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August 4, 2011
Avoiding PR Disasters — The Illustrative Case of Airbnb
 
Oliver Milman on StartUpSmart has produced one of the most chilling lists available to PR pros: "Top 10 PR disasters." It was prompted by an actual disaster experienced by the travel-arrangements company Airbnb two weeks ago. Surely, something like this should have been anticipated.

U.S.-based Airbnb (a somewhat awkward name apparently combining air travel and bread-and-breakfast) matches travellers with people willing to rent them their homes. One such traveller, Oliver reports, vandalized a proffered home; really trashed it. Oliver notes that the resulting PR agony might not have happened if Airbnb had planned ahead for such a possibility, and then told the victimized customer it was profusely sorry.

Planning and apologies, of course, are prime PR tenets. But how many of us in the throes of enthusiasm charge ahead without giving adequate consideration to those and the other hazards on Oliver's list? We do any such thing, of course, at our own risk. Keep Oliver Milman's list at hand as an ever-timely prompter to disaster prevention. 

Mark Suster, a venture capitalist and crisis management counsellor, thinks Airbnb "eventually got to the right place...Obviously they wish they would have figured this out a bit more quickly, but as a young team I personally cut them a little bit more slack than I would if it were Oracle, for example."

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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