Matter Chatter

There is no sugarcoating a PR dilemma

As PR professionals, our job is to consider all of the consequences and ramifications of media messaging before it hits headlines.

Last August during a concert at the Indiana State Fair, a tragic accident occurred when a stage collapsed resulting in seven casualties and more than 58 fans sustaining injuries. As a result, the band Sugarland is now defending itself via court attorneys against claims of negligence.

The band’s attorneys filed a statement last week claiming that some of the blame must fall on the victims – which as you can imagine caused a terrific uproar across media headlines. Clearly someone neglected to consult the band’s PR team, and now Sugarland is walking a fine line between defending themselves and keeping their fans happy.

What are some steps to apply when in a PR crisis situation?

Be prompt. Simultaneously, Sugarland could have issued a more positive/empathetic message to offset legal

Be informative. If little to no information is given, rumors can start almost immediately and can potentially cause more damage than the truth. Before a statement was given, both the legal and PR teams could have aligned and developed one cohesive strategy.

Be concerned. Immediately following the tragic event, Sugarland expressed sympathy for the victims and their families involved and has continued to do so throughout the legal filing.

Maintain two-way relationships. This is the most important, but also the most tricky. The cardinal rule of crisis management is not to blame the victims. Unfortunately, Sugarland and their legal team are now caught up in a blame game which will most likely end up in a jury trial.

No matter the nature of a crisis it is absolutely essential to consider all stakeholders involved, align key messaging, react promptly and never blame the victim.