If you’ve got a bad image—and by now you should deserve one—counter it with aggressive public relations (beyond just taking a picture of some cancer kids playing with kittens).
Timing counts. Pepsi hired an Indian CEO when it was facing public relations nightmares in her home country. Walmart, in the midst of the nation’s largest sex discrimination suit, set up a $25 million fund to support women-owned businesses.
Walmart is a great example. They’ve got a political consulting group to counter their bad image. Civil Rights leader Andrew Young was the public face for a while, which prompted MLK Jr. and Rosa Parks to turn underground 360s. Rumor has it that the company’s first move will be to jump around on Oprah’s couch, telling everyone how much it loves fair labor standards. Next, an attack ad by Swift Mobile Home Veterans for Truth: “Anti-Walmart activists helped fund bin Laden.” Then they’ll announce that rival Kmart has yellowcake uranium and attack JCPenney.
Get Rich Cheating
By Jeff Kreisler
Harper Paperbacks, 336 pages
That’s not entirely true, but you believed it for a minute, right? That’s the beauty of good PR. If Walmart can have a PR campaign, you’d better have one too.
Distract and Destroy
Are people catching on to your schemes, seeking information, asking questions about your activities, wondering where you got those dead bodies? Well, as the good PR man knows, if something goes wrong, change the subject. Politicians do it all the time. Think anyone really cares about gay marriage, abortion, flag-burning, or the spotted owl? No, but these issues shift focus away from rampant corruption and ineffective leadership. In business, look to Sony BMG who, when rocked by a payola scandal, simply arrested a bunch of thirteen-year-olds for downloading music.
This is the public we’re talking about. They’ve got the attention span of a gnat on Red Bull. You get in trouble, show ’em something that sparkles. Here are some surefire distractions to save your behind:
• Adopt a peculiar physical attribute and news reports will waste words and space on it. The guy with the hook hand, limp, and horns did, um ... he’s got a hook hand, limp, and horns!
• If you’re a woman, even better. Every report will focus on your clothes first, accessories second, hair and makeup third, and evil misdeeds in a footnote3.
• “Sure, there’s $3 billion unaccounted for, but 24 jumped the shark, and can you believe (young person) got knocked off American Idol?”