Categories: Crisis management / Trust and reputations

10 August 2010


How PRs advise firms to grovel and deceive

I’m home refreshed after two weeks in the Swiss canton Ticino on the shores of Lake Lugano. It didn’t take long, however, for me to get my focus back and decide to take a swipe at some PR nonsense.

Have you ever wondered why so many firms get on their knees apologising every time they come under sustained media flak? Perhaps it is because so many firms are guilty of this or that crime? Well, think again.

The reason is more likely to be that PRs are telling firms and other institutions to surrender their reputation to media opinion. Here’s the director of the Public Relations Specialist Certification Program at recommending just that:

So, how do you ensure that most PR is good PR for you and your company? Take responsibility, and act. If you see some negative PR buzzing around cyberspace, do something about it. Can you remedy the situation by offering an opposing thought? Can you change the minds of the negative WOM (word of mouth) spreaders by sharing information/facts/data? Can you offer a solution to an unhappy customer? I’m sure you can do all of the above.

The most important thing to do, however, is that first step aforementioned: Take responsibility. No one cares if it’s not your fault; if the media is building you up to be the big bad wolf, that’s what you’ll be. Apologize regardless of ownership of the problem, and get to work on telling and of creating a solution.

Let’s just pause to examine what’s being said. The author, Ashley Wirthlin (see full article on, seems not to realize that her advice to firms is the exact opposite of accepting responsibility. The consequence of her advice is to take responsibility out of the firm’s hands and place it in the media’s.

In reality, there’s often a good case to be made for not doing much when the media attacks you. The media agenda changes daily. Media storms come and go.

There’s also often a good case to be made for being seen to address a controversial issue sensitively and to hold a constructive dialogue about it. But making apologies and promises to reform and move on just because the media (or campaigners) demand it, risks undermining the trust people place in genuine apologies. Moreover, when a firm proactively decides to respond to a negative media campaign, it is the truth that matters first and foremost. Anything else lacks integrity and amounts to, or must involve resorting to, lies or deception, surely.

3 responses to “How PRs advise firms to grovel and deceive”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amanda Chapel, paulseaman. paulseaman said: On my PR blog now: How PRs advise firms to grovel and deceive […]

  2. Heather Yaxley says:

    Agree with you entirely – reminds me of those “sorry if you’ve been offended” apologies. About time PR advice was more meaningful than these platitudes which fail to recognise the harsh reality of many situations facing organisations today.

  3. PR Nottingham says:

    Very true.:) Above all, you should take responsibility in everything that you’re doing, I definitely agree on that point where in people are usually up in defending their side first rather than admitting their mistakes.