WAR OF THE WAGS AND A PR CRISIS IN THE MAKING

It’s the debacle that’s had many of us glued to our devices. When Coleen Rooney waged war on Rebekah Vardy for allegedly selling stories about her to The Sun newspaper, people grabbed the popcorn and settled down to enjoy the latest celeb showdown.

Providing the nation with a welcome distraction from Brexit, this comparably light-hearted performance offered a break from the doom and gloom which has dominated the headlines of late.

While I’m not entirely sure what to tell you about Brexit, we can certainly share a lesson or two about public statements, crises and dealing with the media.

Timing is everything

Considering the timing of a statement, press release or media product drop is essential if the message is to be interpreted as intended.

In Coleen’s case, the statement was posted the day before World Mental Health Day. An extremely risky move to say the least. Notable dates have a significant influence on the media agenda and will determine content, so it’s prudent to be mindful.

With mental health in the headlines, the topic was bound to be front of mind with both journalists and their readers. As a result, the timing and nature of Coleen’s statement offered the perfect angle for a journalist to discuss the potential impacts on Vardy’s mental health.

While Coleen appears to have avoided such an issue on this occasion, this could very easily have been a PR crisis in the making.

Consider the wider impact

Whether intentional or not, the behaviour of celebrities influences the actions of others. This kind of public ‘performance’ brings with it a certain level of responsibility and if people are not careful, accountability too.

As prolific users of social media, it’s no surprise that young people are amongst those particularly engrossed in the activities of those in the public eye.  Being followers of the latest trends, children take cues about how to behave from those that they idolise. As a result, there’s no doubt that this method of ‘public shaming’ will be replicated in schools, with potentially disastrous consequences.

What’s more, although it’s entirely understandable that Coleen would feel betrayed – assuming the allegations are true, taking revenge so publicly is precarious territory.

After all, Coleen’s family have endured their fair share of hurtful headlines. The fact is, however guilty Rebekah may or may not be, the implications of exposing a story such as this not only has repercussions for the alleged perpetrator, but also for their family too.

Fact check, and check again

Though Coleen’s investigative techniques have impressed her fans, there are some obvious flaws. Narrowing the possible leak down to just one account, may be rather damning, but what about the people, other than reporters, that Rebekah may have shared the news with?

The truth is, she could just be guilty of being a gossip, who has naively divulged information about Coleen to her friends. And, let’s face it, she wouldn’t be the first person to share a screen shot of someone’s story in a group chat!

For her friends, who may not be in the public eye or have the salary of a football player at their disposal, the lure of a quick buck from a willing red top tabloid may have proved too much.

Of course, there’s also the question of whether Coleen herself has shared her plans with others. A trusted friend or family member could quite easily be the culprit. However unlikely that seems, I’m sure she wouldn’t be the first person to be betrayed in such a way.

Should Coleen’s conclusions turn out to be incorrect, there are bound to be some very red faces and incredibly serious repercussions for her own reputation. Ensuring, without a shadow of a doubt, that any statement is factually correct is absolutely essential.

Plan ahead

Every good PR plan should incorporate an element of crisis planning.

By exploring and identifying areas that could become stumbling blocks, a pro-active PR plan can be put in place to address issues in a timely manner, should they ever arise.

However, it’s always worth remembering that no matter how well prepared you are, it isn’t always possible to see a crisis coming, which is why having professionals on hand to manage a crisis situation can be invaluable.

Navigating unfamiliar territory without professional support is extremely unwise and could have lasting repercussions for your brand or business.

Summary

Reputation takes a long time to build and only a short time to ruin, which is why leaving this important aspect to chance is a perilous strategy.

Making statements to the media is a serious business. Unfortunately, once something has been said so publicly, it is very difficult to take back. That’s why it is important to get it right the first time.

Working in PR involves being cautious, taking time to plan and having a wider understanding of issues that impact upon a brand or business.

Utilising the skills of those who are qualified to advise on issuing statements, press releases or managing a PR crisis is essential if your number one asset, your hard-earned reputation, is to remain intact.