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.