Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance: How They Apply to a Public Relations Campaign

public relations, The Knight Canney Group, five stages of grief

We’ve all been there.  The five stages of grief.

Numb with disbelief, simmering rage, looking for some give and take, laid low by loss, then facing the truth: No one is going to bite on your pitch. Responses so far have ranged from dead silence to “good luck with that.”

Now comes the worst part: you knew it would end like this. Why? Because you let the client steamroll you with a project that either wasn’t ready, didn’t have a clear strategy, or, in the end, just wasn’t a good story.  A good public relations campaign starts with a good story. If you don’t have one, start pushing that boulder up the hill.

So now what? You didn’t manage client expectations , you’ve wasted some of your own capital with your media contacts, you’ve come up empty handed, and the client is still looking for coverage. Can this pitch be saved? Maybe.

Despite the enduring popularity of The Walking Dead, you really can’t raise the dead (that’s the acceptance, part), but perhaps you can dabble in reincarnation.

With the client, take a hard look at the story, the strategy, the assets, the product—if there is one—and the timing.

  • Who’s the target audience?
  • What is the story you want told?
  • Why does it matter?
  • What assets (products, information, interviews, access) will be available to help tell it?
  • Is there a better time to tell it?

If there are no clear answers to these questions, then find them, and retool the pitch. Let the reporters know you’re bringing more to the table this time. (That’s the bargaining part: if they’ll give you a few minutes of their time, you’ll have something worth hearing.) It’s a harder sell the second time around, but it’s possible.

But what, you ask, about those times when the client brings you a great story, all the assets anyone could want, interesting interviews, knockout visuals, and perfect timing? And still no one bites? What then? Well, that’s the depression part. Good luck with that.




Why Should I Hire a Public Relations Firm?

Why should you hire a PR firm? (Hint: You're not Sly Stalone.)

A couple of years ago, American Greetings issued a web video that went viral. A fake advertisement was placed for a position that required 24/7 commitment to “the associate,” able to do a lot of heavy lifting and bending, a degree in medicine and finance, as well as an ability to cook, clean, and drive a car. Of course, the position, already held by billions of people, was “a Mom.”

We wouldn’t presume to compare ourselves with your saintly mother—so instead think of us as your Uncle Jack-of-all-trades. The services offered by many public relations firms, including The Knight Canney Group, encompass everything from crisis management to corporate image building to executive thought leadership. Not to mention the staples of media and public relations.

Smart leaders are smart enough to know what they don’t know and that there should be someone around who does know.  For instance, do you know—

  • How to navigate or how to mitigate a public relations crisis?
  • How to get media coverage for your corporate excellence?
  • How to reach a government official with your problem?
  • How to be viewed as a leader in your area of expertise?
  • How to persuade people to vote for your issue, to pay attention to your product, or believe in your cause?

If you don’t, it’s okay—as long as you understand their importance and the value of bringing in someone who does.

If you badly cut yourself, you wouldn’t sew your own stiches, would you? (Unless you’re Sly Stalone). Sometimes, you need to bring in a consultant to stop the figurative bleeding as well.

An unexpected crisis can do irreparable damage to your image. Thoughtful, careful, and expedient management of a crisis can keep you from losing years of hard work to a momentary change in circumstances.  Would you know what to do in the realm of crisis management?

Establishing a network of media contacts takes time and effort. Do you know how a public relations campaign could amplify your story beyond paid advertising?

Businesses, non-profits, organizations, and individuals can all benefit from professional public relations consultants.  Let us let you focus on doing what you do best.

Volkswagen Has Fallen and It Can’t Get Up

From bad PR to a crisis of public confidence--Volkswagen’s tarnished image gets worse.

Take II on the PR disaster that has tarnished Volkswagen. In September, we learned that VW equipped millions of its diesel vehicles with software that allowed it pass EPA emissions tests, while otherwise polluting at a rate that would never pass regulatory muster.

Caught red-handed, Volkswagen ’fessed up, agreed to fines, fired some high-level executives, dumped the CEO, Martin Winterkorn, and moved the head of its Porsche division, Matthias Müller in as the new CEO. All necessary steps. Except maybe the last one.

Because, wait. There’s more. The EPA has discovered more un-sanctioned software on more cars—this time on vehicles from Audi and Porsche, both divisions of Volkswagen.

Herr Müller has some erklären-ing to do. Especially since he vowed to thoroughly investigate VW’s cheating, and because these new revelations came from outside investigations by regulators in California and Canada, not from Volkswagen. Oh, and this time, VW is denying the findings.

Much of the media coverage surrounding the initial appointment of Müller noted that he had a gargantuan task ahead: regaining public trust, dealing with multiple international investigations, paying billions of dollars in fines and the costs of fixing millions of vehicles, not to mention keeping the company afloat. There were, however, a few questions regarding Müller as an appropriate choice. He had deep and long-held ties to Volkswagen and to Winterkorn.

I’m not implying, nor should the reader infer that Müller was in on the installation of cheating software in Volkswagens, Audis, or Porsches. But this latest revelation makes one wonder, was anyone asking the difficult questions internally before Müller was put in the heated driver’s seat?

  1. Did you know anything about this? Tell us now—don’t let us find out in three months.
  2. Is there more bad news for investigators to find? Tell us now—don’t let us find out in three months.
  3. With a crisis this huge, regardless of who it is, what are the optics of promoting from within? Should we bring in a “white knight” CEO?

To be sure, this crisis goes way beyond bad PR for Volkswagen—and now Audi, and Porsche. This is a crisis of everything: public trust, investor confidence, government compliance, company solvency, and legal liability. But these latest revelations come at the worst possible time—when the company was trying to portray a posture of contrition and reparation—and their impact could have been mitigated had someone who was thinking about public relations in the truest sense, spoken truth to power, and had power told the truth.