Tagged: #YoungPro

Public Relations in the Age of Cancel Culture

By: Rebeka Dickerson

Public relations is a fairly new profession compared to other jobs, first being established in the 1920s. However, it is more important now than ever. Why is that? The issues of this world are on full display and people are paying attention to every step organizations and individuals make. Additionally, cancel culture is especially prevalent. 

A term we are hearing more frequently in the PR world, cancel culture, is “the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” 

With social media, it is much easier for anything someone does “wrong” to be scrutinized on a worldwide scale. This is why organizations must understand their audiences and the topics/issues they care about. Organizations must find a way to incorporate those topics in a way that will not backfire, which can be easier said than done. 

There are countless examples of attempts that were made to resonate with an audience that ended up backfiring. One of the most well-known ones, though, was when Pepsi and Kendall Jenner teamed up to create a commercial meant to promote peace and unity, but that came off completely tone deaf (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/pepsi-ad-kendall-jenner-echoes-black-lives-matter-sparks-anger-n742811) . More recently, Nike sold out of Kobe Bryant merchandise, frustrating people who thought they did not honor him, but instead attempted to profit off of his death (https://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2020/8/24/21399059/nike-kobe-bryant-shoes-limited-snkrs-drop-lakers-resellers-jerseys-mamba-day/comment/530751649). 

Clearly, citing these examples, it is crucial for plans to be made and extreme care to be put into everything that is placed online and offline. Even something that is meant to come across as a positive statement or message can be completely misconstrued, and your organization could be put in a position no organization wants to be in. 

So, to have a trained professional involved in every part of the public relations process certainly cannot hurt. Organizations need someone with a keen eye who will speak up when even the smallest of details seems off. Any concerns the public has should be responded to as soon as possible, and in an empathetic manner. Lying or attempting to hide a mistake will not be accepted. 

Although public relations may not be one of the most effortless jobs in our current times, it is a job that is needed  in today’s environment. Once one person is distressed about something your company did or put out, you should be prepared for many more to follow. People are smart and they have high expectations. It is now the company/individual and PR professional’s job to meet those expectations.