Reality Check: Should PR Ever Get in a Public Dispute With a Reporter?

images-2New York Times tech writer David Pogue is not a fan of the latest Windows update from Microsoft, iteration 8.1. In fact, he called it “lipstick on a pig” in a video blog.

Microsoft was not pleased with the review. And this time, the displeasure was played out publicly and immediately on Twitter.

Microsoft's head of communications, Frank X. Shaw, tweeted: “@nytimes @Pogue Dear David Pogue, what a classic Pogue piece. Funny, inaccurate, opinionated in the skewed way only you can bring.”  That tweet, predictably, set off a small explosion of retweets and comments.

Shaw told Business Insider, “We fundamentally disagree with David.”  That’s fine, but should Shaw have tweeted in response to a bad review in the first place?

Some PR pros say you should always respond, in a timely manner, in your chosen forum, but that it’s best to have a “champion” do that for your company. That’s what Stuart Zakim, president, Bridge Strategic Communications, told Inc. in June of this year.

What with all the places online that pros like Pogue and average Joe's can write reviews of your product or services, it may be a good idea to respond these days. But does it ever advance your communications mission to get into a public dispute that attacks journalists? Here are some accepted best practices.

  1. Keep up with all comments about your product or service.  Monitor reviews so that when negativity appears, you know about it. You can’t react if you don’t know about it.
  2. Respond in your own forum. Let people know why you think a review was incorrect. But don’t take it to Twitter. Take a few hours and craft a considered response, rather than blasting out 140 characters of what you really think.
  3. Call for backup. In your response, link to positive reviews. Or make it easy for your favorite customers/journalists to offer comments. Give them a quick call, asking them to chime in with their positive thoughts to offset the negativity.

 Follow Brian W. Kelly: @bwpkelly


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  • Ford Kanzler

    The three points above are all on the money. A thought addressing the headline question, which dates from an earlier time is, “Don’t pick a fight with someone who buys their printer’s ink 50-gallons at a time.” Further, today’s technology makes nearly everyone a publisher.
    Also, related to point #2 above is, “Think twice, speak once.”

  • Gayle Falkenthal

    Final paragraph before the numbered list, first line: “average Joes” should not have an apostrophe. It is plural, not possessive. Sorry to call this out, but I see this error a lot and it’s incumbent upon public relations pros not to make these mistakes since we are professional communicators. Thanks.

    • June Malcolm

      Keen eye…I didn’t even see that…

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  • June Malcolm

    Media is very influential…Isn’t it PR’s responsibility (job description) to correct Reporters’ errors? If they do not respond to the inaccurate report, at source, then they’ll be chargeable for the company’s (negative) bottom figure at the end of the fiscal period. Don’t you agree?

  • joe

    I feel like this shouldn’t happen, what if there boss is casually walking down the street while this is happening?

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