Is all Publicity Good Publicity?

The answer is…yes and no. Often it’s how well the message is managed when the story hits the headlines.

In May 2005 came the shocking news via worldwide media of Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue’s diagnosis with breast cancer. Unfortunately being the public figure that she is, there was no way this news was going to go unnoticed.

‘Team Kylie’ reacted quickly. They were very up-front with the media, answered their questions and explained exactly what the situation was. Kylie’s Showgirl tour about to hit the road in Australia was postponed. Although disappointing to her many fans booked into her concerts, by being honest and open about the situation these same fans – and media – remained on side during this crisis situation.

There was a huge wave of support for Kylie as she underwent intensive treatment and emerged 18 months later with a clear bill of health. Throughout this time the media were kept informed and remained supportive until the time came to promote her rescheduled Showgirl tour.

The Power of the Press

Although Kylie’s diagnosis was absolutely devastating – the upside – if there is one, is that this story created much more public awareness of the importance of early diagnosis of breast cancer. Every major Australian newspaper, TV current affairs show, magazine and radio talkback station did some story on breast cancer. Kylie’s diagnosis has had a major influence on a whole generation of women.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, a September 2005 article in the Medical Journal of Australia argued that publicity about Minogue’s illness prompted a doubling in bookings for mammograms by women being screened for the first time. Eight weeks after the story broke, bookings were still 40 per cent higher. “The dramatic increase in initial and rescreen mammography among eligible womein is unprecedented in the Australian breast screening program,” the authors, Simon Chapman, Kim McLeod, Melanie Wakefield and Simon Holding, found. Commenting on research linking historical rates of screening with a 26 per cent fall in mortality, the authors predicted the significant ‘Kylie effect’ on screening may further reduce breast cancer deaths”.

Kylie has proudly re-emerged as a leading pop icon with a reputation as an astute businesswoman and manager of “brand” Kylie. The successful launch of the Showgirl tour in Australia, in November 2006, along with the media management of a very difficult personal time has cemented her place in the pages of entertainment history.

Publicity Crisis

Although no one on Kylie’s management team or those on the event management team of Kylie’s original concert tour in 2005 could have predicted such an astonishing outcome – there was no doubt some sort of crisis management plan was in place.

Even though your event or publicity campaign may not be of this scale it is still a good idea to have a plan in place in case of unforeseen situations. There’s two ways of approaching it.

* An issues management plan is identifying what could possibly go wrong and have a plan in place to ensure the issue doesn’t become a crisis and/or

* Have a crisis management plan where if it does blow out and become a major catastrophe you know how to handle it

Here is a brief checklist to an issues and crisis management plan:

1. Identify anything possible that may go wrong and prepare a plan to handle the crisis
2. Organise a crisis team and allocate responsibilities
3. Have a spokesperson in place that will handle all media inquiries. If the media calls someone else – those calls can be directed to the most appropriate person. Make sure the spokesperson is media trained
4. Do respond to the media quickly with respect to their deadlines and have all your facts and statistics in place
5. Be prepared for any possible questions and negative responses
6. Remain calm and tell it as it is – the truth
7. In the case of an individual do respect their privacy but don’t ever say “no comment” – have some response prepared or say, “we don’t have the answer to that yet.”
8. Do show concern and respect other people’s position in the crisis – those of your clients, customers and employees
9. Do be aware of any legal implications before admitting any fault
10. Keep media and other stakeholders informed at every step of the way
11. Make an announcement and initiate a positive public relations campaign after the crisis has been averted
12. Review your crisis management plan and update if necessary