When Robert Kelly, Associate Professor of International Relations in the Political Science and Diplomacy Department of Pusan National University in Busan, Korea, was interrupted by his two cute young children bursting into his office and distracting him from a straight-laced live BBC interview on the impeachment of South Korean president Park Geun-hye, he had three choices:
1. Carry on like his children did not exist in the hope they would simply vanish (which they basically did when his poor wife Kim Jung-a flung herself into the room to collect the toddlers on all fours).
2. Pick up and play with his children whilst continuing with the live interview (which he might have been forced to do if his kids who gave no craps about the formalities of live television had not been herded outside frantically by his wife).
3. Stop the discussion and attempt to wrestle his over-excited children outside himself, before returning to his seat and continuing with the interview hoping his audience would forgive the 10-second-long interruption to their understanding of South Korean politics as he is both a father and a talking head and sometimes not mutually exclusively.
Robert, in the heat of the on-air moment, infamously chose option 1. And what followed was a hilarious viral video scoring over 86 million views on Facebook, PR Gold for the BBC, a social media debate on the racial stereotyping of Asian women married to white men, interviews with the BBC and CBS celebrating his family’s values and numerous spoof videos playing on our notions of work/life balance, including one on The Ellen Show.
Any lessons for PRs? Human empathy is a powerful tool. PR magic is not always planned. Unexpected events will happen. Always carry on.