PR in Digital Realm is a Rope Walk


Sujith Vasudevan, Managing EditorNo one would easily forget the 2022 Academy Awards. While millions were watching live television, Will Smith shocked the world when he was offended by Chris Rock’s jokes and slapped the legendary stand-up comedian on the stage. The video clip went viral within minutes and was also broadcast over and over again, with many people speculating if it was real or not.

While everyone was losing their minds over the situation, the Public Relations world was really getting uncomfortable with the PR nightmare. It’s quite obvious that Will’s PR team didn’t contain the situation to any level. To make matters worse, he won the Oscar for ‘Best Actor’ and was allowed to accept and give an acceptance speech.

The social media world didn’t really forgive Will for his insane reaction. Every blog, every online forum, every talk show, and almost everyone who had access to the internet had an opinion on the matter. On the flip side, Chris Rock’s PR team took time and staged the stand-up comedian’s comeback from the incident through a sharp stand-up special.

The incident became a great lesson for the entire public relations industry, including the corporate segment. Remember how Dove, the personal care products brand from the house of Unilever, was in massive trouble for a not-so-vaguely racist advertisement a few years ago? They launched an ad depicting a dark-skinned woman in a bathroom with a bottle of Dove body wash in the lower right-hand corner of the frame.

In subsequent frames, the woman reaches down and lifts her shirt to reveal a smiling white woman—apparently, the rest of her skin/ costume comes off too. Unilever eventually apologized for the advertisement, saying it should “never have happened” and that they “missed the mark.” It’s a no-brainer that you can’t miss the marks with your branding and marketing.

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