Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Lauren Parker.
Robin Williams passing this week caught all of us off-guard. Oddly enough, I was in line to see a comedy show in New York when I heard the news. Enjoying improv actually seems like the most fitting thing to do while dealing with the fact that we lost one of the world’s greatest funnymen.
While thousands of tweets and tributes swept the net, Lisa Kovitz, an executive vice president from Edelman, took the opportunity to triumphantly “seize the day.” Her blog post, “Carpe Diem” offered advice to brands on how they could “engage in a national conversation” about suicide and depression. In her words, “There’s a very careful line [brands] need to walk so as to not seem exploitive of a terrible situation but at the same time, it is a national teachable moment that shouldn’t be ignored.”
This is so off-base, she’s not even in Yankee Stadium.
There is just no place for a brand to capitalize from this scenario or any other like it in the future. Depression is an incredibly real epidemic that warrants national attention, thoughtful discourse and dedicated resources – not pandering commentary from a corporate executive looking for publicity.
Sadly, it sometimes does take a high-profile tragedy to spark discussion about challenging and uncomfortable topics like this. Though we’ve had several recent celebrity-driven instances that have brought the issue to the forefront, the thought of a brand latching on to such a news cycle for promotional purposes is sleazy, despicable, and wrong.
It’s bad enough that, in the digital age of 24/7 news, we have to deal with news outlets broadcasting aerial shots of the Williams’ home while simultaneously reading excerpts from his wife asking for privacy during this difficult time. Kovitz’ advice is not only bad news for the clients she advises, it’s damaging to Edelman’s reputation and the PR industry as a whole.
The fact that it’s even possible for me to report on this dose of bad PR advice is both baffling and saddening. Fortunately, I think there’s more humanity and compassion among those PR professionals I know. I hope Kovitz’ perspective is an anomaly.