Don’t be a Scaredy Cat When it Comes to Controversy

Handle controversy with public relationsNot everyone works in a vanilla industry. By that, I mean that in most lines of work, you’re bound to eventually encounter some controversy.

How you handle it can do a great deal in terms of public relations and endearing potential clients/customers to your business.

In late 2013, we were involved in a media relations project involving the roll-out of online gambling in New Jersey. During the roll-out, a casino representative was quoted in a major New Jersey publication, and his comments cast the online gambling venture in an unfavorable light and raised the eyebrow of a state casino commission representative. He later said his comments were misunderstood, but that was a bell that couldn’t be unrung. He requested a correction from the reporter, and that backfired further. The reporter wrote the story from the angle that this source was back-peddling on his previous statements. The whole interaction made the casino representative incredibly gun shy.

The lead PR agency on this project shared some valuable advice that we all should file away, because most of us will need to use it at some point.

From Day One, the PR team was adamant about facing controversy head on. It’s a tactic they advised would help build this particular casino as a trusted brand and source.

When controversy exists within your industry, you should weigh in on it and own it. Ultimately, you’re going to get more respect for it. It will help build your credentials as a subject matter expert.

Weighing in on a controversy also paves the way for future stories, especially when the controversy gets resolved. Being willing to talk to the media when the times are tough also endears them to you. This is how you build trust, respect, and your brand. It works time and again. The brands that shy away from this stuff are the brands that the public perceives as having something to hide. Don’t let that be you.