Crisis management: Handling a boycott

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Following the Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) backtracking from its plan to broadcast an anti-Kerry documentary in October 2004, PR Week canvassed PR professionals on how companies should respond to lobbying aimed at advertisers.

Eric Anderson from Coltrin & Associates, Burger King's PR agency, explained that the fast food giant withdrew an ad on the day SBG's toned down program went to air because they "didn't want to appear to be associated with any given political party." [1]

The Chief Media Officer and Executive Vice-President of Edelman, Peter Himler, suggested that while there may be pressure for a quick public response, the priority was to communicate with internal audiences first. "Employees, shareholders, and analysts are probably the first audience a company should focus attention on," Himler told PR Week.

Edelman US's Director of crisis and issues management, Bill Keegan, suggested that a company should "Arm your customer service reps with information that explains the reasons behind your decisions. Make it clear to the callers that you take these things seriously."

The President of Cohn and Wolfe New York, Michael O'Brien, told PR Week that if the protests against a multinational company posed a threat to the brand "you might have to back off ... The pain of pulling out is pretty minimal because there are so many options that it's not an indictment for (a company's) entire media plan."

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