The lines can be blurred when trying to pinpoint who is really pulling the strings in public relations. While we would love to think that it’s us, the publicists, sometimes that’s not the case. The public is often our best and our worst source of PR.
Take for example the promotion and announcement of Temple’s Welcome Week performer. Temple University hosts an annual week long celebration for new and returning students and their families, which includes a celebrity performance at the end of the week. In years past, the performer has typically been a musical artist, but this year Temple’s Main Campus Program Board (our activity planning committee) decided to go in a new direction and bring in a comedian. After the official announcement of the performer was made on Twitter, several hundred students voiced their opinions. However, not all of the opinions were very supportive. Several students expressed their excitement over the performer, retweeting and sharing the announcement with their friends. However, students who were not in favor took to Twitter to do the same.
Regardless of all the behind the scenes planning that goes into an event or PR campaign, once a statement is released there isn’t too much we can do to control public opinion. For better or worse, the public seems to be most heavily persuaded by itself. Whatever the majority deems appropriate is what the general population will support. To quote the character Gretchen Wieners from the movie Mean Girls, “You wouldn’t buy a skirt without asking your friends first if it looks good on you.” As simple as that analogy may be, it does sum up the basic concept.
PR professionals are notorious control freaks but some things, like public opinion, can simply be out of our hands. Doing all the work that you can, up until “the big announcement,” is sometimes all anyone can ask for. The rest is left up to the public to decide.
Have you ever had to battle public opinion? Tell us about how you handled the situation!