Lord Ashcroft has penned an unofficial biography of David Cameron – Call me Dave – making a series of frankly bizarre claims you shouldn’t read over a lunchtime ham sandwich feast (we learnt the hard way). However, this whole mess made us think about how to handle bad PR, and how to prevent a terrible story. So, jump on the bandwagon with us and let’s see what can be learned live from the pig pen.
#1 Giving the story to someone else takes away your power
Cameron has kept schtum (so far) about #PigGate, leaving the world’s media to do the talking. If your business has experienced some misfortune – by your own doing, or circumstances beyond your control – whatever you do, don’t rest on your laurels. If you’re shocked into submission or confined by red tape, reach out to PR professionals and ride the wave as best you can. If you don’t face the problem, or make your perspective heard, someone else will, and you’ll have your own Lord Ashcroft sounding off whether what they’re saying is true, or not.
You could argue this story has been brewing for five years, so there was plenty of time to avert a crisis behind the scenes. Admittedly, now the story is out for public consumption, answering to #Hameron, #Oink or #PigGate is going to be tricky. But as PR and communications specialists we have a few porkers, ahem, corkers to help David out. If a skeleton about intimacy with livestock is due to resurface I’m afraid there are no answers languishing in a PR textbook, though now there probably should be… So what should David do?
1: Admit it?
2: Deny it?
3: Joke about it?
4: Ignore it?
5: Use distraction tactics?
Best not admit this one David but our money is on him ignoring it and using distraction tactics laying into the next biggest talked about man in politics, Jeremy Corbyn.
#2 The truth is stranger than fiction…
…but astounding and memorable stories are always rooted in truth. Charlie Brooker unwittingly predicted #PigGate in his fictional Channel 4 series Black Mirror, where in one of its more horrifying episodes (The National Anthem) the prime minister has relations with a live pig in order to free a kidnapped member of the royal family. Brooker has confirmed he’d “never heard anything about Cameron and a pig when (sic: he) was coming up with that story. So this weirds (sic: him) out.”
The National Anthem held a mirror up to real life; the underhand and dark activities of the government, and the general public’s unquenchable cry for humiliation wasn’t fabricated. Brooker isn’t clairvoyant, he’s simply observant. Away from #PigGate, stories that resonate and catch attention are often rooted in factual evidence and moulded to appeal to emotion. Are your campaigns doing the same? If they’re not connected to real-world experience, emotion and evidence, you may go unnoticed.
#3 A war of words isn’t the answer
If a business deal or professional relationships fall through – such as Cameron’s promise to award Lord Ashcroft a job after 2010 elections – lashing out at each other, either in a tell-all book, or in a very public spat on social media, just makes you look ridiculous. You may think you’re above all that, but what about when a consumer leaves you a bad review on Trip Advisor, Yelp or Etsy? If you’ve ever sent a reviewer a quick email informing them that they’re appraisal is flawed, or reminding them of your excellent service and to please correct their review, you’re in danger of having a public row. Rise above and work on solutions, not quarrels. Check out #bloggerblackmail for an all-out blogger vs café war over something similarly trivial. Everyone comes out with egg on their face… pass the bacon, please. Oh on better thoughts, perhaps not.
#4 Playing by the rules puts you in a vulnerable position
Whether you’re navigating the Bullingdon club, or writing a blog post on behalf of your brand, questioning the system will gain you more respect in the long run:
- Should I really associate myself with a club that wants me to violate a dead pig?
- Is it okay that we’re using spelling mistakes on-site, just to appease keywords?
- Are you seriously asking me to write about my breakfast on a corporate banking website?
I know, we totally called it on works of ultimate evil there. In short; if your predecessors are practicing in a way that you don’t feel does your business voice justice, always question it and you’ll get respect in the long run.