Brian Williams gets a “Crash” Course in PR

brian williams public relations

Unless you never listen to the news and avoid social media like telemarketers, then you know veteran news anchor Brian Williams got himself in a bit of a bind recently. After telling a story, on the air, about being rescued after his helicopter was shot down in Iraq, Williams was outed by, among others the guys who were tasked with providing his escort in the war zone.

After getting called out about the false nature of his story, Williams more or less apologized during his nightly news program, but that half-hearted politician’s apology only made it worse.

Here’s what he said:

“On this broadcast last week, in an effort to honor and thank a veteran who protected me and so many others following a ground-fire incident in the desert during the Iraq War, I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago. It didn’t take long to hear from some brave men and women in the aircrews who were also in the desert.

I want to apologize: I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft.”

Later, when pressed on how he could “mistake” being in a chopper hit by an RPG rather than in one BEHIND a chopper that was hit by an RPG, Williams reportedly said he misremembered and again apologized for his mistake. This characterization simply served to fan the flames of his colossal flame out.

Politicians may get away with “misremembering,” but the general public sets a higher standard for news anchors. The public may assume bias, but they also expect trusted news providers to steer clear of blatantly lying or making up stories to pad their resumes. And, true or not, that is exactly the take-away most have from this event.

Even those who were willing to give Williams the benefit of the doubt – he WAS in a war zone, after all – are quiet after a second series of reports has come under question.

Williams has done a lot of things in his career, but his on the ground coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans arguably put him in the anchor chair after Tom Brokaw retired. One of the most quoted snippets from that coverage? A story about Williams watching a dead body float down flooded streets in the French Quarter.

Big problem with that…the French Quarter didn’t flood. In fact, of all the areas of the city, it was the most untouched by the catastrophe.

Though not completely unscathed, folks have been hard-pressed to find anyone who remembers dead bodies floating through the French Quarter.

With this new revelation, people are no longer asking “can we trust Brian Williams?”

They are wondering, openly and loudly, when he will be fired.

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About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is one of the foremost Public Relations experts in the United States, with over 20 years of experience. He has won countless awards for leadership and entrepreneurship, and Ronn Torossian has transformed businesses through strategic and aggressive PR strategies.

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