I finally snagged a friend’s HBO Go log-in credentials so I could watch the rest of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. In the series finale, former network head Leona Lewis (Jane Fonda) has one of my new favorite one-liners:
You have a PR problem because you have an actual problem.
How often does PR get blamed for something, when in reality the problem is actually a business problem that causes PR issues?
All the drama surrounding Uber is a timely example. Just look at some of the recent headlines:
- Boston Uber Driver Accused of Raping Passenger in Backseat
- Uber Alles: The cold-hearted capitalism behind ride-sharing
- Uber’s Surge Pricing Near Siege in Syndey Sparks Outrage (to Uber’s credit, they did react quickly to offer free rides)
- Uber Will Do Anything to Intimidate Journalists
Does Uber have a PR problem? Well, sure. But, it’s not because the communications team committed some egregious faux pas. To the contrary (at least from an outside perspective), the issues facing Uber stem from core business practices, policies, culture and procedures.
While this is an extreme example, the point is valid: There’s a difference between a business problem and a PR problem. It’s easy to blame PR when things aren’t going well, or when there’s a barrage of negative press. Look at the root cause of the problem before determining how to respond. Is it really a PR problem? Or do you need to ask hard questions and make hard decisions to course-correct the business?