Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Art of Retracting a Press Release

Suppose you provide communications support to a global, non-profit entity, such as the global milk sharing network (Human Milk for Human Babies).

During your PR activities, you come across a woman who is asking for milk for NY friend currently living in Paris. The friend has a hard time finding enough milk for her baby, and turned to the hm4hb website for assistance.

As a PR professional, you see a golden opportunity to get the purpose of the non-profit across. Since the French webpage of the non-profit is not very active, you boost it with a press release, promoting that webpage. You then send the release to about two dozen French media outlets, including Le Monde that picks up the story. Le Monde also talks with the director of the milk bank in Paris who claims that milk sharing is governed by French law. It is therefore illegal to share milk via a website A TV5 reporter states the same.

The non-profit, fearful of French police showing up at its French offices, wants to retract the press release. Just pulling the French and English version down from the website will not do the trick.

So what are the options?

  1. Amending the press release and resending it to all media and journalists, including Le Monde and TV5.
    Lesson to be learned: obvious mistakes are best handled this way, especially for listed companies.

  2. Reposting the press release on the website.
    Lesson to be learned: leverage the power of your website (and social media) to do damage control.

  3. Replacing the press release with a letter explaining the intentions of the non-profit.
    Lesson to be learned: asking forgiveness always put a company in a positive light.

  4. Getting legal advise on the law in France. Lesson to be learned: always have legal look at a press release before sending it out.

  5. Do nothing. This way, its will blow over; quite likely sooner rather than later.
    Lesson to be learned: least said, soonest mended.

But the best strategy (of course) is to avoid the need of retracting anyway!

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