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Rip Off the Band-Aid

Posted Monday, July 16, 2012, at 3:37 PM

Odds are, your company will eventually face a PR crisis -- regardless of its size. PR crises can simply be accidental, such as an employee on your team neglecting to shred an important document that mistakenly fell into someone's hands. Or you could face the more serious negligent action: an employee sold confidential customer information to a third party, for example.

We've seen large companies with assumed PR prowess fumble the ball when faced with their own PR crisis. In all likelihood, they know what the right play is, but their temptation to control the story wins out over good sense.

Late last year, the Founder and Chairman of Best Buy, Richard Schulze, quietly learned of an inappropriate relationship between his CEO, Brian Dunn, and a female employee. An announcement was subsequently made that Dunn was leaving the company with no explanation as to why. Rumors began to develop as the public sought answers. Much time passed before Best Buy owned up to the reason for Dunn's departure, and during that time, the scandal was front and center with the media as one piece of new information was reported after another -- prolonging the inevitable and greatly increasing the negative media generated.

Let's remove that page from the playbook all-together, as the antithesis of a best practice. There are some basic rules of the road to follow to mitigate your PR exposure.

Be fully transparent. You will needlessly prolong the crisis in the media if you attempt to keep things under wraps, as it only makes the public more curious. Instead, demonstrate your brand's straightforward culture of integrity by owning up to the situation fully and early on. A new development every day begins to feel like one lengthy stream of scandal to the public. Rip off the Band-Aid quickly.

Tell the truth. It's the right thing to do, plus someone, somewhere will know if you're being anything less than honest. Take your knocks, and put it behind you.

Have a personality. If your response to bad publicity seems mechanical, you'll lose in the court of public opinion. Remember the Tiger Woods scandal and that robotic apology delivered to the media? He didn't regain any favor with the public as a result. Just search YouTube for the "R" rated, parody "Real Tiger Woods Apology," viewed by over two million people, as proof. Know what you want to say before you get in front of a reporter, but don't deliver a script. Have an authentic conversation.

Thanks to the instant-news era in which we live, gone are the days where you can just sweep bad publicity under the rug in the hope that it will go away. You must address it head-on and without a cloak of secrecy if your brand is to survive relatively unscathed.

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Guerilla Sales & Marketing
Lori Turner-Wilson
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Lori spent over 15 years leading corporate marketing and communications divisions in the financial services, hospitality and franchise restaurant sectors. As Director of Target Marketing for the Hampton Hotels brand of Hilton Hotels Corporation, Lori managed promotional, direct and Web marketing, as well as custom publishing, for the brand's franchise system. In her role as Vice President of Employee Communications and Development for First Horizon National Corporation, she managed the corporation's internal culture initiatives, communications, and employee recognition programs. Other positions held include Sr. Communications Director/Corporate Editor for TCBY Enterprises, Inc., and Vice President of Marketing for First National Banking Company. Lori is a founding sponsor and member of the Board of Directors for LaunchMemphis -- an organization committed to developing an entrepreneurial community in Memphis comprised of investors, entrepreneurs and local organizations. In addition, Lori is on the Board of Directors of the Sales and Marketing Society of the Mid-South and on the Advisory Board for the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County. She is a sought-after speaker in the Memphis area, delivering sales and marketing keynote addresses and workshops to organizations like: the Memphis Chapter of the American Advertising Federation, the Sales & Marketing Society of the Mid-South, LaunchMemphis, EmergeMemphis, the Memphis Regional Chamber, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. Lori holds a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in addition to having completed the University of Colorado's School of Bank Marketing and Management. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards including local and district Addy's, Communicator awards, and a Telly. She received recognition as one of the Memphis Business Journal's "Top 40 Under 40" recipients in 2009. Lori also served as a contributing ghost writer for the renowned "Complete Idiot's Guide to Guerilla Marketing." Beyond her passions for marketing and dogs of all shapes and sizes, Lori is an avid traveler, runner and foodie.