Best Practices for Correcting Potentially Costly PR Missteps

Public relations can be a tricky business. Issues can emerge very quickly and unexpectedly, and just as quickly become very public. Both experienced PR professionals, as well as non-professionals forced into a PR role from time to time, have to think on their feet, acting on both instinct and experience. Particularly in a lightening-fast communication environment, it’s not surprising that there are often mistakes made by PR professionals and others in the public eye. 

Mistakes Happen. When They Do, it’s Important to do Something!

A key lesson in PR 101 is that when you make a mistake, you should quickly, publicly and unequivocally correct it.

If your organization makes a mistake and doesn’t correct it, some members of your audience might assume you didn’t realize you made a mistake – which can make you seem incompetent. Some members might think you realized your mistake, but just didn’t take the time to correct it – which can make you seem lazy and indifferent to your audience.

And, worst of all, some members of your audience might think you didn’t make a mistake but willfully attempted to mislead them – which will make them feel angry and less likely to trust you in the future.

The most fundamental reason to acknowledge a mistake in public relations is to maintain your credibility. Without credibility, your organization might as well not make any statements at all.

Address and Move On

Acknowledging a mistake doesn’t mean you need to dwell on it. Quite the opposite. Depending on the publicity the initial error receives, failing to correct it quickly will likely keep it in the public spotlight for much longer than if you simply acknowledge, correct and move on.

People make mistakes in any line of work. It’s a fact of life. In public relations, those mistakes are, by definition, public. This doesn’t mean the end of the world, but it does require a prompt, public and clear correction. In fact, those organizations that manage to bounce back effectively from a mistake—however egregious—often develop even stronger reputations than those who failed to respond effectively to a minor misstep.

Learn From the Lessons Left By Others

Johnson & Johnson is a classic example of this with their 1982 respond to cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules. This Business Insider article offers some additional examples. We can all learn a lot from both brilliant and botched PR responses from companies large and small!


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Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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