PR Lessons from the Latest Google Snafu

Last week, Google’s third quarter earnings report was released early.  The report surprised investors not only because of its advanced arrival, but also because it showed lower profits than the same quarter last year. The information caused a frenzy among investors, and Google’s stock dropped by around nine percent Thursday. Google might have hoped to make headlines Thursday with the release of the new Chromebook, but the earnings report overshadowed the product news.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this situation is that, like many PR crises, it was preventable. While Google is still working to recover from this misstep, below are four lessons we can learn.

1.  Always check (and recheck) before hitting send. The press release from the SEC included the words “pending Larry quote,” at the top of the release, meaning the release still needed a quote from Google CEO Larry Page. Obviously, someone sent the release before obtaining the quote and proper approval. Even the most innocuous typo can destroy your credibility, and it is essential to ask multiple people to look over your work before sending out an important document. If several colleagues review an email, article or press release, they are likely to catch any errors.

2. Make sure efforts are aligned with partners. Financial printing company R.R. Donnelley handled the Google SEC filing and sent the quarterly report early. While R.R. Donnelley accepted responsibility for the error, the missent message demonstrates the need for companies to align their efforts with outside partners. Whether it is a PR agency or legal team, everyone needs to be on the same page about what information can be released and when it should be made public.

3. Share information with target audiences first. Investors were upset that Google’s earning information was released around half a day earlier than expected. It is essential to identify your company’s target audience and ensure that they have access to important information first. If it is not possible to release information to critical audiences first, they should at least be notified so that they are aware of when the information will be released.

4. Correct misinformation as soon as possible. To correct any worries that the information in the earnings report was inaccurate, Google released an updated press release Thursday evening with the added quote from Larry Page and confirmation that the earnings released prematurely were accurate, according to NBC news. While Google still lost some credibility due to the initial mistake, sending the updated press release with correct information the same day helped to avoid an even larger problem.

While Google has spent years establishing its credibility, its reputation can easily be torn down with continued missteps, and the same is true for any company in the public eye. It is far easier for an organization to prepare for and manage issues than it is to respond to a crisis after it has happened.

Photo Credit: Google

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