If you’re in tech PR, it’s likely that you’ve been in a CES bubble for the last few months, planning for the world’s largest tech show. Amongst the innovation this year were super-sized TVs, voice assistant updates and a tribe of robots including pole-dancing bots, robodogs and AI.

When demonstrating such high-tech, state-of-the-art developments what could possibly go wrong? Sadly, tirelessly rehearsing and prepping the tech before any big reveal can never guarantee that you will avoid a mishap on the day and this year Life wasn’t so Great for LG as it’s CLO-i robot demonstration went awry.

LG’s VP of US Marketing David VanderWaal was left with a rosey glow in his cheeks when the little bot refused to answer his questions. “Even robots have bad days,” VanderWaal quipped.

Any PR professional will agree that live demonstrations are the most terrifying part of the job and if all doesn’t go to plan, the panic of having to adopt crisis plans sets in and eyes are firmly glued to screens to keep an eye out for any negative coverage.

It wasn’t just the exhibitors’ tech that malfunctioned during the Las Vegas show as the congress plummeted into darkness after a power outage across most of the exhibition yesterday (10th January). But in true PR fashion, the show must go on so exhibitors adopted the Keep Calm and PR On approach.

Nikon took the blackout as an opportunity to showcase the low-light capabilities on its DSLR cameras whilst cars on the show floor such as Tesla flicked on their headlights to shed a bit of light across the conference.

When drama does ensue, there are a few things to consider:

  • Crisis management planning: First and foremost, any PR product launch should include a crisis management plan, preparing for specific crises that could potentially happen. By doing so, there is a point of reference that is easy to access and quicker to implement than developing a strategy on the fly.
  • Business as usual: When possible, it’s important to continue with the speech, demonstration etc rather than to dwell on the negative. The more you hold onto the glitch, the worse it will look to viewers and yourself.
  • Don’t react in anger: Stuff happens. Accepting that the issue happened and moving on is better for the corporate reputation than an angry executive hurling insults to its tech team in a public dispute. As the old adage goes, “laughter is the best medicine” – shrugging it off similar to how VanderWaal did lightens the mood and enables the audience to see the funny side.
  • Damage limitation: We are cynical beings and often prefer to read bad news over good, so when issues arise, there are likely to be volumes of bad press. Where possible, it’s important for the PR team to speak with key media contacts in order to provide the facts as they stand ensuring a fair write up will be published.

By Devika Mistry, Account Director at MWWPR

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