Several corporate PR departments self-destructed on TV recently as a BBC reporter confronted UK chocolate manufacturers. The problem? They’re using ecologically damaging palm oil when there’s an environmentally friendly alternative readily available.
The manufacturers’ reaction to the matter was a cringe-making combination of prevarication, paranoia, obfuscation, delaying tactics, avoidance and defensiveness. In one case they even hid inside the building, refusing to talk on the phone. So. They had the BBC standing outside the premises. That’s free TV exposure at prime time, covering a subject close to the heart of millions of ordinary people. Priceless.
But instead of making a spectacularly positive coup and stealing the limelight from their competitors, they made themselves and their employers look like complete idiots. Almost anything can be turned into a positive message. Corporate PR experts, of all people, should know better.