Season one of Sleepy Hollow, a suspenseful television show loosely based off of Washington Irving’s classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and one of it’s characters, the Headless Horseman, will be released on Blu-ray and DVD September 16. In an effort to promote the release, Los Angeles public relations firm Think Jam sent emails to journalists around 1:00 p.m. PST on Tuesday, September 2, asking Sleepyheads (Sleepy Hollow fans) to celebrate “Headless Day” and send out four morbid e-cards. The email read, “Heads will roll as Sleepyheads celebrate Headless Day today, September 2. On this National Beheading Day, viewers everywhere can share in the fun as fans prepare for the release of Sleepy Hollow: Season One on Digital HD now and the arrival on Blu-ray and DVD on September 16.” In the world of public relations, timing is everything, and unfortunately Think Jam had terrible timing.
At 9:00 a.m. PST the same day, news of Steven Sotloff’s death hit the airwaves. Sotloff was the second American Journalist who was beheaded by the Muslim extremist organization ISIS. One hour after sending the promotional email for the DVD release, the PR firm sent an apology email, and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment released their own statement to Deadline: “Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment recognizes and apologizes for today’s promotion for the Season One DVD release of Sleepy Hollow. We regret the unfortunate timing of our announcement, and our deepest sympathies go out to the family involved.”
If this had been the only such incident, no PR firm would have known that ISIS would release the horrendous video of Sotloff’s beheading. However, everyone involved in this promotion should have known about James Foley, the first American Journalist beheaded by ISIS on August 19, 2014, and the subsequent threats of doing the same act to the second prisoner, Sotloff. At this point, the “National Beheading Day” promotion should have been immediately canceled. This controversy could have been, and should have been, avoided by being sensitive to the situation and using a little common sense. Sometimes the best public relations is avoiding the need for public relations.