When Tragedy Strikes: Keep Calm, But Don’t Carry On

120720 aurora dp1 330a.photoblog500 150x150 When Tragedy Strikes: Keep Calm, But Dont Carry On

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Warner Bros.

America is reeling from the horror of the cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado, last week, and news broadcasts continue to be saturated with coverage of the deadly event. The PR and marketing whizzes working on the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises must be wondering, where to now?

The juggernaut marketing and PR initiatives designed to promote the film and promote its cult status were already activated and in full play before the tragic shooting. Advance promotions were booked months ahead, as were the press tours, interviews, and PR programs. But when tragedy strikes, what is the appropriate response in the middle of a national tragedy?

Warner Bros. PR response so far, seems to be the best in a worst-case scenario. Director Christopher Nolan, the producers, and the cast have individually issued statements relaying their immense sadness and incomprehensibility at the turn of events. Warner Bros. has been rightfully low key, issuing a two-line statement restricted to talking about the victims and their families, to avoid any suggestion it is trying to salvage a now imperiled investment. Spot on. Next,  advertising was pulled, premieres and interviews halted, and box office receipt figures were withheld. All that was left to do was continue to express solidarity with the families of the deceased and the rest of the country, and wait.

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect). A well-handled and sensitive response to the unforeseen and unimaginable. With no handbook response available for such an event, this is ultimately a matter of common sense and taste.

The PR Takeaway: Individuals make the difference. With the director and stars of the film issuing their own statements, this tragic event remained clearly in the domain of the personal, and not about business or commercial interests.  The key priority in an emergency PR plan of this sort is to halt all promotional activity immediately, to avoid it running alongside a news story covering the same event. Definitely not business as usual. For now, this is  a national conversation, not a commercial exercise.

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What’s your opinion of Warner Bros. response to the tragedy in Aurora? Give us your PR Verdict.

Who Won This Weekend’s PR Booby Prize?

Trayvon martiin5 Who Won This Weekends PR Booby Prize?

The PR Verdict: “D” for Santorum and Gingrich in the Trayvon Martin case.

It’s a tie for the weekend’s booby prize for mistaken PR strategy.

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich both win for their knee jerk reaction to Obama’s statement surrounding the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, the black 17-year-old from Florida.  Obama caught the headlines on Friday with his comment  “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon… When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.”

Santorum and Gingrich immediately went into attack mode.  Gingrich asked rhetorically if the President was suggesting that  “if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it wouldn’t look like him?”  while Santorum chimed in, saying the President shouldn’t use this case to “drive a wedge in America”.

Romney was the classiest of the Republican contenders.  He echoed the President’s comments about this being a matter for all Americans and added the public needed to be reassured that justice is “carried out with impartiality and integrity.”

The PR Verdict: “D” for Santorum and Gingrich.  Both came across as not listening and making cheap political capital.  In so doing, both ceded the higher moral ground to Romney.

Given that Obama had avoided mentioning the words “black” or “race” it was always going to be a PR risk to claim the President was milking the Martin case for political gain.  Romney’s team understood the PR advantage in not being in constant attack mode.  They  might want to thank Santorum and Gingrich for helping to inadvertently elevate Romney to a more presidential and thoughtful standing.

To read more click here and here.

What’s your PR Verdict on the Republican candidates response to Obama’s comments on Trayvon Martin?

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