity has been anticipated, important people inside organisations can lose their nerve at the first sign of it. Our advice is to back the original assessment of staff that a small amount of risk is worthwhile, and that the upsides are worth it. Use the media attention to remind customers, staff and stakeholders why you back the project. Remember that being criticised in public is not the same as being criticised by the public. Tweets from activists who have no interest in a company’s success are not as damaging as complaints from customers.



3. After an internal contest over wisdom of the project, decision-makers reverse their decision under public pressure. Our advice is that if there has been strong internal dissent over the potential of a project to cause public dissent, it’s best not to proceed. The differences in opinion will become painful schisms under the public spotlight. If the reception is bad enough to cause a reversal of the decision, then it’s best for staff loyalty and customer confidence that the decision-makers admit to the mistake, rather than make bland apologies. The back-down can acknowledge that there were differences of opinion within the organisation and the wrong call was made.






HOW TO AVOID BEING PROPS IN POLITICAL THEATRE



The Prime Minister, decked out in a fluoro vest and hard hat, made a transport policy announcement to media gathered at her visit this week to a Z Energy biofuels facility.



But instead of transport, journalists were more interested in questions about Covid-19. Her comments on the virus issue led the bulletins, and although the transport announcement also made the news, the venue and host were overlooked.



Organisations regularly invite politicians to events, expecting the kudos of government blessing for whatever-they-do, and the benefits of media attention. That’s fair enough and often works.



But sometimes the announcement can be overtaken by events and your venue can become just a backdrop for another issue.



Good PR practitioners will anticipate this and prepare other ways to make sure stakeholders and customers hear about the visit. They’ll capture the visit in photos and video, get quotes from the politician signalling approval of their project, get non-political media to attend, post content about the visit to their media and social media channels, and refer to the visit for months afterwards.



These tactics will ensure you’re left with more than just good vibes after the political stage show has moved on.

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