The first week of January 2023 came roaring in with crises and opportunities for communication wins. While some brands and individuals seemed to suffer from a holiday hangover, others made unforgettable strides that practitioners will be talking about for years. Here’s a roundup of the week's notable PR items and stories.
Buffalo Bills' player Demar Hamlin suffers cardiac arrest during 'Monday Night Football,' and the nation unites in support of him.
What happened? A story many followed in real-time this week was the result of one of the most dangerous injuries ever suffered during an NFL game. Emergency personnel began working on Hamlin within 10 seconds, administering CPR and stabilizing the 24-year-old's vitals, while 24 million viewers saw coaches, players and TV analysts overcome with emotion.
Good news finally came Jan. 5, when the team received word from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center (UCMC) and Hamlin’s family that he was awake and neurologically responsive.
Comms lesson: It’s important to acknowledge stakeholders in a crisis with clear, nuanced messaging. Too many cooks can cause confusion for the media and public. Sometimes organizations should step back and allow experts to speak.
In this case, the Buffalo Bills organization stepped aside, allowing the Hamlin family to speak and UCMC experts to answer difficult medical questions. Coaches and players were mostly silent, besides posting hopeful wishes on social.
For instance, the team let the Hamlins decide when they wanted to share information, rather than speaking for them. UCMC held a medical press conference, taking questions from media nationwide about everything from procedures on the field to the first words the patient said (wrote) upon waking. “Did we win?” Hamlin asked. In response, Dr. Timothy Pritts delivered the sound bite of the day: “Yes, Damar, you won. You’ve won the game of life.”
House adjourns after the third day of a failed resolution to elect a House Speaker. Rep. Kevin McCarthy suffers 11 rounds of voting losses.
What happened? McCarthy needs 218 votes to become Speaker; however, he has yet to exceed 203. Republicans seem deadlocked. On the other side, Democrats are supporting Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. The Republican infighting is on full display daily, in what could be C-SPAN’s highest rated broadcast ever. There's also coverage on major news organizations and social media.
Comms lesson: This is the longest in 164 years that the House has failed to elect a Speaker. The episode has exposed cracks in the party and makes the Republicans seem disjointed. It could instill fears in the electorate, which could think: If the party can’t unite for a vote—can it achieve any promises it's made? Without a defined position and preparation, organizations can look disorganized and awry, leaving audiences confused and mistrusting of leadership.
During this moment it is important for lawmakers to keep constituents updated. In addition, the entire House should keep the public informed, explaining the voting procedure and offering historical context. Social media platforms and websites can do wonders as platforms for educating the public.
New Equinox campaign shames Jan.1 gym joiners.
What happened? Luxury gym-chain Equinox announced it would not accept new members on Jan. 1. The company created social posts featuring the tagline "January is a language we don't understand." Critics quickly berated Equinox on social media, saying it excluded people trying to start healthier habits.
Comms lesson: Alienating groups of the public may seem like a cute gimmick—but can create a backlash. Look at past campaigns and messaging from former exclusionary store Abercrombie & Fitch, unrealistic beauty expectations from Victoria’s Secret and one-size-fits-all-but-not-really Brandy Melville. Lo and behold, Victoria’s Secret stores are closing everywhere, and Abercrombie had to reinvent itself. Brand backlash can not only dent the bottom line, but seriously damage reputation for years.
Join us next Friday for another roundup. Until then, have a good week and try to stay out of a crisis!
Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal