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Why Tech Companies (Like Snapchat) Need to Use Their PR Teams for More than Just Apologies

By Casmin Wisner, Public Relations Specialist at Jive by LogMeIn

Too many companies operate under the mantra, “Act now, apologize later.” After all, they have a public relations team to smooth things over, right?

Right. But also wrong.

PR teams should be utilized for more than just penning apologies. However, it seems as though so many tech companies are guilty of this. Look at Snapchat’s latest PR crisis concerning an ad they released promoting their “Would You Rather!” game. The ad asked if you’d rather “Slap Rihanna” or “Punch Chris Brown.”

Considering the fact that Brown was charged with battery in a highly publicized domestic violence case in 2009, this is not something to “joke” about. In fact, it’s so tasteless that you have to wonder, “What were they thinking?”

Unfortunately they weren’t. And regardless of their apologies, and the many apologies coming from tech companies all over the world for similar incidents, there’s no question that we’re sure to see the same thing happen time and time again. After all, just like Rihanna said, “You can’t blame a rogue algorithm here. You can’t blame a malevolent piece of code… Someone designed this execrable item. Someone animated it and then someone looked at it and approved it.”

The Purpose of PR

She’s right. The people who build the code and algorithms behind the scenes at these big tech companies seem to think like machines rather than humans capable of emotions. This is why we need public relations. Public relations brings emotional intelligence to the table. PR teams help brands communicate to the public by capturing an audience’s attention and generating positive emotional responses.

It’s this kind of response that can then help a company gain traction and achieve long-term success in an industry. So how do we mitigate the need for crisis management and free up their time?

How to Stop the Cycle of Apologies

1. Teach and host mandatory classes.

It’s unrealistic (especially for a large company) to ask that everything a company creates and publishes publicly first goes through a PR team. However, it’s not too much to ask that employees attend internal or external classes on brand image and emotional intelligence. Make attendance mandatory and offer more intensive training for management.

2. Update your approval process.

Like Rihanna mentioned, someone not only created the offensive ad, but someone else approved it. In addition to creating mandatory training for managers, consider a multi-step approval process where an item goes through multiple teams or management before it’s published. Two (or twenty) heads are better than one when it comes to ensuring human emotions are engaged in the decision-making process.

The Best Use of PR Teams

We’re only human and mistakes are inevitable, but we have the power to reduce the risk of mistakes through intentional training and great processes. This can free up PR teams to focus on a company’s growth and work on:

Refining messaging and identity. Your public relations team should carefully craft a brand identity to create a unified front. The voice and messaging across all of your PR and digital marketing efforts should be consistent and provide customers and audiences with a clear view of your company and what it stands for.

Generating leads. When your company is featured in a media outlet, they instantly gain visibility from prospective customers. PR teams should work hard to create and pitch stories targeted to a company’s specific customer sets.

Recruiting talent. In addition to attracting new clients, PR campaigns can also attract future employees. If you’re setting your business up as a thought leader in its field and bringing the company more visibility, chances are you’ll increase the talent that comes knocking at your door. PR teams can also do this by focusing their energy on employee review sites and applying for “Best Employer” type awards.

Improving employee retention. Employee turnover is costly to companies everywhere. Public relations can boost employee morale and pride through social media campaigns, awards, and thought leadership opportunities, which also increases the likelihood of an employee staying with your company.

Attracting investors and acquirers. Depending on your company’s current stage of growth, you may be looking to attract investors or acquirers. The right media placements can be used to attract the attention of VCs and even larger technology firms looking to make an acquisition. With the right strategy and messaging, your company can improve its credibility through industry media sources.

Apologizing is easy. Making real changes and monitoring your content and the emotional intelligence of your teams is harder. However, the return on investment is much greater. So utilize your PR team for more than just apologies. Improve your identity and messaging, generate leads, improve employee and customer retention, recruit talent, and attract acquirers and investors.


About the Author: Casmin Wisner is a Public Relations Specialist at Jive by LogMeIn, a leader in cloud-based phone systems and Unified Communications.

Casmin enjoys hiking, snow boarding, sky diving, and writing about PR, marketing, tech and leadership.

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