Category Archives: PR

Sorry! We Want Your Business!

Artist: Banksy. Photo by Duncan Hull via Flickr. Used with permission.

Artist: Banksy. Photo by Duncan Hull via Flickr.
Used with permission.

Does a corporate apology for marketing really mean anything?

There’s been a lot of apologizing going on lately. The most recent example I’ve noticed is JC Penny, doing a whopping 180-degree about-face on the actions of their former CEO Ron Johnson, having to do with their new approach to marketing (no sales, just fair prices). That CEO’s former company? Apple.

Apple also did an apology for its Maps product a while back. This would have been unthinkable with Steve Jobs at the helm, but those days are over. For what it’s worth, I’ve used Apple maps in NYC, Los Angeles, and many U.S. cities in between without fail. But I can’t remember the last time I purchased anything from a JC Penny. And it’s one of the anchor stores at the local mall.

The Verdict? Yawn.

My thinking on apologies from large companies is, “ho-hum.” My heart goes out to the PR teams and corporate communicators who are charged with carrying these out, but I’m far more interested in hearing what’s going to be done about the situation, and getting on with that. At least in the case of Makers’s Mark, it resulted in something (though I still wonder if this was a stunt). Sure, it’s nice to hear an apology, and in these days of greater corporate accessibility via social media, it isn’t altogether inappropriate. But I think what really matters is getting back to business.

What do you think? Do the actions of JC Penny or Apple or any company’s apology for their missteps get your attention? Are there any examples of this being extremely effective? Let us hear from you in the comments.

 

PR and Social Media News: Ragan and PR Daily

PR DailyA couple of my favorite sources for news and happenings in both public relations and social media are PR Daily, and Ragan Communications (PR Daily is part of Ragan). I’ve been following both sites for years, have attended a couple of Ragan events, and have even been quoted as a source in their reporting. I’ve found their coverage of the news cycle from a PR perspective to be consistently informative and entertaining. Ragan’s daily headlines is one of the few email newsletters I read daily, and in itself, it’s a study in crafting winning headlines with engaging graphics that make readers want to click through to your content.

Stories I’ve enjoyed there recently:

If you’re into PR, social media, – or grammar, online trends, and any of the communication-related other areas they cover – definitely give these sites a visit and consider signing up for the newsletters.

What do you think? Are you a Ragan.com or PR Daily consumer already? Or have you never heard of these sites? Do you have a personal or business interest in PR or social media? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Is There Really No Such Thing As Bad Press?

You know the saying, “there’s no such thing as bad press?” Only to a certain extent do I believe this. The phrase would be more accurate if tempered with two qualifiers:

Potentially, eventually.

Lady Gaga, Oscar Wilde

Lady Gaga, Oscar Wilde.
Both adept at capturing press attention.

This is because in the event of bad press, it can be manageable to varying degrees – but it always takes deliberate, meaningful effort, and it definitely takes time.

I absolutely don’t believe, “hey, there’s no such thing as bad press, so let’s just go for it all…” is wise PR strategy, unless the goal is simple notoriety along the lines of Paris Hilton or Lady Gaga. In these cases, I’m reminded of what could be the inspiration for this concept: Oscar Wilde’s quote, “There is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

The problem with the idea of no bad press is that with today’s A.D.D. news cycle and the everlasting searchability of the Internet, missteps can take an extraordinary effort to overcome, although it can be done. National Strategies Public Relations CEO Jennifer Vickery sums up the concept: “While there is such a thing as bad press, the main take away should be that good press can come out of it, provided the situation is handled properly.”

Proper handling would mean execution with transparency, honesty and consistency over an interval long enough to shift focus to the present and future more so than the past. In this way, and if done right, bad press can become a real opportunity and cataylst, not just in terms of spin, but also toward doing the right thing.

What do you think? Is there truly no such thing as bad press? What are some examples of bad press being handled properly? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Citigroup Eliminates 11,000 Jobs in History’s Most Corporate-Jargony Paragraph Ever

Hoo boy, this is some incredible corporate-speak – as in, “repositioning” out of the company… (via The Atlantic):

Cittigroup Layoffs Image

Image and link via: Citigroup Eliminates 11,000 Jobs in History’s Most Corporate-Jargony Paragraph Ever – The Atlantic by Derek Thompson.

My heart kind of goes out to the person/team who had to draft this statement – an unenviable task, ripe for ridicule, no doubt subject to hours of agonizing revisions and edits. My heart goes out even more to the newly “repositioned.” But the fact that this missive captures this much attention (mentions on The Atlantic and Twitter, for example) says something – somehow, a nerve has been touched…

Citigroup Jargon on Twitter

It Is What It Is

This is just a lose-lose all around. The company has to do what it has to do, and no amount of careful wording will lessen the blow. Companies can’t stay alive if they have more staff than they need – that’s just a reality of business. And it’s a lousy reality for the newly-jobless that isn’t helped at all by corporate-speak. Maybe there would be less flak coming in if Citigroup at least expressed some kind of gratitude or regret – but would that really have made a difference? Maybe there would be fewer blogs or tales of PR about it, but the repositioning just “is what it is.”

Man, do I hate that phrase.

