Lessons from the News Corp. Scandal: Avoiding Bad Brand Associations

As PR people, one of our major duties is to build beneficial relationships for our clients. In the wake of the News of the World phone hacking scandal, we’ve seen how some of these associations can turn into PR suicide.

However, a few charities saw it beneficial to place free ads in News of the World’s final issue. According to PR Week’s article, “Charities Insist News of the World Ads Were Great Opportunity Despite ‘Toxic Brand’,” nonprofits like St. John Ambulance, Pennies for Life and The Well Foundation placed ads.

Still, with the recent parliament hearings and the arrest of former exec. Rebekah Brooks, it’s hard to imagine why any organization would jeopardize their image like this.

Here are some things to consider when evaluating whether this type of PR risk is really worth taking:

1. Your Audience: Would your target audience understand that the organization’s misdeeds in no way reflect your client’s beliefs or actions? If your audience would misinterpret your association as an endorsement for the organization’s actions avoid the risk.

Children’s Heart Federation Communications Manager Cecilia Yardley showed how she weighed her concerns as she states, “…we thought about…[it] carefully and we decided for our beneficiary group it was advantageous for them to reach a wider audience.”

2. Your Image: If your client’s image is already in danger this will be one more thing to disengage the audience. The charities placing ads knew their do-good image would help their audience pay attention to their message, instead of the endangered brand.

3.Your future: Does it seem like the organization in crisis has other wrongdoings that will hit the fan soon? If you think there’s going to be one misdeed after another uncovered, your client’s image may not survive such a lengthy crisis.

The take away: In scandals like this the safest bet is to stay far away from the organization in crisis.

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Shari DaCosta.

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