January 8, 2016

How To Kill a Lion & Get Away With It

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

  • Claim Your Profiles
    The best time to plan for an online PR crisis is now. You need to ensure that you have claimed every possible social media account and profile. These profiles will need to be filled with accurate information and a record of login details kept in a secure area.
  • Take A Proactive Approach To Promotion
    There are many sites that allow you to create and post your own content like WordPress.com, Medium.com, LinkedIn and Blogspot. By contributing regularly to these sites, you will increase the positive mentions of your name or brand online and be prepared for any future online PR crisis.
  • Don’t Forget Press Releases, Video, Images and Other Media
    Google prioritizes rich media like videos in organic search results and press releases on Google News. Each time you post a video, image, press release or presentation, be sure to make mention of your name and link to your social media profiles.

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?

  1. Don’t Panic
    You are not the first person in this situation and you certainly won’t be the last. With that in mind, it is important that you approach this situation pragmatically and business-like. Panicking will only lead you to saying things and doing things that cause more harm than good.
  2. Act Swiftly
    Rather than letting negative stories swamp the internet, act swiftly and decisively. The Tiger Woods Cheating scandal is an example of what not to do. Tiger Woods thought he could get by with an online statement alone. He then waited three months to make a public announcement regarding his extramarital affair. By waiting so long, he allowed a bad situation to fester and made himself more vulnerable than necessary.
  3. Empower Your Team
    It is advisable that all customer facing employees (both on and offline) are briefed on what has happened and what should be communicated to clients. This includes the steps being taken to rectify the issue, the expected timeframe for resolution and what they can do to help.
  4. Say Sorry
    Sorry is sometimes the hardest word to say but also the most powerful.The role of the apology in the context of a PR crisis is to accept responsibility and to ask for forgiveness. Apologies do work, however, they must be perceived as sincere and followed up by strong action. A good example of this is the in-person apology that Rupert Murdoch made to murder victim Milly Downer. While there is no transcript on record, it is said that the apology was perceived as heartfelt by family members.
  • From an online perspective, it is recommended that a list of keywords with negative mentions of your name or brand is collated and positive stories and content created that is designed to bury negative mentions.

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.