The Ground Zero Mosque – a Public Relations Lesson

by Jeremy Powers on September 27, 2010

This article is from my August 20th newsletter. 

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I expect all of you have heard of the controversy surrounding the proposed Mosque, which would be located blocks from the now vacant site of destroyed twin towers.  I continue to recommend my clients avoid political topics, and I will follow my own advice by not commenting on the controversy directly.

5 Public Relations Lessons

There are however, several public relations lessons business owners and marketers should learn from the ongoing battle:

1. Responding to feedback – If you are unclear of your organization’s response or unclear of the tone of the response you want to give, DO NOT RESPOND.  Irate customers, vendors, or trade partners may not be happy with a lack of immediate response, but you should take the time necessary to reason a proper and complete response.

2. Know the emotion level – If the emotion behind your situation is high, say “turned to 11,” your response requires more empathy than philosophy.  If the emotion is low, a more academic and policy-driven response is appropriate. 

3. Reinforce the brand – Every high profile communication should reinforce the brand image your company has built.  A crisis can be a fantastic time to solidify the positioning of your company in the public’s mind.

4. Take blame – The less you are at fault, the more public humility you should have.  Customers hate finger-pointers, but they can identify with the “look we are a company of humans, and as such, we have made mistakes” speech.

5. Enable more feedback – Creating a channel for people to submit feedback and ask for suggestions on how to correct the issue can really turn down the rhetoric and volume of the debate.  It shows you want criticism so you can improve, and it gives customers a platform to communicate with you, rather than shouting at you from a picket line. 

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