How to counter 'The Pit Strategy'

  • Regular voices
  • April 3, 2017
  • Carrick Graham
How to counter 'The Pit Strategy'

A few years back I gave a talk on government relations to a room of third-year communications students. Before introducing me, the lecturer took me aside and quietly asked me not to mention the words ‘spin’ or the ‘dark arts’ side of PR.

Standing around handing out goodie bags was never my PR drink of choice, so needless-to-say, the students got a real-world look at what really goes on, both from a corporate perspective as well as insights into political machinations around issue and message management.

Needless-to-say the words ‘spin’ and ‘dark arts’ were frequently utilised, much to the horror of the lecturer. The reasoning was simple, I was there to talk about what happens in the real-world, so giving a flowery ‘isn’t PR all nice’ wasn’t going to help these young students about to enter the job market.

As much as people dislike ‘Dirty Politics’, the cut and thrust of politics and business does involve spin, leaks and tip-offs to favourite journalists, and what I call ‘The Pit Strategy’.

The Pit Strategy operates at the other end and other side of the PR ledger, and is usually invoked when a business or someone is under intense pressure by the public, media, regulators and politicians.

The strategies are subtle, but the objective is crystal clear. If in the shit, or colloquially known as the pit, you have two options.

The first option is the obvious PR play, designed to ‘turn things around’ alongside the need to sort out how you got in the pit in the first place.

The second option is commercially more cunning, more strategic, and as one client put it “quite beautiful”. Put simply, the Pit Strategy is to pull as many into the pit as possible, creating a cluster mess for others (usually the protagonists and competitors), cause issue confusion and fatigue, if done well, distract those looking at the issue to look at something (or someone) else. Some call it ‘sharing the love’.

In most cases, you won’t know if you or your company are being dragged into the pit until you start getting calls by media or officials or some representative body concerned about the reputation of the wider ‘industry’. However, by the time this happens someone else is running the agenda and setting the scene.

The question is how to counter something like this. The answer is quite straightforward, but it involves being proactive on several fronts and spending shareholders’ money that sometimes doesn’t provide an immediate ROI.

It is also where vale of traditional positive PR initiatives come into play. Things like taking the time to show consumers (and selected political audiences) what the company is doing in the market, showing how it plays an active part in the community, talking up its people.

By getting out in front and running proactive PR strategies, the ability of operators to drag you into the pit becomes more difficult, but not impossible. There is always something that can be used to get companies into the pit.

The advice is simple. Be proactive, and build up reputational goodwill. You never know when you’re going to need it.

  • Carrick Graham is managing director of GMS Management Limited.

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.

Judging Caples: the good, the bad and the indifferent

  • Opinion
  • May 29, 2017
  • Susan Young
Judging Caples: the good, the bad and the indifferent

Chemistry Interaction's Susan Young recounts her experience judging the 2017 Caples Awards, and says that while the direct and digital space is more challenging than ever to work in, great ideas are still possible, even in an environment as fast-moving and cramped as New York.

Read more
topics
Insight Creative
Insight Creative
Insight Creative specialises in shaping business stories out the core insights that often lie under ...
20/20 (tele)vision
20/20 (tele)vision
Media consumption is changing. But by how much?
Merger Mania
Merger Mania
All our stories on the nation's two failed mergers in one place
Bauer Beyond the Page
Bauer Beyond the Page
When it comes to creating branded content, there are few better in the Kiwi market ...
The Indies
The Indies
Over the course of this series of articles, we look at how always-nimble indy agencies ...
AdRoll on automation
AdRoll on automation
Marketing automation is tipped to eventually become the only way advertising is traded in the ...
Game Changers
Game Changers
It’s all about PEOPLE. Join us as we discuss global insights, ideas and innovations from ...
TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2015
TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards 2015
Celebrating all the winners of the 2015 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards.
Future Tense
Future Tense
In a new series, StopPress talks to a range of newsmakers currently trying to shine ...
Beyond the Page
Beyond the Page
In conjunction with the MPA, the Beyond the Page series shows how some of the ...
Up Country
Up Country
In conjunction with News Works, the Up Country series talks with some of New Zealand's ...
Sounding off
Sounding off
As part of a content partnership with MediaWorks, we've asked a few of the company's ...
voices

Investing in quality journalism: Shayne Currie on NZ Herald Focus' award-winning audience growth

  • Media
  • May 26, 2017
  • Erin McKenzie
Investing in quality journalism: Shayne Currie on NZ Herald Focus' award-winning audience growth

It’s been just over a year since NZME launched the NZ Herald Focus brand and now, it’s celebrating a win at the International News Media Association (INMA) World Congress in New York. With the award recognising how the new brand has tapped into a new audience for NZ Herald, we speak to managing editor Shayne Currie about how it’s managed to do that and why news video is so important.

Read more
Sponsored content

The battle for attention (a digital reality check)

Ipsos takes a look at digital's value in the fragmented media environment to see how it could be used more effectively.

Globelet's mission to put the cool factor back in reusable bottles

  • Marketing
  • May 25, 2017
  • Elly Strang
Globelet's mission to put the cool factor back in reusable bottles

Globelet’s mission from five years ago remains unchanged: To rid the world of disposable cups and drink bottles. But the ambitions of founder, Ryan Everton, span beyond being just that ‘cup company’ that supplies festivals with reusables: he wants to create a system in New Zealand cities that will change the way consumers consume; a revolution of sorts.

Read more
Next page
Results for
Topics
Jobs
About

StopPress provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

Advertise

Contact Vernene Medcalf at +64 21 628 200 to advertise in StopPress.

View Media Kit