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What We’re Watching Now: Racial Insensitivity?

A string of stories have been cropping up lately about racial insensitivity in the media. Here is a rundown of the three most recent incidents that come to mind, thanks in no small part to the NPR segment I just listened to:

1. After 23 seasons of rose ceremonies, ABC’s “The Bachelor” has never casted a person of color, according to a class action lawsuit filed against the network this week. (To clarify, I believe they’re just referring to the starring bachelor or bachelorette.)

2. Acura looked to cast a  “nice looking, friendly. Not too dark” actor to play alongside Jerry Seinfeld in their last Superbowl commercial. Acura has apologized, but interestingly, hasn’t promised to not discriminate in future ads.

3. A Burger King commercial featuring Mary J Blige singing for their new chicken wrap went viral this week, spurring criticism that the ad perpetuates harmful racial stereotypes. Burger King has since pulled the ad.

From a PR crisis management perspective, it’s one thing to screw up. Even screwing up big. We can put both of those in the same box. Because it’s another, very unfortunate thing entirely, when your screw up is used to illustrate a much larger, and very important, national social problem that everyone cares about. Today, thanks mostly entirely to social media, getting lumped in with other heavyweights can turn an isolated scandal or embarrassment into an inescapable viral tragedy that can live on for countless weeks. Let’s just hope everyone here remembers of these crisis communications basics:

1. Be Genuine (aka, talk like a human)

2. Own the Message (Say it first, say it loud)

3. Be Transparent (it’s open book time)

5. Be personable (that’s you, spokesperson)

6. Be everywhere (I almost change this to simply: Social Media. Use it.)

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