Saturday, April 25, 2009

Oh Canada... in Northumberland! Recovered with great PR?

Oh Canada... in Northumberland? What a magnificent blunder! Alberta in Cananda used a photo of Bamburgh Beach in Northumberland (pictured above) - this is landlocked Alberta (although it does have many nice lakes!). Viral uproar is raging around the net and the story is being comprehensively reported - creating a public relations nightmare.

While closer to home the headlines are harsher and called the Alberta Government to account. So what do you do in such circumstances? Well no comment will not suffice - it rarely does when public relations turns into crisis management. Although that said, Calder Bateman, the Alberta public relations company responsible for the campaign has stayed tight lipped about the blunder - and to be fair, with a Government client left making excuses it was probably the best course of action for them. As their flashy and sparse website says: "Our work speaks for itself. In fact we've already said too much." Quite!

Fortunately the Alberta Government did have an inkling of how to deal with this and turned to its own 'Your Alberta Blog', where it posted a refreshingly honest and apologetic account under PAB (Public Affairs Bureau) screwed up. They say:

The whole world seems a twitter over a screw up by we of the Public Affairs Bureau, Government of Alberta.

In our branding initiative, we put together some very striking images of our beautiful province, and wove them around a narrative that we came to call the Alberta story.

At one point in the narrative we mentioned our regard for people in other places, and in that place we used the only image that did not come from Alberta. Intentionally. We all knew that every single image we put out to represent Alberta had to be of Alberta, or we would be roasted...

Then we screwed up.

We took images from the narrative, and used them as standalone still pictures on our website. And along the line, we grabbed that one, solitary image that was not from Alberta and added our nifty new "Alberta" signature.

We're sorry.

The picture has been removed from the cycle of standalone images, however it still lives in the narrative, as you will see in the above link.

And, Northumberland, you are beautiful, too.

Nice touch on the comment about Northumberland! Although they do still try and claim it was intentional to have a foreign section included, which mitigates the fullness of the admission.

Even dark clouds of negative public relations can have silver linings - traffic to Alberta's websites has naturally gone through the roof and even when you dimiss the Northumberland photo, this is clearly a stunning part of Canada. Of course, it is a brave an Machiavellian person who makes the mistake to achieve this.

A more recent post on the Alberta blog actually talks about the 'One Lonely Ray of Sunshine' being just this increase in traffic.

1 comment:

Marianna said...

In this case, the adage about no such thing as bad publicity appears to be true.

I think it is honourable to admit the error, however it was watered down by the appearance of the "yabbit."

Paraphrasing, we made a mistake, but.....