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Publicity -- What Do You Do When PR Goes Horribly Wrong? Washington DC

If you make a mistake, and it's a public mistake, just suck it up and admit it. It's when you start lying and hiding that things get so out of control. Look at Bill and Monica. People lied, tried to hide things, and that just made everything worse.

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Publicity -- What Do You Do When PR Goes Horribly Wrong?

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Working Your Business

Publicity -- What Do You Do When PR Goes Horribly Wrong?
By Michele Pariza Wacek 
Email
Sep 18, 2009, 09:40

   

Have you ever had done something you thought was a really good idea at the time and then it completely backfires on you?

Well, it happened to my good friend Nancy Marmolejo, Viva Visibility.

If you don't know Nancy yet, you really need to. She is a social media rock star. However, sometimes even rock stars have days where the guitar is out of tune and the speakers catch fire and explode on stage.

Here's the story in a nutshell. As you all know, social networking is pretty darn new and Twitter is the brand spanking new kid on that shiny new block. Because it's so new, things like vocabulary and etiquette are still being hashed out.

It's better coming from Nancy herself why she got so fixated on this, but she was busy telling people you "tweet" not "twitter" (including yours truly). She also decided to write a letter to Inc Magazine about this.

The result? Inc Magazine called her on it and, well, won.

Now I'm telling you about this for 2 reasons.

1. I'm quite excited I can now use "twitter" as a verb (I just hated saying "tweet" -- I felt like I should put a chicken coop in my yard.)

2. Nancy handled the whole situation brilliantly. In fact, I would go as far to say this was actually a really good thing in the end.

So what did Nancy do? Well, to start she owned up to it. She didn't try to hide her mistake or pretend it never happened (which is simply not possible to do in this day and age anyway.) She 'fessed up.

Lesson #1 -- if you make a mistake, and it's a public mistake, just suck it up and admit it. It's when you start lying and hiding that things get so out of control. Look at Bill and Monica. People lied, tried to hide things, and that just made everything worse.

By owning up to it, Nancy completely diffused any negative publicity around it. In fact, if you read the comments, most people didn't think this was a big deal at all. (Which it isn't -- until you start hiding and lying about it. Then suddenly everyone wonders why you're lying and hiding and it can blow up into a bigger deal.)

The second thing she did was write a very charming and witty blog post about it. Now, you might not be able to write a charming and witty blog post, but it might be worth it to find someone who can for you. She was entertaining about it, which again helped diffuse the situation and caused all her followers to rally around her.

Now, humor isn't good for all situations. Remember the Tylenol and Cyanide scare? If the Tylenol CEO had come out with humor that would have been completely inappropriate. However, what he did do was immediately take responsibility, come up with a solution, and didn't come across as defensive or trying to shift the blame.

Lesson #2 -- if you're going to take a stand, do it graciously. Don't be de...

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