What PR Pros and Brands Can Learn from Standing Down and Standing Your Ground

Right now, it seems that everyone is standing down, or being asked to stand down. In light of the recent EU referendum results, David Cameron has stepped down as Prime Minister, Nigel Farage has stepped down as leader of UKIP, the current race for Conservative Party leadership has seen multiple bow outs from the likes of Johnson and Crabb, and Jeremy Corbyn is refusing to stand down and give into calls that he should resign as leader of the Labour Party after losing a vote of no confidence.

Collage by Marta Parszeniew

But when is it time to give up on something? And what can PR professionals and brands learn from standing down or standing your ground?

Giving up isn’t easy, but it could save your reputation

Chris Evans’ resignation from Top Gear is a classic example of standing down as a result of bad publicity. Evans sensationally quit Top Gear after a disappointing first series – the season concluded with a dismal rating of just 1.9 million viewers while Antiques Roadshow, on the other hand, reached ratings of 3.86 million. It almost seems as if a ‘Chrexit’ was inevitable, as the series received poor reviews from critics and fans alike from the beginning of the series, many of which were directed at Evans.

One thing that brands can learn from standing down is that sometimes it’s a necessity – something that most PR pros should already know. A common perception of PR is that when the going gets tough and public opinion is not in your favour, a PR works a little magic and everything works out fine. Realistically, a PR’s job is to advise on the best action for their client to take – even if it’s an action your client would prefer not to have to take.

In crisis communications, the worst-best thing could be advising someone in a prominent position to literally step down and allow for new leadership. In other, everyday areas of PR it might be that your client’s press release just isn’t a hit, and even though they’re desperate to tell the world their exciting news, the best option might be to let this one slide and focus on what’s next. Often stepping down from something – whether it’s a position or press release – allows for fresh ideas to be introduced.

Whatever the project, it’s a PR pro’s job to know what’s in the best interest for your client, and their relationship with the public. Sometimes it’s not the result you want, but it’s the result that’s needed in order to safeguard a client’s reputation. David Cameron’s recent resignation after the EU referendum result came as a surprise after he previously ruled out resigning in light of a leave result. Given his strong stance on the UK remaining in the EU, it would have been incredibly damaging to Cameron’s image had taken the lead in the impending Brexit. Yes, opinions on Cameron’s resignation vary, but stepping down might have been the smartest move…

That being said, however…

Standing your ground is also sometimes necessary

Despite most of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet resigning, and a vote of no confidence in him winning by 80%, the Labour party leader is making it clear that he is going nowhere just yet. And with Labour party membership at the highest levels they’ve been in modern times, why should he? Agree or disagree with Corbyn’s politics, he has strong public support even in the shambolic state the Labour party is in at the moment.

Corbyn standing his ground is a good example of holding out for something that could very well be a success, even though right now it seems that anything could happen in British politics. History is filled with these kinds of stories – JK Rowling, Stephen King, Oprah Winfrey and Walt Disney, to name a few, were all rejected countless times before they hit the big time.

For brands, standing your ground amongst negative public opinion can be scary, often causing brands to retract on things that they have spent a significant amount of money on.

In 2010, Gap unveiled a new logo. One week later, they changed it back to the original – a backlash from the public forced the brand to return to their iconic blue box. In this instance, Gap missed an opportunity which they had clearly spent money and time in creating by giving in to criticism too early before seeing what their rebranding could achieve. Yes, Gap’s original logo is a classic (and the new one not so much), but the backpedaling was estimated to have cost the brand $100 million. While listening to your customer base is always a good thing, we can’t help but feel that eventually the discontent over the new logo would’ve quietened down eventually – it did for Instagram.

PRs and brands can learn from both standing down and standing their ground, as both can offer positives where appropriate, however it’s important to tread carefully when doing either one – both are pretty big statements.


If you need advice on introducing some fresh ideas into your business, or help supporting your tried and tested approaches, get in touch with the Team to see what we can do.

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