In tennis, unforced errors are about falling short, being too slow, missing easy opportunities to score points or missing chances to prevent the opponent from winning a point.
When it comes to publicity, there is that old saw, “it doesn’t matter what they say, as long as they spell the name right,” but most of us see the flaw in that thinking.
People/companies say or do stupid things, most often at the least opportune time, so you would think the boardrooms of governments, corporations and their communication agency mouthpieces (a.ka. PR firms) who represent them and spin their message and their media-buy promotional efforts – ought to know better. Still, we aren’t seeing that kind of calm wisdom so much these days. Instead, we see STUPID, STUPID, STUPID ~ or, more simply stated, unnecessary unforced errors.
What we have lately are too many examples of profound stupidity/insensitivity on the corporate image/communication front, showing up at a most peculiar time in our politically correct and socially conscience society, together with bad news every day from Ukraine, Wall Street, the UK (reversing its economic bus, 180 degrees from all recent announcements), and I chuckled at a report that Ghislaine Maxwell is stating that compromising photo of Prince Andrew was a fake – in the same week that Herschel Walker denies provable lies and still is probably going to get elected. You can’t make this stuff up.
We need a reality check - because we too often see corporations, leaders, politicians, and spin doctors proving that common sense ain’t that common …
What is the difference between good PR vs. poor PR?
Anyone who markets their good or services or markets/promotes goods and services for others will readily tell you there is no such thing as ‘bad PR.’
There is only good PR or disaster …
Good PR, for example, is EQ – Equitable Bank, announcing they would pay higher interest rates to their customers on the same day as TELUS was in the news, being stopped from doing something it was planning to institute this week – to charge their customers who pay by credit card a fee. Their reason, apparently, is because it is now legal to do so.
The CRTC is holding them up for now, but they’ll probably win in due course because merchants are now allowed to start charging a fee to process credit card sales. This is the culmination of a long-fought battle for small and medium-sized merchants, most of whom only wish and dream they could pay the low fees big merchants do, so it’s a change whose time has come. What TELUS forgot to think through ranks up there with the recent stupidity of its rival Rogers – ‘a slow half-measure apology and make-good measures from Rogers over their nationwide outage.’
Case in point, Danielle Smith’s press conference last week and the resulting replay on the internet of every recorded bone-headed thing she said about vaccines, Russia-Ukraine, minority groups …
Case in point; Rogers weak mea-culpa and firing one Exec. VP after their days-long national outage.
Case in point; Hockey Canada board and CEO stupidly stood firm for weeks defending their righteousness over years-long actions and obfuscations on sexual abuse by hockey players – before eventually falling on their collective swords.
Case in point; TELUS this week, doing what most merchants will quietly do in coming months, protesting to the CRTC that they are reducing costs rather than pushing fees to the bottom line to the benefit of shareholders at a time where inflation and rising interest rates have led to a recession-ready economy is hurting most of its customers who’ve yet to restore their post-covid lives to normalcy and standard economics … vs. doing it later … vs. not doing it all. Moreover, knowing the public’s attitude toward their competitor Rogers was clearly an unforced error.
Are any of these examples of good PR?
No, failed PR is a disaster.
It seems there is plenty of stupid to go around, but what is truly astonishing is the ‘worse than bloopers’ described above were not committed by amateurs or incompetent fools but by senior executives with lots of professional advisors and PR spinners too, and they still get their facts and optics horribly wrong; their errors were entirely unforced.