After watching the recent Red Cross swim poster debacle unfold in traditional and social media I found it unfortunate that this 100-year-old organization failed in some ways on a public relations level.
Although the agency was quick with a response and apology, it was lacking that human touch. Rather than put a face and a name to the mia culpa, the letter posted to its website and circulated to the media went unsigned.
Most news headlines read: “American Red Cross” apologizes … In fact, it wasn’t until a few days after the news broke that Executive Director Gail McGovern, via a blog on The Huffington Post website, finally stepped up to the plate, apologizing and assuring everyone that they were doing everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again. What took her so long?
The recent tragedy in Orlando that claimed the lives of at least 49 people (as of this writing) at a LGBT nightclub has sparked an outbreak of social media ranging from outrage to the outrageous. Everyone from the LGBT community to politicians to the average person on the street, has (for better or for worse) been able to voice an opinion.
Some are designed to bring people together; others seem to do little more than try to further fan the flames and rip us apart. For companies and nonprofit organizations, the events of the past week also have served as an opportunity to step up to the plate and show support not only in words, but also in action.
Walt Disney, Darden Restaurants and the Orlando Magic, which call Orlando home, have pledged financial support to help those impacted. Jet Blue began offering free flights to the families of shooting victims. Nonprofits also have offered their support with one sending “comfort dogs” from as far away as Chicago and Iowa. Even some Orlando area Chick-fil-A franchisees, whose company president and COO has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage, responded by opening on Sunday to hand out free sandwiches and iced tea to those waiting in line to donate blood. Though a Chick-fil-A company spokesperson has said the decision is being made by individual franchisees and it is not a company edict.
Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli is a public relations pro's worst nightmare and proof that no matter how good your PR company may be, if you don't listen to their advice, it's going to come back and kick you in the teeth.
In case you haven't heard by now, Shkreli's company has been called out in articles around the globe for raising the price of its recently acquired drug Daraprim from $13.50 to nearly $750 a pill. What reason, other than greed, makes someone take a drug that's been around for more than 60 years and jack up the price some 5,000 percent. Daraprim is used to treat a parasitic infection that can be life threatening to some including those with AIDS and cancer.
By doing what he did, Shkreli has been labeled, among other things, the most hated man in America. Even Donald Trump called him a spoiled brat.
And, every day the news just gets worse for Shkreli. After taking to Twitter and essentially giving anyone who criticized him the finger, Shkreli put his Twitter account on private and backed down in the wake of a tremendous backlash. He's since come out saying it was all a mistake and he would lower the price of the drug.
But it's too little too late. He's being blacklisted by a lot of people, including the drug and biotech industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which tweeted "@TuringPharma does not represent the values of @PhRMA member companies."
Big Pharma's efforts to distance itself from Shkreli is in a sense ironic since it too has been criticized for years for essentially doing the same thing. He's even prompted Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to come up with a plan to take on the entire pharma industry. So, not only has Shkreli given himself and his company a black eye, but he's shone a negative light on the entire industry.
We work as strategic partners with clients, learning about their business, creating a PR plan and develop key messages. If there is a product or service involved, our job is to create and build awareness. If there is the possibility of something bad happening, we work with clients to mitigate the damage. This doesn’t mean we try to whitewash a problem, rather we help them to find ways to respond in the best way.
Last week, USA Today reported that the University of North Carolina was spending nearly $800,000 with a public relations firm as it deals with the results of an investigation of academic and athletic problems at the school.
Also last month, Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas had to undertake a major PR campaign to regain public trust after mishandling the nation’s first Ebola case.
What many people fail to realize is that public relations isn’t just about crisis management; it’s about building trust, brand and loyalty all year long so that when something bad happens you are not scurrying around putting out fires.
Garton-Miller Media is a full-service, South Florida-based public relations firm. Founder Susan R. Miller has 30 years of experience as a writer, journalist and PR professional.