Guilty by Association in PR
The old saying that birds of a feather flock together still holds weight in today’s business world. In a market where image is everything – or almost everything – association with scandal and shady people, do few businesses any good. This is why many companies sever ties with workers making highly publicized, poor decisions – even outside the workplace. Whether it’s attacking Uber drivers, or kicking puppies, companies want no part in the following bad press.
Yet, when many people turn to PR experts to clean up a marred image, they forget PR experts carry reputations of their own. A PR firm or professional, who is repeatedly associated with cleaning up bad press, earns suspicion from the public over time. As a result, even potentially innocent clients could become guilty by association.
Such was the case when Peyton Manning hired Ari Fleischer to clear his name. The quarterback for the Denver Broncos allegedly used steroids after undergoing neck surgery back in 2011. The allegations came from a documentary on athletes juicing to boost performance in sports. A serious allegation for any athlete, Peyton was desperate to put it behind him.
However, hiring the PR specialist who worked on the Bush Administration’s agenda to push war, and Tiger Woods’ cheating scandal, didn’t help much. Thus, Manning’s association with Fleischer began to look more like an admission of guilt, than an innocent cry for help. After that, it became difficult to clear his name.
Still, sometimes even PR firms with neutral reps bring bad publicity when hired to handle touchy issues. People sometimes view PR firms as the ones hired to hide “the awful truth.”.
In October when the Tinley Park Village leaders in Chicago found themselves in hot water, they hired a representative from Prairie State Strategies to clean up the mess. But the move made things worse. One resident stated, “If you are telling the truth and being honest, why would you need someone to craft that message for you? …I bet that (money) could have been used to square up some water accounts.”
For this reason, companies, and public figures should become more proactive in their behalf for crisis management. They should always have public relations experts on board their team. In this way, when crisis hits and their existing PR experts enter, it casts little or no suspicion on the people involved.
Though the more expensive route when it comes to brand management, it helps companies and celebrities maintain a positive image. Offering more value than immediate cash-in-hand.