Don’t Pull A Minaj: How To Handle A PR Crisis & Come Out On The Other Side In One Piece

February 20, 2014  |  

Nicki Minaj made a major misstep when she used a historic photo of Malcolm X as the artwork for her new single and juxtaposed it with the title of the song which uses the “n” word. She upset fans and Malcolm X’s family.

“Ms. Minaj’s artwork for her single does not depict the truth of Malcolm X’s legacy,”  Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz said in a statement to the Associated Press.

It took several days for Minaj to apologize and pull the artwork.  Still the damage to her brand had been done.

PR crises are a reality for companies. But the key to your brand’s survival is how you deal with the backlash.

When you find yourself in a similar predicament as Minaj, first examine the situation. “If your brand did nothing wrong… then there’s no reason to withdraw any of your campaigns or apologize for a wrongdoing,” explains Small Business Trends.  When Cheerios introduced its first campaign featuring an interracial family, there was major uproar. But the company realized that while it offended some, the commercial was not offensive. So it stood its ground and went on to expand the campaign.

Understand the difference between offensive and controversial. All controversial ideas aren’t offensive. Controversial campaigns can actually spark much-needed discussions. Think PETA’s anti-fur ads or Benetton’s multi-racial ads.Take an objective look and view it through the eyes of the general public. “Review the promotion in question and the individuals offended. Is it a large group or only a few individuals? Try to objectively evaluate the promo from multiple perspectives and with fresh eyes and note your initial impression,” branding expert Aniesia Williams, CEO and founder of the GOTO Ladies, tells MadameNoire Business.

But if your brand has erred, don’t wait like Minaj did to address the issues. “Reach out and explain,” says Williams. “Remind your audience of your brand’s values and how the promo spoke to those values.”

Next, apologize and remove the offensive material. It took a threat of a lawsuit before Minaj withdrew the artwork.  “State the intent of the promo and apologize for how the material was miscommunicated/misunderstood. If necessary, remove the material,” advises Williams.

But in some cases it is better to say nothing–addressing the issue might just escalate matters. “Sometimes it’s better to stay quiet and avoid making the situation worse than to try and give a lengthy explanation and apology,” reports Small Business Trends.

Once you have decided on your PR crisis strategy, then it is time to move forward. “Address lingering concerns and then shift to focus on the next campaign–don’t shy away from promoting your brand because of this,” says Williams.  But be sure not to make the same mistake twice. “In advance of the release, review subsequent campaigns from various perspectives to determine if and how the promo may be viewed as offensive,” says Williams.

Look at all aspects of your new campaign and consider how it will be perceived from all angles. And the same can be said for you as an individual. Assess your ideas, statements, and correspondence before you fire off something that can land you in hot water. One bad controversy and the mere mention of your name will always be linked to “the incident” when people talk about you going forward.

The way you deal with a PR crisis can make or break your brand. If done right, you will be viewed as professional, humble and reasonable.

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