ronn torossian 2018

You can’t always control your circumstances, but you can control your response to those circumstances. That’s a key component to successful PR, and, so far this year, there are several groups doing it right. Here are some strong examples of solid PR responses in 2018.

Starbucks Educates

Sometimes, no matter how big you are as a company, one decision by one person can have a domino effect on your entire organization. Such was the case when a manager at a Philadelphia Starbucks chose to try to oust two men who said they were waiting on a business colleague. The manager, nonplussed, called the cops and had the men arrested, an event that was filmed, posted on social media and immediately went viral.

Now, Starbucks was faced with boycotts and other serious backlash. The company could have circled the wagons, could have put the bad call all on one person and tossed that person under the proverbial bus. Instead, the company chose, in a very public way, to make all their employees responsible for doing better going forward. They organized a training day and closed down their stores, sacrificing potential income to make a very public statement about the company’s commitment to customer service and positive race relations.

Starbucks also announced an open-door policy to passerby and customers alike. Now, that may prove to be a bad call in the long-term, especially on busy days, but the optics and the messaging in that decision worked very well.

Southwest Commiserates

When an engine blows and a passenger is nearly sucked out of a broken window, that’s a very bad day for an airline. For Southwest, many headlines were unmerciful, and the follow up investigations made the company look even dirtier. So, how is this a PR win? Because Southwest stuck to its message and responded well to a horrific situation.

Southwest’s PR team was open with the public, as well as their customers. Offering specific details and forthright assessments of the situation. During press conferences and public comments about the situation, representatives appeared honestly compassionate and genuine, offering the right optics given the situation. Of course, the company did get a good deal of help from a NY Times headline that couched this tragedy as a story of heroism: “Southwest pilot of Flight 1380 is Navy veteran hailed for her ‘nerves of steel’” … As subtext goes, that’s pretty strong.

Parkland Students Get Heard

Wherever you are on the politics of the gun debate in the United States, one fact you must agree with, is, since the Parkland shooting, students who survived that day have been extremely affecting in making their voices heard.

Withstanding withering insults and onslaughts from communication pros on the opposite side politically, this group managed to turn their message into pressure on advertisers and inspiration for other activists. Forbes called the work “(possibly) one of the most successful public relations campaigns in recent memory…”

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W  PR.

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