Two stories of late have caught my eye: the first involved the public relations executive from the San Francisco 49ers who thought it was a good idea to use prostitutes in a player training video to showcase the machinations of the news media. The second involved a senior PR executive for Wal-Mart Stores who used an image of Nazi book-burning in a print ad campaign to make his point on a local real estate issue.
Both efforts were ill-advised, and wound up costing each executive his job. Rightfully so.
Public relations is more than just “smiling and dialing” the media to secure coverage of one’s company or client. Those who have risen to the senior ranks of our industry have developed over time a set of instincts for what’s right and what’s wrong, what to say and do, and what not to say and do. It seems so simple, but you’d be surprised as evidenced by these two giant PR missteps.