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Media Training: Public Perception

  October 25, 2019

When a crisis hits your business, there are smart ways to respond to the media and public that can mitigate the situation.  This week the Houston Astros did it the wrong way--prolonging the story.

  • Sports Illustrated reports that a Houston Astros' assistant coach repeatedly gloated to three female reporters about the acquisition of a player who was suspended for domestic violence.
  • First, the team refuses to comment.
  • Next, they publicly criticize the reporting.
  • Eventually they admit the piece is accurate.
  • The team apologies and fires the coach.

 The issue of domestic violence is one that professional sports has been dealing with for some time.  And the Astros' owner this week talked about the team's commitment to creating awareness about the issue.  But the way they handled this situation is a step backwards.

Now for some companies that handled their potential crises better:

  • Bed Bath & Beyond responded quickly to a news report that artificial pumpkins they sold on-line looked like blackface.  The company apologized and pulled the product.  I have to wonder how this product was green-lit to begin with, but at least they took action to correct a mistake.
  • In Australia, K-mart removed child bride Halloween costumes after a public petition alleged that the costumes "normalize forced child marriages."  You might think this is a stretch, but it points out that public perception is extremely important in the corporate world. 
  • Procter & Gamble announced it will have non-gendered packaging on its sanitary pad products.  Transgender activists had urged the parent company of Always to make the change.  While this push hadn't reached a crisis situation, it gives the company an opportunity to show its commitment to "diversity and inclusion."   And that is good PR.

Media training isn't just about sound-bites and camera presence.  It can also focus on crisis communications--giving executives an opportunity to work through potential crisis scenarios. 

When companies face tough scrutiny in the public eye any statement executives issue has the potential to make matters worse.  Behind the scenes many scenarios are being run and risks accessed.  How will the brand be affected if we do "A" instead of "B" or if we opt to wait it out?

Your company may not be a heavy weight, but public perception is important to every business regardless of size. 

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