PR companies are supposed to make life easier for their clients, but sometimes they end up doing the opposite. Ocean Marketing’s Paul Christoforo imploded yesterday under the weight of his own self-importance and was suitably punished by the internet for it. However Christoforo’s horribly ill-conceived email exchange with a customer, and then internet god Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade, is only the most recent in a year of PR disasters so bad that there are lists devoted to the worst, and even a website made entirely for documenting PR disasters.
As the PR Company that represents a galaxy-spanning totalitarian regime that builds giant lasers and explodes planets, you might say we’re experts in the field of managing the public’s perception. So, out of the goodness of our black hearts, here are seven tips you should follow to help avoid a PR meltdown:
You’re already on the Dark Side
Let’s face it, if you work in PR, or marketing, or similar, the average person probably already thinks you’re an evil dick before your conversation begins. After all, you work for a giant corporation and get paid ridiculous amounts of money to answer emails and pretend to do Excel spreadsheets. Recognise that you’re already on the back foot with most customers, and that they’re likely contacting you because they’re annoyed at something anyway, and act accordingly.
Remember that your clients are not just a faceless entity
They’re people, just like you. Probably. Sometimes they’re weird aliens wearing human skin and pretending to be human so they can infilitrate and one day destroy human society, but MOSTLY, they’re people. And just like you don’t enjoy being cursed at or spat on when you go to buy something, they won’t enjoy it either.
One person can make a difference
Unfortunately, due to the “wonders” of modern technology and social networking, the era where a giant corporation or facist space government can just squash the little people without anyone noticing has passed. All it takes to turn your snarky emails into a large unprotected exhaust port waiting to be proton torpedoed is one suitably pissed off person willing to take the time to forward your condescending/rude correspondence to a few people with connections and BOOM! Trust us, being exploded isn’t super fun.
Don’t burn your bridges/customers
Bottom line, you never know what your customers are truly capable of. Most of the time, if you’re dealing with them over the internet, you don’t even know who they are. Sure, you could be speaking to some snotty 18 year old farmboy whinging about why he didn’t get his power converters in time, but you could just as easily be dealing with an influential blogger/Tweeter, or a pissed off Sith Lord with the power to Force choke you with his mind. Always err on the side of caution.
Don’t be a douchebag
[Note: This is similar to Wheaton's Law but different in one important respect -- douchebags get encased in Carbonite.]
Oh, you’re not a douchebag, are you? Take a second to think about how many people in your office say things like, “Brosef” and “Hasta mañana” instead of “See you tomorrow”, and use so many corporate buzzwords that a normal human being would prefer to shoot themselves in the face than have a conversation with them. Ah, but you’re not like them, right? Have you ever said, “Let’s do lunch”? Yep, evil douchebag. The bad news? You can’t change that. The good news? If you attempt to be civil to people and generally just dial the douchebaggery back a few notches, most customers won’t come away hating you too much.
This wasn’t even your fault in the first place, you’re COMPLETELY in the right and now your customer is being a TOTAL a-hole. It would feel so good to fire off a sarcastic email or tweet pointing out what a moron they’re being and they’d read it and be totally put in their place and you’d WIN. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Not how it works, my friends. The customer is the one with the money, and therefore the power. Your boss cares about what they think because, realistically, a monkey with an IQ-boosting hat could do your job in a heartbeat, but customer good will (and money) can’t be replaced. So be selfish. Think about how much it would suck to be out of a job, or Force choked to death for your incompetence. Email accordingly.
Build a Death Star
Of course, if you don’t find any of the above particularly helpful and wish to continue your evil ways, you could just build a gigantic superlaser. People tend to complain about you less when you can destroy their planet.