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TGIF: Halloween Horror Stories From A New York City PR Firm

jessica-lange-american-horror-story-covenEvery year we like to reflect on some scary tales from the PR agency world. Whether you work in consumer PR, B2B, tech or another category, most PR people have experienced a ” horror story” of some kind. This Halloween we’re focusing on mitigating some potentially scary situations typical of the PR biz, or others.

The Telltale Heart.  In this disturbing scenario, a client has trusted you with bad news about the future employment of a colleague in their organization, with whom you have a fairly close relationship. Though your conscience may tell you otherwise, it’s best to remain mum in this situation. The news is “hearsay,” after all. But should it bear out, reach out and provide career assistance if you can.

Invasion of the Body-Snatchers.  In a riff on the above, your trusted client has been replaced by a new hire. This person has no allegiance to the current PR agency and actually wants to bring in his former firm for “comparison purposes.” Keep calm and carry on! Prepare your best results in a fabulous presentation and set up some time. Follow the presentation with a lunch at the client’s favorite restaurant (you have found that out, haven’t you?)

Rocky Horror Picture Show. You’ve been promised a live broadcast segment that will feature your client’s spokesperson whose basic ground rules the outlet has also promised to follow. But they don’t. The host goes off the reservation and the segment is kind of a fiasco. Find the positives! If there are none, find the learnings. As long as you prepare a client in advance for the “vagaries of live TV” this may not have to be a horror show after all!

The Exorcist. That is what a PR practitioner has to be when social media is slamming your client. Whether it’s a spate of negative reviews on Yelp or Glass Door or a maniacal spew on their Facebook page, the savvy digital PR expert has to leap into action to stop the bloodletting. But the key here, again, is anticipation and preparation. That might mean creating a new Facebook page solely for customer service complaints, a proactive campaign to encourage positive reviews to counter the negatives, or a full-blown crisis plan. It doesn’t have to involve anyone’s head spinning 360 degrees.

The Sixth Sense. The nagging and scary feeling that all is not right with a co-worker, a client or a contact in the media. All PR people get this feeling every now and again, and it is not be ignored! First, review recent correspondence and see if you can find anything concrete to bear out your feelings.  Meet with a colleague if appropriate to try out your theory. The odds are if you are feeling something is amiss, it is,  and the sooner you can act on it, the better.

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