Tales of a PR Nightmare: The Witcher Cancellation Rumors

tom-ohleTom Ohle, long time wordsmith and all around great guy, takes some time on his new public relations blog to talk about how PR nightmares’ evolve and how crisis communication disrupts public relations.

Tom takes time to discuss the process of crisis communication in the PR industry using the example of last weeks rumors of The Witcher related game cancellations and major changes at CD Projekt Red.

One of the best examples from his after-action illustrating the interesting role that good PR reps at game companies play:

This is one of the greatest dilemmas in a PR rep’s day — you have journalists, many of whom are friends, asking you to respond to rather unsavory accusations, and you can’t give them a straight answer. Then the stories — rightfully so — turn to “Company will not deny the rumors, leading us to believe they’re true.” And now, as a PR rep, you’re in a position you don’t want to be in: other people are controlling your messaging for you. It sucks to watch people drag your name through the mud… even consumers who see only one side of the story start to change their opinions of your company. And even if you have a chance to eventually address the rumors formally, a number of those consumers are bound to miss the news update, and their opinion of your organization may have been negatively affected forever.

Tom worked on a lot of big titles for some companies some of you may have heard of, but I first met him when he was representing Bioware and later at E3 2006 when his small PR company – Evolve PR – picked up a little known( in the US anyway) Polish game company called CD Projekt Red and their new as yet unsigned game – The Witcher – based on some obscure but supposedly famous Polish Author’s fantasy novels.

Sometimes its hard to deal with people on a regular basis while covering this industry and not remember that they are often in difficult situations. We work hard to cover the news and give a voracious reading audience information about their and our personal favorite games but we seldom stop to think about the impact we have on companies we report on or developers that are effected by these negative reports. While the role of a “journalist” is to report facts, this isn’t an industry that will bring about world peace or the fall of nations and it makes me wonder if sometimes our reports don’t do more harm than good in pursuit of readers, ads and a click-through.

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