It’s impossible to tally how many interactions a fast-moving public relations team has with media contacts, vendors, clients, and partners on a daily basis. Let’s just say the number is a big one. And with each comes the possibility of misspeaking, divulging too much, or sending the poorly worded or ill-timed email. Now might be a good time to review some do’s and don’ts of proper PR comportment.
You need to deliver bad news to a client. The long-awaited profile piece in a top daily is negative. The promised story you worked on for months is not going to happen. The bad news from the CEO’s past has popped up again in a post that’s gone viral. Take a deep breath and before relaying the news, make a plan. Determine what you need to say, who is in the best position to deliver the news and by what vehicle. An expert I spoke to said to view the communication this way: The severity of the bad news should dictate the appropriate delivery medium — email, phone, in-person meeting, etc. The more serious the news, the more face-to-face time is needed.
Whichever way you choose to communicate, do it swiftly and document the communication. The learnings from the situation may come in handy in the future.
You’ve sent an email by mistake. Who hasn’t? Some have activated the email recall feature. This is usually a bad idea because the recipient sees that the note has been recalled and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out potential reasons why! This article lists the top reasons people recall: You send a message when you are mad or upset and then you realize your words were nasty or inappropriate and you want those words back. Or, you realize after you’ve sent something that it was addressed to the wrong person. The level of panic in this scenario can go sky-high if the message had confidential, negative or sensitive information in it.
The best solution from business etiquette experts is to cop to it quickly and apologize. A former colleague called the client right away and deftly deflected from the mistake by taking responsibility in a humorous way. Sometimes, however, a bigger gesture – a gift, a formal apology, or a face-to-face meeting – is required.
You’ve promised a media contact something you can’t deliver. We’ve all been caught up in the moment of pitching a good story and garnering interest from an important journalist. And just when you think you can reel in the placement of a lifetime, the writer asks for access to the CEO (who never speaks) or inside scoop on the big announcement. In your frenzy, you say yes and realize shortly thereafter that it’s never going to happen. So you back-pedal.
There are a couple ways to mitigate the situation. We counsel that it’s worth presenting a reasoned case to the CEO or PR team to see if any of their positions can be changed. If not, perhaps you can strike a bargain for something else to take back to the media contact. If nothing else, you’re faced with the meaningful mea culpa. The last time this happened to me, I was able to save face by giving the writer the next big story I had – and all was forgiven.