PR: The Good, Bad and Ugly
UNC: This is what happens when you let bad PR events spiral
by Jennifer Fair on 08/24/2012
DISCLAIMER: I’m a diehard UNC fan and love just about everything about the beautiful university located in Chapel Hill. But I’m also a PR professional by trade and have been saddened by the way that my beloved institution has let its negative PR events spiral out of control with the media. This is my message to the university.
I love you. I can’t put into words exactly why I feel this way, but every time I interact with you, that love grows even stronger. I think it’s because I know that this university really does help build the leaders of the future.
But lately, things haven’t been going so well. Every time I see UNC in the media, it’s in a negative story. Until Chancellor Thorp started talking a few days ago, it didn’t seem like you were doing anything to stop it.
Why didn’t you make a statement sooner? Like I said, I know this is tough. But when you’re managing a crisis, you have to rip off the band-aid and deal with it fast. The more quickly you face the media, acknowledge the situation and explain how you are resolving it, the faster the media will move on. We abide by this rule with any crisis situations we’re handling at MMI, and a reporter I spoke to on Monday said the same thing. You have to tell the truth, tell it all, and tell it FAST.
Why didn’t you ask for help? Since 1949, the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication has been teaching students all about public relations and crisis management. When you’re in a crisis situation, it can sometimes be hard to take an objective approach and manage it from within – particularly when you are being attacked on all sides by the media. But I’m sure that any of your graduates who do not work directly with the school would have been more than willing to jump in and try to help you manage the situation.
I’m glad that Chancellor Thorp started talking about what the school is doing to rectify the situation. I don’t know what happened in the African and Afro-American Studies Department, but I know for a fact that any wrongdoing does not reflect the entire university or all of its students, faculty and staff. Don’t let the media tell this story for you. Keep talking to the media and answer their questions about what it is going on. There are so many positive stories coming out of UNC right now – just today I heard about two ’07 graduates that are finalists to win their “Big Break” in American Express’ Big Break for Small Business contest. Help the media focus on those stories instead.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Jennifer Fair ‘07
Image Source: Desrunyan