Word Play: Don’t Screw It Up (FAIL: “Black Olives Matter”) = Bad Public Relations

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By Brian Murnahan

In the world of Public Relations, we often use word play to get peoples attention, draw out a news tie-in or otherwise spice up our writing. When done well, word play can be very advantageous for our clients. On the other had, it is not hard to really screw up either, which will cause a good idea to become truly bad public relations (PR). The “Black Lives Matter” campaign has brought a great deal of attention to the mistreatment of African American’s by law enforcement.

In return, in a play on words, campaigns for “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” along with others have popped up in hopes to drive home a similar message. People have of course been offended, by one thing or another. So, in playing the word game, do black lives matter more than white or blue? The counter argument is equally true do blue lives matter more than black or white?

Sadly, one pizzeria owner in New Mexico thought that they would create their own play on words with “Black Olives Matter” and thus the fallacy of all press is good press was made evident to the owners who have taken a beating near and far for their tone-deaf use of the paraphrased and politically contentious campaign.

In PR, using the events already in the public eye is a key to gaining additional press for a business or cause, but you must be ever so careful not to overstep the bounds of decency, which be done easily with little or poor research.


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