CECIL the Lion was a much loved Southwest African lion and a major tourist attraction that lived in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. In June 2015, big-game hunter and dentist Walter Palmer shot Cecil the Lion with an arrow and later killed him with a rifle shot. The killing of this tourist attraction sparked international outrage, media attention and reignited the hunting debate. Walter Palmer was subject to a furious and emotive online campaign that branded him a murderer and lion killer.
If you were in this position, what would you have done?
Are you running away from an online PR “nightmare” or tackling it head-on?
The Cecil the Lion example is definitely an extreme example and hopefully no readers have to ever face anything remotely near what Walter Palmer had to face. There are, however, some clear lessons that can be learnt from this case study and certain things that all business owners must be aware of when protecting their online reputation.
How To Hide Your Lion
Every business has one. The complainer – that annoying customer that loves complaining no matter how much you bend over backwards for them. In such an environment where you can’t escape the complainer, a 100% positive online reputation is virtually impossible. However, what you can do is take a preemptive approach and boost the number of positive mentions of your brand or personal name across the internet.
The Best Defence is Offense
What To Do If Your “Cecil The Lion” Moment Comes
While every business owner fears the day and hopes it will never happen, be prepared that you may one day have to respond to an online PR crisis. So what do you do?
Final Word – It’s Not What You Did But What You Will Do Now That Counts
The best time to plan for a PR crisis is now. The last thing you want is to arrive at an online PR crisis with your pants down and vulnerable to attacks on your good name and good reputation. You do not want to be planning how to handle a crisis during the moment when you’re experiencing some heat!
How Donald Trump Gets Away With It
There is always an exception to every rule and Donald Trump is the exception! When faced with a seeming PR crisis, Donald Trump breaks all the rules and handles them in a way that strengthens his brand. From a PR perspective, there are instances where the Donald Trump approach may work.
● Always Be On The Offensive
While political rival Hillary Clinton is constantly being forced to defend her email server security and fellow Republican Jeb Bush is on the defense regarding his “low energy”, Trump controls the agenda by staying on the offense. No one knows your business more than you and no one knows your story better than you do – use that to your advantage.
● Never Apologize
This goes hand in hand with the “Always Be On The Offensive” rule. If you apologizse, this immediately puts you on the defensive. Admitting guilt immediately puts you and your business on the defense. When faced with criticisms, the Trump approach often turns the table around by 1) claiming criticisms are exaggerations which implies the complainant is untrustworthy 2) dismisses criticisms as political correctness , 3) insisting the complaint is minor and not worth even discussing 4) saying things were said for fun or in jest 5) or alleging the complaint is all about personal animosity.
● Always Have An Answer
When asked direct questions, Trump always has an answer. He speaks to his political base by answering in generalities and then he lists off specific talking points as part of a broader agenda.