I remember when the story broke that Tylenol was poisoned and that it was probably the first time “crisis communications” became buzz words. But now there’s the heartbreaking story of Trayvon Martin and the Skittles he was carrying when he was shot by a gun-toting zealot who says he thought he was a criminal.
“There is this moment when you think, ‘Oh my God, this is bigger than we are,'” Heidi Hovland, a senior partner at Flesichman-Hillard in New York, was quoted as saying in The New York Times. And she’s right.
What do you do when your brand or product is innocently involved in something news-breaking? I worked in press relations at IBM for many years and we always worried it would happen to us (it didn’t, but then how much can you get away with, with a two-ton computer? For those who don’t know, computers actually were big back in the day).
My heart, right or wrong, is with Trayvon, maybe because I have a son not much younger than he is. My son is not black. But I can empathize so much with the parents of boys who are. One of the saddest things I’ve read recently was a writer telling his son, “Don’t ever run.” It just doesn’t seem right.
But back to what I would do. Some are blaming Wrigley’s for the profit it’s making off the sudden interest in Skittles, flying off the shelves. But I think the company is genuinely distressed and does not know what to do. I guess if it were up to me, I’d lie low for a while. And then I’d try to think how we could change this world that is so deathly unfair.