Then a few articles started popping up about the PR perspective. Most compliment the moves taken by Warner Bros. Studios, director Christopher Nolan, actors Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway, and others associated with “The Dark Knight Rises.” Some examples:
- Within hours of the Aurora shooting, Warner Bros. issued a strong statement expressing deep sadness over the event and “our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time.” At the same time, Warner Bros. cancelled premieres in Paris, Mexico City and Tokyo, yanked ads of the film for several days, and joined other studios in declining to report box-office numbers during the weekend of the shootings.
- Warner Bros. is making a “substantial” donation to a relief fund for the victims and their families—and chose not to thump its chest by revealing the amount.
- Nolan, Bale and Hathaway issued statements reflecting their shock and sadness. “The movie theater is my home,” said Nolan, “and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”
- And in perhaps the most powerful expression of support, Bale came to Aurora on Tuesday, visited with many of the hospitalized victims and paid his respects at a memorial set up near the theater where the shootings occurred.
The PR pundits say these are the right actions to take to secure one’s reputation and brand following a crisis of this magnitude. And if you ask for my professional opinion, I would wholeheartedly agree.
But it bothers me, just a little, when the statements and actions taken by those involved are boiled down to a public relations strategy.
Warner Bros. could have settled for a safe, cookie-cutter media statement. Instead, the studio strove for something that was meaningful and heartfelt—and took actions that showed its sincerity
Nolan could have kept his silence and deferred to the studio. Instead, he expressed not only his support for the victims, but also his own emotions about what happened.
Bale could have stayed home. Instead, he made a personal effort to visit and comfort those who are still suffering—one that he undertook of his own accord, without intent of fanfare.
I’m not so naïve to think that these people and organizations aren’t aware of the reputational issues they face in the wake of this awful event.
But I believe what Christian Bale and the others did this week wasn’t about saving their reputations.
I prefer to think it was about their integrity. And their humanity.
And really, isn’t that what true public relations should be about?