A good Public Relations professional knows the media inside and out. They know what stories will soar and which ones will flop. They also know the limitations of their job.
One of those limitations is the ability to control the message once it gets into the hands of the media and the public. This topic has been top of mind this week since the firing of Oakland Raiders’ Public Relations Director Zak Gilbert. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, owner Mark Davis was unhappy with a Sports Illustrated story that was critical of Davis and his late father Al Davis. Gilbert lost his job over it, and the Raiders have been taking some heat for the decision.
The biggest take away from this week’s event is that PR professionals do not have complete control over the conversation surrounding their organization. It’s nearly impossible to know which stories will soar and which will flop. On the same note, once a story gets out we can’t control it. Don’t trust a PR firm that tells you any different. We do our best to build goodwill and broadcast a positive narrative, but we can’t always predict when a journalist or angry customer will decide to voice their opinion.
The best way to avoid or weaken the blow of negative PR is to build a good defense and look at the big picture. First, remember who your fans are. Community and customer goodwill goes a long way and can overpower less-than-desirable coverage. Second, consider the true impact of the story. Bad PR often feels worse than it is, which may have been the case with the Raiders.