Crisis management to avoid execution

Bridget Bishop, the first person to be executed during the Salem Witch Trials, was unpopular within her community. She was married three times, owned two taverns, wore unusual clothes, drank alcohol, and was known for her potty mouth. She was far from what was expected of a 1690s woman and thus, a prime target for witchcraft accusations.

Bridget was convicted of devil-worship and witchcraft in 1692 during the Salem Witch Trials – but could this have been avoided? Accusations were often hurled at women who were social outcasts and fell short of the expected societal norms; maybe Bridget just needed some help in managing her public image. 

So, what crisis management methods might a PR agency in the 1690s have used to help save Bridget Bishop?

Make a plan

This is always the first step following a PR crisis; Bridget’s PR agency needs to plan out how to re-shape her public image. In crisis management specifically, there must be a focus on having a meticulous communication strategy in line with a brand plan. Bridget’s PR agency would work to reshape their client’s public image into that of a kind, friendly woman, who loves her community and was so unfairly accused of witchcraft. Once a detailed plan has been drawn up, it’s time to execute it, and avoid execution!

Time to act

At this stage, it’s important to not act too slow, or too fast; working in PR is all about breaking the right message, at the right time. The first thing Bridget’s PR agency would think about is if there is evidence of Bridget’s innocence. If there is, it’s probably a good idea to publish it! If not, it would be time to start re-shaping her public image.

A positive media presence is important in managing a client’s image, but without social media, the next best thing would be to have Bridget featured in a local pamphlet. A man named Cotton Mather regularly wrote pamphlets for the Salem population, and having Bridget featured positively in these pamphlets would be a golden opportunity. Yes, Mather actively encouraged the witch hunts in his pamphlets, but they were the only thing being published at the time. He’ll be a tough cookie to crack, but that’s the job of a PR agency!

Bridget’s unusual and bright wardrobe also added to her unpopularity and so her PR agency has two options: either launch a campaign promoting self-expression, or advise Bridget to soften her style until the storm blows over. Considering Bridget’s life is on the line, the second option seems wiser. Her PR agency would also probably advise her to stop drinking alcohol for the time being and ease up on the swearing – it doesn’t help her new, friendly brand.

Get creative!

Let’s be honest, a few style changes and a nice write-up in the local pamphlet isn’t going to save Bridget from the gallows. Her PR agency needs to get creative to really show Salem how unthinkable it is to believe Bridget is a witch. A good, old-fashioned PR stunt is never a bad idea.

In and around Salem there were many orchards, and so her PR agency could encourage her to partner with a local orchardist and create a juice brand. If that’s not possible, she could find a wild orchard and create her own small pop-up shop in the centre of Salem giving out free apple juice to all!

Salem was also near the sea, so another idea could be to get Bridget to start some sand-sculpting and host an exhibition. Why? It’s harmless and fun, and shows that in her free time she likes doing something nice for the community, rather than spending her time in a candle-lit room slaughtering goats and drawing pentagrams.

Fresh image, new opportunities!

On the assumption that Bridget Bishop’s PR agency were successful in their crisis management, Bridget has successfully avoided her execution, squashed her witchcraft scandal, and has positively transformed her image amongst the local community. The entirety of Salem now knows her name, and her story of being so falsely accused of witchcraft is famous. 

So what next? Any good PR agency would encourage Bridget to use her fresh, positive image as a springboard for new career opportunities! 

Bridget, it is time to rebuild your life! Go get yourself a brand deal, or even become a seamstress and create a Bridget-inspired colourful clothing line. You could also partner with a company, such as a bakery! Or, you could even use profits from the taverns that you own to start your own bakery, and use your new reputation to build your bakery up to be the heart of Salem’s community.


Unsure on how to effectively manage a crisis? Get in touch with Posh Cockney today to speak to our expert PR team.