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Someone is Earning Their Crisis Cred
By: Mike Bush
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Over the weekend, it emerged that a PR firm has been brought in to do some sort of damage control for Gawker, the embattled media company. Gawker’s obviously built on snark and celebrity news, and when a news organization like this comes under fire — well, let’s just say they don’t do it small.
Which firm is pitching Gawker to other media outlets? http://t.co/YUsHeOPBYQ pic.twitter.com/bd3lnMnqWp
— Patrick Coffee (@PatrickCoffee) July 25, 2015
To really understand the PR challenge that some firm has taken on, we need to do a quick review of the past few months at Gawker.
  • June 4: The staff of Gawker unionized, which set off a heated exchange between Nick Denton and Gawker’s former editorial director, Joel Johnson.
  • July 17: Gawker took down a super controversial post that outed a media executive and accused him of having an affair.
  • July 20: A bunch of Gawker’s staff quit over the brou-ha-ha regarding the taken down post.
And, oh yeah, the site is being sued for $100 million by Hulk Hogan.

So it isn’t hard to imagine that Gawker decided maybe it was time to break the glass in case of emergency and enroll the help of flacks.

Whether you love or hate Gawker, this is a really, really difficult assignment. The site has skewered lots of reporters over the years, and doesn’t exactly have a robust pipeline of allies. Turning some of the reporters to whom the site has been nasty over time into “media friendlies” won’t be a simple task.

You’d have to assume that the PR firm did their homework and identified sympathizers (you’d hope so, anyway…although the tweet posted above makes one wonder).

Regardless, I have two hunches on which firm took this project on:
  1. There is a relatively young tech firm looking to establish itself, and they made the calculated gamble that turning around Gawker’s image would be a lifetime achievement that, if successful, will make for a great case study in every deck they present moving forward.
  2. There is a celebrity firm that realized being nice to Gawker now, if the site manages to survive, could keep their clients off the site for embarrassing issues moving forward.
Yes, there are other options. There may be a less ethical firm who was thrilled to get the business. Heck, the WWE could have stepped in (how amazing would that be for a Wrestling script?!?). But those are my guesses.

I don’t envy whoever took on the challenge, but make no mistake — I can see why someone would tackle it. The allure of “my company got Gawker through it” as a resume bullet would be too much to pass up without at least thinking about it.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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