The title of this post, Never use a disaster to market yourself, may seem a little odd. But you would be amazed how many organisations fall into this trap.

It’s one of the PR book’s fundamental rules but worth looking at once again. Particularly in reflection of the news that agency XL Communications has lost a client after a botched attempt to use the Grenfell Tower fire.

Three weeks after the terrible tragedy of Grenfell, XL emailed a number of journalists with a pitch for their client – software firm Everbridge.

The pitch talked about perceived failures in the communications strategies around Grenfell. It then offered Evergreen as a feature in how things could be done better.

Soon after sending the pitch though, someone at XL must have realised this was in poor taste. A second email was issued, apologising for the pitch and admitting it shouldn’t have been sent out.

The email also said: “We are making a substantial donation to the Grenfell Tower fund and will not be issuing any further content on the crisis. It was in no means an intentional attempt to capitalise on the tragic event.”


Mistakes happen and XL should be applauded for taking such speedy and decisive action to remedy the situation. But the damage had been done and the client was subsequently lost to the agency.

Blanket coverage of such tragic stories can lead to temptation for PR’s seeking to use the news agenda for the benefit of their clients.

But while there are undoubtedly great results to be had in responsive PR. But brands and their representatives much take care never to be seen as using tragedies for their own gain. Such actions damage brands rather than enhance them and clients will quite rightly take their business elsewhere.

Marketing professionals who are in the business of thinking, ‘can this be done?’ must also take pause to think, ‘should this be done?’

You can read more about this story in this PR Week report.


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