Get In Front Of It
I don't know much about public relations. I've had it's tenants plied upon me over the years, to the point where I know what's good PR and bad. I'm familiar with the phrase, "Get in front of the story", and it's a bromide I'd strongly suggest to the fine folks at Mayfair Mall apply soon in terms of explaining what happened at their shopping center late Sunday afternoon.
Was it teenagers "wilding" that forced you to close a half hour early? Was it a game of "flash tag"? Was it just a case of kids being goofy?
No one knows, because as of nine a.m. Monday morning, no one is saying. Not mall management. Not the Wauwatosa police. Not even the mayor's office.
Scott Walker is being sworn in as governor today. Walter Ellis is expected to once again turn down a plea deal in Milwaukee County court. Folks aren't talking about those stories, though. Everyone is talking about Mayfair.
And they aren't doing it on the party line, or over the backyard fence as they're hanging out their laundry. They're doing it on the Internet. Over Twitter and Facebook. Some of what they're saying is true. Some of it isn't. The Journal Sentinel's managing editor was trying to get his Tweeps who might've been at Mayfair to write in with what they knew/saw Sunday night, as the paper's columnist, Eugene Kane was Tweeting himself: "Lots of reports about shooting, fighting, looting at Mayfair Mall. So far nothing confirmed yet except rampant speculation. Calm down, people."
I don't know public relations, but I know that perception often trumps reality. The perception of Mayfair right now is, well, let's just say it's a little shaky this morning. I've had a couple of people invoke the name "Northridge" in talking about what happened Sunday. The Internet didn't exist as that legendary Milwaukee mall fell out of public favor in the late 80's and early 90's.
The ongoing silence from mall management, Wauwatosa police and even the mayor's office aren't helping.
This could all blow over by this afternoon. Maybe authorities will have talked by then, and perhaps Mayfair security will have devised a plan to make sure what happened Sunday isn't repeated. Mayfair already was at the vanguard when it came to amping up security, but those changes often came after incidents that might've been unsettling to customers who have shopping alternatives. Mayfair seemed to be doing just fine, thank you, when I went there to get some things for Christmas. The pro-active approach tamped down fears of a shopping center out of control, a mall being run by packs of uncontrollable teens.
The pro-active approach is needed today. It's time to get out in front of this thing. Don't let Internet conjecture and rumor frame the story for you.
It's now 9 a.m. What are you waiting for?