Steering Clear of PR and Marketing Disasters

Now, perhaps more than ever, it is critical to measure every word you speak. Or type. Or publish.

Or else!

We’re all just a tweet, email, article, sentence, or social media post away from a PR nightmare. Your company’s reputation — and your job — are at stake with every piece of content you release into the universe.

In the hope that we all may avoid the dreadful fate of going viral for all the wrong reasons, let’s review some basics of avoiding PR and marketing debacles.

Proofread

 
Let’s be real: Typos are bad for business. It might seem like a small matter or ancillary detail, but your communications are a direct reflection of your company’s professionalism. Who wants to do business with a company who’s whose website is riddled with poor grammar and spelling errors?

Using spell-check is not enough. Even if you’re using a service like Grammarly, you still need to consider the context, spacing, placement, tone, and timing of your messaging. Double check for possible double entendres and things that might sound awkward or inappropriate. Make sure you have a proofing process in place that requires at least one other person’s OK before hitting publish or send.

Tighten up your copy and remove any potential fodder for ridicule.

Obviously we all make mistakes; no one’s perfect. Not even the Vatican. But for heaven’s sake — for you and your company’s sake — proofread your work.

Going Topical? Careful Now…

 
Newsjacking — or piggybacking off of current trends, news, or events — can be an effective marketing strategy. Of course it can also go spectacularly wrong. Just ask AT&T. Or Hubspot, who wrote a post offering advice on how to newsjack a disaster.

Exercise extreme caution here. I think we can all agree that a good rule of thumb is to avoid piggybacking off of any events in which people died or suffered. Don’t attempt to appropriate or get mileage out of anything people might feel strongly about.

Keep it light if you plan to keep it topical. There’s a thin line between generating buzz and generating a public relations fiasco.

Interacting with People Online? Careful Now…

 
We all forget sometimes the infinite, eternal nature of the internet. If you post something on the web, there is a record of it, and it can come back to haunt you.

How many people have gotten into hot water for tweets they sent and deleted years ago? The internet never forgets.

Keep that in mind when dealing with frustrated customers, drivers, clients, colleagues, critics, or anyone else. Always err on the side of being gracious.

If someone is trolling or criticizing your company, be slow to speak/tweet/reply/email, and quick to listen. Or block.

Pro(verbs) tip: A gentle answer not only ‘turneth away wrath,’ but also may prevent(eth?) a PR calamity of Biblical proportions.

Going Snarky? Careful Now…

 
This is really one of those ‘do as I say not as I do’ moments, as I certainly enjoy hearty helpings of snark. I think the key here is mean-spiritedness — or lack thereof.

Funny is good. Negativity is not. Don’t provoke, demean or make fun of people. Being crass is usually not a ticket to success.

Remember what mama said about what to do if don’t have anything nice to say. And don’t hesitate to learn from the mistakes of others.

And Don’t Forget…

 
You might not feel as though your job is ‘changing the world’ in some profound way, but I have news for you. You can absolutely make a positive difference in someone’s life through edifying, uplifting words. You can make someone’s life better by being good at your job, and by helping others be good at theirs. That’s a big deal.

It’s also a big deal to help your company avoid negative PR blowback, but that’s just one aspect of your job. Your content still needs to be compelling.

Creating insightful, interesting content — without bringing shame upon yourself and your company — that’s the name of the game right there.
 

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