Obstacles vs Opportunity
As I study and practice public relations more, one of the most intriguing aspects in the field is the idea of turning obstacles into opportunities. The book titled Strategic Planning for Public Relations by Ronald D. Smith defines an opportunity as a potential advantage and an obstacle as a limiter. Obstacles arise day-to-day within an organization on every level. The key is figuring out how to turn a limitation into an opportunity for growth.
Smith challenged my perspective on obstacles through his description of zen in PR. He stated that “A problem is not necessarily something negative but instead something lacking harmony, a point of yet-unrealized potential”. More often than not, there is a solution to any problem.
One example of this is when The American Red Cross accidentally tweeted the hashtag “#gettngslizzerd” along with a tweet about drinking. Of course this quickly got a lot of attention from the public. Red Cross quickly deleted the tweet and had fun with their apology replying “We’ve deleted the rouge tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys”.
Of course humor is not always the answer when it comes to a crisis or issue in an organization, but in this case, Red Cross was able to recover from the incident and even gain more followers because of it.
Another important aspect of public relations is performing risk management. Risk management is defined by Smith as “the process of identifying, controlling, and minimizing the impact of uncertain events on an organization”. Similar to a mutual fund manager, the public relations team must foresee issues and negative trends before they arise. In some cases, things out of your control will emerge. Luckily, those situations can be more easily predictable and the risks can be minimized with a pre-determined plan of action.
For example, when E Coli was discovered in lettuce around the US, many companies like Taco Bell were in a crisis. After this contamination incident, the challenge was to get the public to trust the safety of the food again. By having a plan in place to gain back the trust of their public, organizations can limit the risk involved in a given situation.
The idea of predicting the future can be intimidating, but there are many effective ways to go about risk management. One of the most helpful ways to predict issues is by being aware of competitor’s mistakes. By researching competitors crises, it allows us to see what could have been prevented. Another way to minimize risks is by continuously monitoring the internal and external environments of an organization. This allows the public relations team to see issues before they arise and prevent a small issue from spiraling into a full-on crisis.