Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Is BP winning public relations war?
"Publicity is a great purifier because it sets in action the forces of public opinion, and in this country, public opinion controls the courses of the nation." -Charles Evans Hughes-
Never forget: A good and honest publicist is worth their weight in gold.
British Petroleum isn’t the only name in the last 18 months that has gotten tons of bad press, there have been some brilliant examples of PR FAILS that BP might learn from, take for instance the “Balloon Boy” fiasco orchestrated by the publicity grubbing "Wife Swap" Heene parents, who claimed their six year-old son Falcon was soaring with eagles high above Colorado in a run-away Mylar balloon. Can you say, “Jail sentence, community service and restitution to the tune of $36,000,” for pulling off a hoax that simply showed how stupid this kid’s parents were? Lesson One: Honesty is always the best policy.
There is also something learned from Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the wanna-be but never invited White House guests to President Obama’s first State Dinner – no matter how important you think you are - gate crashing is not permitted by the Secret Service. Lesson Two: Never muck with the President of these United States.
What about our own Defense Department’s “photo op” that went awry when a back-up Presidential 747 Air Force One was accompanied by two F-16 fighters and proceeded to buzz over Manhattan scaring the bejangers out of New Yorkers. Someone should have told Mayor Bloomberg that all they wanted were publicity photos. Lesson Three: Keep everyone informed.
Then there are cases such as the brilliant tongue-in-cheek hoax about the 140-year old hot dog with bun plus dinner receipt that was thought to be an archaeological find, discovered encased in ice underneath the demolished ruins of Coney Island’s historic eatery, Feltman’s Kitchen. The story was so convincing that CNN actually broadcast it -oops – it was merely a well-devised promotion for the Coney Island History Project. Lesson Four: Too much hype makes everyone look stupid.
What about the recent faux pas by (now retired) press corps diva Helen Thomas when she dispensed advice to Israel telling them to “Get the Hell out of Palestine” during the Jewish Heritage celebration on May 27, 2010 -she did apologize a few days later. Lesson Five: Never, ever wait to apologize if you are wrong.
On the other side of the coin, there are some outstanding examples that have fostered immense public support and positive press:
Who can forget the 16-foot, 1.5-ton foam sculpture of a Polar bear and cub on an iceberg that was launched in the Thames River to draw awareness to the plight of climate change and Sir David Attenborough’s Fragile Earth series on the Eden natural history television channel? Lesson Six: Any life lost on our precious planet is subject to the butterfly effect.
And, last but not least, one of the all-time greats that drew attention to a talent search – seen on video by over 17 million people – the performance of 200 dancers who had only two rehearsals and performed "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music to an astonished crowd of commuters at the Central Station of Antwerp. Lesson Seven: Buying all the AdWords in the world will not alter opinions - never underestimate the power of ordinary people to influence and bring about change.