No one escapes PR blunders, not even an extremely powerful military organization run by a near omnipotent super being. In honor of May the Fourth (International Galactic Star Wars Day), we decided to look at some of the biggest PR blunders made by the Empire.
Failure to Properly Train Staff
Your staff are usually your first line of contact with the public and it’s important that they are trained well to represent your brand. They are the face of your brand even if behind a mask. The Empire’s brand is ruthless efficiency and order. Leaving aside their undeserved reputation for marksmanship, genetic uniformity of Stormtroopers would seem to alleviate most problems with brand representation – in theory. In practice, it produced staff unable to adapt or act without direct input from leadership. This is detrimental to your brand as evidenced in the Battle of Endor. Here an entire legion of the Empire’s best troops with state-of-the-art equipment are wiped out by small teddy bears wielding spears. Even with foreknowledge of the initial Rebel assault, the Empire’s best were outsmarted at nearly every turn by an adaptive and determined competitor. The impact this has on the Empire’s reputation cannot be understated. Especially when combined with the sudden loss of their charismatic CEO and fearsome COO.
Failure to Listen to Your Hired Experts during Product Rollout
When you hire an expert, it is almost always to your detriment to ignore the advice of said expert regardless of your own expertise. This is especially true during a crisis situation. The Empire experienced this during their biggest product rollout: the Death Star. Grand Moff Tarken obviously appreciates the PR value of the spectacle and audience targeting when he destroys the planet Alderaan for most of the galaxy to see (versus isolated Dantooine). But in the middle of the Battle of Yavin, he fails to heed his expert’s advice regarding his product’s flaws. He also ignores the expert’s suggestions at damage control. He and the Empire pay dearly for it as the product fails spectacularly.
Reputation and Brand Management
Throughout most of the Saga, the Empire seems only marginally aware of its growing unpopularity among the public. That it inherited a less than stellar reputation from the Republic and is headed by a pure form of evil, it is not absolved of tarnishing its own developed brand. As we said earlier, its brand is ruthless efficiency and order. At the start of a New Hope, it’s announced that the Imperial Senate has been dissolved at the whim of the Emperor. In place of this bureaucratic( though seemingly efficient) means of order, regional governors, backed by threat of disintegration by the Death Star, take control. This leads to immediate disorder and inefficiency as the Rebellion immediately targets the Death Star, destroying the key enforcement of Empiric order while gaining a huge propaganda victory leading more to join the Rebellion. Everyone loves a winner.
Building up out-sized expectations of your brand and/or product is a road to ruin. Though their expert marksmanship is touted by none other than Jedi Master/Clone Wars hero General Obi Wan Kenobi, subsequent battles make clear it’s doubtful that Stormtroopers could hit the broadside of a Sand Crawler. Maybe Obi Wan fell for the marketing of Kamino’s training program or perhaps as someone who disdained blasters he was ill equipped to adequately judge them. Regardless, Stormtroopers are some of the worst shots in the Star Wars universe this side of Greedo. For instance when confronted with an actual gunfighter, the Stormtroopers flee even though they greatly outnumber him. That these terrible shot Troopers are later beaten by teddy bears ends their reputation as a fighting force to be feared and submitted to.
*Author’s note: You might have noticed that this was written with so much Star Wars jargon that only avid fans would understand it. This breaks a cardinal rule of writing for PR purposes as you should avoid technical jargon or industry terms when plain English will suffice. While nerds have taken over the world, our numbers are still small. So keep that in mind when writing your next piece.
May the Fourth Be With You.