In Crisis Management, Public Relations, Reputation

Gucci’s recent social media fiasco is a shining example of the disconnect between the advertising side of the communications departments and the PR side.  The ad, showing a black and white sweater with a red cut out for the mouth, is so reminiscent of blackface that within minutes the internet exploded.  And the timing of it, during Black History month, makes the whole thing even more offensive.

Gucci - Black History MonthMakes you wonder. Where were the PR people?  Did anyone think to run this past them?  Probably not.  In most companies and even agencies, these two pros are kept in separate, iron-clad silos. In the age of internet explosions and knew-jerk reactions, this has got to stop! We need to work together early and often during the creative process.  That way brands won’t be stuck mopping up the disasters that everyone from Pepsi to Bloomingdales to Bud Lite has had to recover from.

Yeah, yeah,  I know.  PR people are the Grannies of the communications world.  We’re seen as oversensitive, over-reactive and overcautious snowflakes. We worry about everything.  There’s a reason for that – our job is reputation preservation.  We are the chess players of communications strategy.  We’re trained to think three moves ahead so the brand can win the match.  Our over-caution can save the company, the public, and social media humiliation of an ad gone wrong.

Here’s how your PR people can protect the brand from another #adfail:

  • Bring PR people into the creative process as early as possible
  • Listen for the “why” in our comments
  • Understand that the PR brain is all about looking at short and long-term outcomes to a company’s reputation
  • Consider that your clever idea may not play the same for all audiences
  • Test out the concepts, content and visuals with PR people while they are still in the brainstorming stage
  • Allow time throughout the production process for PR people to give honest and open feedback
  • Avoid bringing us in at the last minute when the production process is so far down the road that there’s no going back.

All of us need to work together for the best long-term benefit of the brand.  Like everyone on the communications team, PR people want the company to succeed.  Together, we can move the company forward; bring in new customers, cultivate brand loyalists and surf the waves of a positive social media presence.  It beats the heck out of having to clean up after another #adfail, don’t you think, Gucci?

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