When I was a reporter covering the skiing industry, I was assigned to write a story about how an avalanche had blocked the main highway leading to several ski resorts.
I called to get a comment from a resort PR representative and was told that the avalanche wasn’t having any impact, the parking lots were full, and people could still get around the snow slide. After I hung up, I caught a live television report from the same ski area. Parking lots were empty, and traffic was being turned around.
I was deliberately misled, apparently so the ski resort could avoid “bad press,” although I’m still at a loss at how an act of nature could be considered bad. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t making any negative judgments, but simply reporting what happened. In response, I quoted the PR representative, and in the same breath offered several eyewitness accounts to the contrary.
I use this example in message and media training sessions to illustrate how spinning a story will most likely have negative repercussions, particularly in crisis scenarios. Here is a list of the top five bad PR practices: