Sometimes, in life and business, things just don’t turn out the way you hope they will. You can plan your strategy for months, but there are certain things that are out of your control. If a major snowstorm hits on the day of or the day before your event, a major snowstorm is going to hit (unfortunately, I am speaking from experience). The royal baby could happen to be born at the same time you are launching a major media relations initiative (also speaking from experience). Any number of uncontrollable factors can have a negative impact on the successful execution of your marketing strategies. In these cases, the best you can do is plan to have contingencies as best you can and then work twice as hard to get the results you intended and avoid a PR Fail.
However, there are times factors within your control are overlooked or just ignored. This can result in an avoidable PR Fail. You might think your campaign, media announcement, or event is the most important thing in the world, however, you need to look at it from a different perspective. You need to fit your narrative into the bigger picture. Unfortunately, one organization in Minnesota learned this lesson the hard way during the lead up to the Super Bowl.
The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women tries to bring to light issues surrounding domestic violence and homicide in Minnesota. For 29 years in a row, they have released an annual report at the same time of year, accompanied with a press conference. This year happened to coincide with the timing of the Super Bowl. Because all media resources were assigned to cover various stories related to the Super Bowl. No one showed up to the press conference.
As disappointing as this must have been for them, it is even more disappointing to see it happen when it could have been avoided. Here are three adjustments that would have helped the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women overcome such a huge obstacle and unfortunate PR Fail.
Adjust the timing
Just because you do something at the same time every year, doesn’t mean that your story will be the most important at that time every year. When planning an event, media announcement, launch, etc. make sure you know what is happening on that day, that week, even that month. If you are looking for media coverage, recognize that a lot of media outlets are cutting staff writers, which means smaller teams to cover a growing number of stories. You can’t only concern yourself with your own brand storyline, you need to fit into the overall big picture.
Use the narrative to your advantage
A representative of the organization commented that they were disappointed, especially because there have been a number of stories associated with the NFL related to domestic violence issues, and the NFL has not been shown in a very positive light. Use it to your advantage. If they had waited until a couple of days after the game and the excitement died down, they could have carried on the narrative of the Super Bowl and how it glorifies an organization that doesn’t draw a hard line against domestic violence.
The idea is that you need to tie what you are doing into relevant and timely stories that are already happening around you. Have a great baby product and there is a royal baby expected? Talk about how your product is fit for a royal baby and that parents can use it every day. Launching a food product just after a health and safety scare with a similar product? Take the time to feature the way the product is manufactured and how it differs from your competitors.
It has nothing to do with “spinning” a narrative because that implies lying or stretching the truth, but everything to do with adapting to your surroundings.
Talk to people first – and listen
If you’re unsure about something, do a bit of digging to make sure it will work. Ask your audience for feedback and then take it to heart. If you’re looking for media coverage and you have existing relationships with media, reach out in advance before the official pitch. In the case of the Super Bowl issue, they had relationships with media and those media said they were all assigned to cover the game. That is invaluable information – use it to your advantage. If you know none of your media contacts are available, reschedule.
You can also speak to a small number of trusted customers to get answers as well if it is something customer-facing. For example, if there is a similar consumer event on the same day as yours (and it is far enough in advance) get their opinion on rescheduling. You should also do your research in the early stages of the planning process to see if anything else is planned for the same time frame.
In any case, your audience will appreciate you taking them into consideration, and that goes a long way.
There are both internal and external factors that will affect the outcome of your strategy. It is important to make sure you give as much attention to the external factors as your own internal planning process so you can avoid a PR Fail.
If you’re looking to prepare yourself for success and you’re not sure if you’ve missed anything, be sure to give us a call.