This is a timely reminder for all of us in the communications industry not to get carried away by our literary abilities and thought leadership skills, to the extent that we become insensitive on matters that matter to people most.
A mistake has been made, an apology issued but I wonder what PR professionals would make of the Twitter apology? To me it did not go enough. There was no mea culpa and then it segued straight into intent. It falls short of an ernest apology, especially for professional wordsmiths.
Personally I am saddened by the death of Robin Williams, who has been a part of so much of the lives of people of my generation since Mork and Mindy days.
That he apparently committed suicide because depression only goes to show how vulnerable we all are to this condition. The role that depression plays in our lives, especially when we get older, is rap and scary. We all need to learn more about depression and its link with Alzheimer’s Disease.
RIP Robin Williams.
PR Giant Edelman Apologizes for Calling Robin Williams Death an Opportunity
But says blog post on sparking mental health discussion will remain live
By David GrinerAugust 14, 2014, 10:40 AM
Robin Williams died Monday. Authorities say he committed suicide. | Photo: Jay Paul/Getty Images
Edelman is usually tapped with helping brands avoid or disentangle themselves from public backlash, but the global PR firm instead found itself in the hot seat this week.At issue was a blog post from media relations strategy evp Lisa Kovitz, who said the suicide of comedian Robin Williams created a PR opportunity for groups advocating for better treatment of mental illness.
“As we mourn the loss of Robin Williams to depression, we must recognize it as an opportunity to engage in a national conversation,” she wrote. “His death yesterday created a carpe diem moment for mental health professionals and those people who have suffered with depression and want to make a point about the condition and the system that treats it.”
While she certainly has a point about such a high-profile tragedy bringing mental health and depression into the spotlight, quite a few readers found the post to be in poor taste.
Most of the backlash likely stemmed from Gawkers writeup calling Edelman a “soulless PR conglomerate” using a celebritys suicide to promote its own expertise.
Asked by Adweek whether she regretted the phrasing or the intent of the blog post, Kovitz directed us to Edelmans tweet of apology this morning:
Despite the companys apology, Kovitz said the blog post “will remain live.” Most critics of the post said they felt it was positioned as a sales message for the PR agency:”Using someones death as an opportunity to position yourself as THE PR company to walk potential clients through the best way to benefit from this conversation is callous,” said commenter Erin Blaskie, who shared her complaint with her 30,000 Twitter followers as well. “Instructing potential clients to pay your firm money to help them take advantage of this situation is gross. This isnt a PR opportunity. This is someones life lost.”
(Disclosure: I run a communications consultancy that sometimes competes with Edelman’s local operations, but this posting has more to do with how the profession should behave rather than about competitor firm)