How To Be Opportunistic With A Major News Story

Aug 01, 2012 admin

My Facebook feed this week has been buzzing with Chick-fil-A updates. There was the viral letter that Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino wrote to the restaurant chain’s President Dan Cathy saying Chick-fil-A was not welcome to open a store in the city because of its stance against same-sex marriage. And then there were these photos below, posted by different friends; each shows a brand—Sarah Palin and KFC —taking advantage of the media firestorm to get some attention for themselves.

This got me thinking: when is it ok to be opportunistic, piggybacking on an issue in the media? When is it not? And what are the do’s and don’ts?

Do be opportunistic if:

-  The issue is relevant to your business. In the case of KFC, a direct competitor with Chick-fil-A, this sign is clever because it positions them as an alternative. For Sarah Palin, it also keeps up her profile among her voting bloc—especially the Christian right and Tea Party activists who believe government should not be telling businesses what to do, or allowing same-sex couples to marry.

- You believe strongly in your response. Inserting yourself into a media frenzy can bring additional scrutiny and questions. Before sticking out your neck, make sure you can withstand the attention—for better or worse—otherwise it’s not worth it.

-  You are ready for a potential backlash, or just don’t care if it should come. KFC would have surely expected those against same-sex marriage to throw darts, or boycott, as a result of the sign. And Sarah Palin should have expected her critics—or Tina Fey – to have more material to work with.

-  You are using the opportunity as a teaching moment (see this blog post).

Don’t be opportunistic if:

-  You are making light of a situation in which someone was hurt. Especially if the issue is fresh. Comedian Dane Cook did this after the movie shootings in Colorado. Sure he got plenty of headlines, but at what price? The audience groaned, and of course, he was forced to issue an apology.

-  You cannot verify your response. Emotional responses are one thing, but if your pontificating goes astray, make sure you have the details to support your claims.

-  Your comments are a stretch. If the issue is not relevant to your business, or your remarks are not spot-on, you could end up looking like a desperate child seeking attention. In which case, it’s better not to be noticed at all.

-  What you are saying is negative. One could argue that in the photos above, both sides are being snarky, but they are not overtly nasty. There’s a big difference.

Topics: Media Relations, Messaging, News, Public Relations, Journalism, Social Media, Thought Leadership

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