No Such Thing as Bad Publicity? Let’s Ask Uber

There’s a fascinating PR story unfolding right now in the news regarding some comments made carelessly by Emil Michael, Uber’s senior VP of business. He made the comments ABOUT REPORTERS during a dinner WITH REPORTERS (!) and then claimed he believed his statements were “off the record.” Hmmm….when reporters are present, is anything truly off the record? And beyond that, should he have been speaking at all, if he doesn’t know better than to make comments like this in public ever, let alone at a dinner with reporters?

If you’re looking for a case study on how to handle crisis communications, take a look at how Uber is responding to this headline-making incident. This article Uber’s PR missteps aren’t hurting the business…yet discusses how the company is handling the crisis on Twitter and even includes the series of tweets the CEO issued in response. The story also gives perspective on how this will affect the company overall, per the old adage, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

John Bonini of Impact Brands is quoted in the story as saying, “Is all press good press? I don’t believe that 100 percent, but I would say when you are going after an industry like the transportation industry you need all the attention you can get. They are in a tough place to sort of gain traction and yet they are doing it and largely they are doing it because people hear their name all the time.”

I’m guessing Uber’s PR team would rather this not be the way people are hearing about the company….but only time will tell if this series of events hurts or helps the company.

Regardless of Uber’s fate, there are PR lessons to be learned here, as in:

1) Don’t bash reporters publicly (that should be obvious!)

2) EVERYTHING you say when reporters are present is “on the record”

3) Make sure only media trained spokespeople are speaking on behalf of the company

4) Be ready to respond quickly and appropriately when crises arise

This serves as a good reminder that it’s never a bad idea to do a media training “refresher” with your spokespeople periodically.

One thing’s for sure–it’ll be interesting to watch how it all plays out. What are your thoughts on this Uber story? What PR lessons did you take away?

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