The most dangerous PR questions

Last week, I was on my way to an appointment when I spotted a sign at a local business.

The sign said something like

Google us and see what people are saying!

So when I arrived at my appointment a few minutes early, I did what the business said.  I was curious to see what I would find.  I was worried because I thought that this could be a dangerous request for a business or brand to make.  There’s always someone who thinks less than favorably of something regardless of how strong the PR image is.

Turns out my worries were for nothing, because in this particular case, it was favorable for the business. They received 4.9 stars on both Facebook and Google reviews, 5 stars on Yelp, & 4 out of 5 stars on  There were a couple naysayers, but for the most part, the reviews were great.  Good for them!

But, being unusually cynical and knowing how quickly the social media tides can turn, I wondered if the business might eventually have to take the sign down if all those stars started falling. Probably.

I didn’t think much more about that sign until this morning when a local radio station asked a question on Facebook.

What is your one word to describe [such and such local city]? Is it happy? Home? Fun?
Awesome! What’s your one word?

I immediately thought “Uh oh”. Another dangerous question.  This time I was right.

The answers were a mixed bag.

“Slow”                                                     “It’s a dump”

“Generous”                                            “Diverse”

“Garbage”              “Slumtown”         “Inspirational”

These were just a few of the comments. I checked the same radio station’s Twitter account to see if they asked the same question there.  They didn’t.  Perhaps they realized they made a PR mistake and didn’t want to replicate it on more than one social media sites.

That business’ sign and this radio station’s post got me thinking about the kind of questions PR pros ask on social media.

Should we ask questions we really don’t know the answer to already?

Should we ask questions that we might not like the answers to?

How many times has a PR question been asked on social media where it’s backfired on the brand?

These are questions that I will be discussing over the next few posts.

Check back in the coming days while we look at some public relations cases when dangerous questions were asked of the public.


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