Hiding Under a Desk Isn't the Best PR Strategy

No one wants to be on camera when a tough story is brewing, but hiding under a desk isn't the best move-and it backfired on a receptionist at a real estate company.

For two years, Deborah Smith tried to get a dangerous tree cut down on her neighbor's property, owned by Roberts Brothers Properties. When a reporter showed up on her behalf, he saw the receptionist dip under her desk. She stayed there for 30 minutes.

The situation is silly-and embarrassing for the receptionist. But corporate communicators can learn a few lessons from the scene: 1) don't delay small requests that may turn into PR nightmares, and 2) train your receptionist to handle the media. This isn't the first time Roberts Brothers Properties has been in a dispute: last year, the company settled a lawsuit with Bank of America for $35 million. Given the history, the brothers' staff should be better prepared.

Discussion Starters

  • Do you blame the receptionist for the incident, empathize with her, or something else?
  • In media training for staff (particularly front line staff such as a receptionist), what would be important to include?