Bad PR: A "Fun" Pitch For "National Beheading Day"
The Islamic militant group ISIS released a video on Tuesday showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff.
At about the same moment, a PR team representing the Fox television show Sleepy Hollow sent out a media pitch promoting the impending release of the program’s first season on DVD.
The media pitch, as captured by the excellent media website JimRomenesko.com, is below.
From: JJ Mariani (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue, Sep 2, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Subject: Sleepyheads Celebrate Headless Day – eCards Available
Heads will roll as sleepyheads celebrate Headless Day today, September 2. On this National Beheading Day, viewers everywhere can share in the fun as fans prepare for the release of Sleepy Hollow: Season One on Digital HD now and arriving on Blu-ray and DVD September 16.
We hope you like them and are able to share them with your readers! If you share via your social media platforms, please tag them with #HeadlessDay!
Just 90 minutes later—after realizing their bad timing—the PR team sent an apology:
We apologize for the unfortunate timing of our Sleepy Hollow Headless Day announcement. The tragic news of Steven Sotloff’s death hit the web as the email was being sent.
Our deepest sympathies are with him and his family, and we don’t take the news lightly.
Had we have known this information prior, we would have never released the alert and realize it’s in poor taste.
Please accept our sincerest apologies.
Sleepy Hollow Team
Read that apology again. The Sleepy Hollow PR team is blaming the incident on bad timing—how could we have known an American journalist would be slain at about the same moment we clicked the “send” button?
But claiming to be a victim of bad timing is laughably false. Days before Mr. Sotloff’s execution, his mother released a highly publicized anguished plea to spare her son from being beheaded, as ISIS had warned he would be. And just two weeks ago, American journalist James Foley was also beheaded by ISIS, cause enough for this ad campaign to have been jettisoned.
It’s possible that the PR team wasn’t up on the news and wasn’t aware of these beheadings. But even if that’s the case—and I suspect I’m giving them and the executives who approved these ads far too much credit—anyone dealing with such gruesome material should, at the very least, have done a quick Google search before hitting send.
The PR team apologized for the wrong thing. They weren’t victims of bad timing but of their own terrible judgment. And until they acknowledge that, their apology accomplishes nothing.
What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
What I find interesting is that I’ve had some really interesting ideas killed because the gauntlet of approvers I have to run through chips away at them a little at a time. It’s a death of a thousand cuts. That this program somehow got through without SOMEONE saying, “Hey, this might be really crass” boggles my mind.