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November 28, 2012
Stonewalling Doesn't Do It, No Doubt About It
 
Two contrasting approaches to PR challenges — by the pop band No Doubt and a shopping mall in Virginia — illustrate that facing up to adverse publicity is a far better move than ignoring it. The public can readily sense good manners and a caring approach and to seek to trump adversity, as the shopping mall discovered, is to spurn the public. Such sensitivities are only heightened in an age of consumer digital response.

No Doubt released a YouTube video that aimed to spoof a cowboys and indians theme, but promptly drew criticism from Native Americans and others. Almost as promptly, No Doubt withdrew the video and apologized for it. Good moves, indeed. By contrast, when the Fashion Square Mall in Albemarle County, Va., released a suspected child abductor without calling police, it removed its Facebook page as angry comments appeared, scrubbed the comments, and put the page back up. That only caused more shopper anger. "Their response, to me, shows that they're not interested in the public," said one man's post, "it's just infuriating...I don't think I'll ever be going there again."

Of course. It's basic that people who are offended will seek to be heard, and rightly so. The rules are, act to avoid offense, and if you slip up, explain yourself and apologize forthrightly. Simple, but critically hard to do sometimes. Some folks can't handle adversity well, but if they're in business, they need to get over that.

Trying to counter public outrage by promoting your Cutest Santa Photo contest onTwitter, as the Virginia mall did, is simply mistaken.

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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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