Good grief! 3 crisis PR lessons from ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’

You might not realize it, but the holiday favorite provides some useful lessons for communicators on how to respond when disaster hits.


If your holidays are anything like Charlie Brown’s, nothing ever goes according to plan. In fact, he ought to just plan on things going wrong. Ever feel like ol’ Charlie Brown when it comes to client work? Oh sure, no one’s actually going to pull a football away at the last minute, but problems do arise and mistakes unavoidably happen. Luckily, “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” offers at least three lessons to keep in mind the next time catastrophe strikes—and I’m not talking about Gammy’s teeth somehow finding their way into the gravy boat. Included with the lessons are PR Daily stories that dive further into each point. 1. Communicate your message clearly Wha-wha-wa-wa-wha-wa. Charlie Brown and friends may have understood their teachers, but the rest of the world didn’t. When you’re talking, make sure to cover the bases so that all of your audiences are notified efficiently and effectively.

• 9 audiences (that aren’t the media) to target during a crisis • In terms of speaking, are you The Beach Boys or The Beatles? • 9 practical tips for a spokesperson

2. Turn a negative into a positive Popcorn, pretzel sticks, jelly beans, and toast served up on a Frisbee isn’t exactly the dinner that Charlie Brown had in mind for his Thanksgiving guests, but when you put Snoopy and Woodstock in charge of catering, what else could you expect? While it was less than ideal, the meal brought everyone together around the ping-pong table. In times of crises, PR pros need to keep a level head, shifting their focus to what new opportunities a turn of events can provide. A brand can easily save face and perhaps earn a few extra points by addressing the problem straight-on and solving an issue in an orderly manner.

• 4 important basics of responding to a social media PR crisis • Southwest: Our proactive response is crucial in a crisis • Prepare yourself: The 4 stages of a crisis

3. Deliver a well-worded public statement That loud-mouth Patty is the natural spokesperson for the Peanuts gang. But just because someone is capable of speaking over everybody else doesn’t mean people are going to listen to them. It’s important your go-to media representative is someone who can bring a calming, dignitary quality to the problem. Find the perfect Linus for the job, and you’ll be much better off.

• 6 ways to craft the perfect media statement • After bus accident in NYC, company issues a timely and sensitive statement • 4 phrases that can undermine a spokesperson’s credibility

This story originally appeared on PR Daily in November 2011.

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