The loss of a life is always a crisis in any case. When the dearly departed is in the person of mega-superstar Michael Jackson, the media floodgates are likely to burst and overflow.
The king of pop’s demise occurred at 2:26 p.m. on Thursday June 25, 2009, at the UCLA Medical Center. As one of the country’s best known hospitals to most likely receive celebrities in it’s emergency room, the UCLA Medical Center could have possibly prepared and rehearsed a detailed crisis PR plan to put into motion long before tragedy strikes. However, when the greatest superstar that ever lived takes his last breath in your facility, a plan may unfortunately get lost in commotion and chaos.
Perhaps TMZ reached the pinnacle of entertainment news by breaking the news first – a potential feather in their cap in attempt to prove the outlet as a reputable and trusted source. Meanwhile, TV networks and other traditional media outlets, including the most-trusted CNN, were reluctant to even cite the gossip website as the confirming source about Jackson’s death. Fans didn’t know whether to go into mourning and blow it off as a rumor. It was only until the coroner’s office confirmed Jackson’s death that CNN shared the sad facts with viewers.
News of any angle about Jackson would have a fast leak but the respect for PR protocol dictates informing the family about a loved one’s death before announcing it to the public. Allow them the option to have medical officials make a statement or choose to appoint a family spokesperson before a news outlet reports anything. Thanks to the hasty buzz of loose lips, people across the globe were confused about the state of the music genius.
Almost three hours of conflicting reports and with no official statement from a UCLA Medical Center physician or spokesperson, Jermaine Jackson grievously steps forward to deliver the news about his beloved brother.
The death of an iconic-figure such as Michael Jackson is a reminder of how fast news can travel. PR preparedness is important, especially in a sudden death. A PR team needs to prepare, rehearse and react in a crisis.
Michael Jackson’s impact and influence on pop culture crossed all barriers, races and generations. Amidst the crisis, the legacy of a definitive brand lives on.