What do you think? Ever had to be the bearer of grim corporate news? What are your favorite corporate-speak phrases? Let us hear from you in the comments.

American Apparel’s “Bored During the Storm?” Campaign: PR Stunt or Well-Intentioned Goof?

Really, American Apparel?American Apparel AdvertisementIt would seem obvious these days that capitalizing on catastrophe via social media is in poor taste. So why would an otherwise savvy brand like American Apparel appear to be doing exactly that?

Given the very poorly received efforts of Kenneth Cole during protests in Egypt, you would think other retailers would have a clue by now, right?

It’s one thing for a business somehow connected with a major upheaval to approach the line between altruism and marketing. And it’s certainly a fine line. Consider American Express’ Sandy-related communication efforts for its travel customers:

But it’s another thing entirely to risk the appearance of piggybacking on disaster for advertising’s sake. Sure, it gets some buzz, but is it worth all the backlash?

As reported by Huffington Post:

CEO Dov Charney did not express disappointment over American Apparel’s marketing team capitalizing on Hurricane Sandy. “I don’t think our marketing guys made a mistake. Part of what you want to do in these events is keep the wheels of commerce going,” he told Business Week. “People shopped on it. We generated tens of thousands of dollars from the sale, but we’ll probably lose a million dollars from this (storm) event at a minimum. We’re here to sell clothing. I’m sleeping well at night knowing this was not a serious matter.”

And here’s another take from American Apparel’s representatives, via Fashionista:

When reached for comment over email, an American Apparel spokesperson told us, “Of course we’d never mean to offend anyone and when we put the email out yesterday it came from a good place.”

So, is this really a big deal?

However in poor taste it may now seem in the wake of Sandy’s devastation, American Apparel’s approach was not in mean spirits, even though it’s easy to characterize it as such. The company has a history of corporate responsibility – along with a history of pushing the envelope through its marketing for PR purposes. And it serves them no purpose whatsoever to appear flippant or dismissive. Upon investigation, it’s clear they don’t wish anyone further misery from Hurricane Sandy, what with their acknowledging as much in the subsequent damage control. As reported by ABC News:

Ryan Holiday, spokesperson for American Apparel, responded to ABC News in an email:

“For us, this is about us working like crazy to get and keep our stores open. We’ve got employees who can’t work when stores are closed due to weather and the biggest Made in USA factory in the country that sits idle–we would never try to offend anyone or capitalize on a natural disaster, this was simply an effort to mitigate some of the effects of the storm on our business.”

Fair enough. So what next?

My advice for American Apparel right now:

  • Turn your affected stores into recharge-stations with power strips and free wi-fi for all so someone can tweet some good about you. Buy generators if necessary. It won’t cost much and ROI would be huge.
  • Give 20% off to ANYONE, nationwide, referencing the ad for the next week to capitalize on the viral nature of the campaign, requiring a tweet or Facebook post with hashtag #aacares or similar. Cost to you: minimal.
  • Donate 20% of profits for the next week to northeast U.S. chapters of the Red Cross. Yes, this will cost some cash, but there’s no arguing with a monetary statement.
  • Just  be proactive somehow to make this right. Or risk being one of the “don’ts” of social media. Better to be one of the “OK, we get it” stories instead.
What do you think? Is this a PR blunder or a marketing gimmick? Are you more or less inclined to shop American Apparel now? Do these suggestions make sense, or is there something you would recommend? Let us hear from you in the comments.

The Haunted Mansion: Snapshot Sundays

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In honor of public relations for the Halloween season, here are some snapshots using Hipstamatic of my favorite Disneyworld Magic Kingdom attraction, The Haunted Mansion. I snapped these photos with my phone while waiting in line and did a quick post on a bus between parks with the WordPress app. I’ve been here the last couple of days (the park, not just the mansion) and it’s been excellent.

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What do you think? Ever been to The Haunted Mansion? What’s your favorite Disney or other amusement park attraction? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Foursquare: Do or Die Time?

Here’s something interesting: I often look to the media for blog post ideas, but this time it seems to have happened in reverse. Case in point: a few weeks back I heard a broadcast from Marketplace Radio speaking to Foursquare’s CEO. Amazingly, just a few weeks prior I asked this very question on LinkedIn: “Has Foursquare’s time passed?” There were several good answers and a general consensus that it’s too early to tell.

Not long after I posted my question, Foursquare released a major update to its mobile app and got its PR machine cranking. What’s interesting here is that both Marketplace and I shared the same thought: Foursquare was introduced in 2009, gained massive popularity, and has been gradually cooling off ever since. Is that a sign of its having peaked already or just the fleeting attention span of the digerati?

Life After Death of the Check-In

“Life After Death of the Check In” -Jon Mitchell via ReadWriteWeb

Earlier this year, months before any of this, Jon Mitchell of ReadWriteWeb did this excellent and provocative article on the death of the check in. He rightly notes that it can be overkill:

…it’s a mundane performance of “I’m at the grocery store!” which is annoying noise to one’s friends and followers.

I started using it in early 2011, out of curiosity and to have something to do – like taking photos – while waiting in line at places or making art out of routine trips to places like, well… the grocery store. Hey, at least I try to make my activity interesting – but I sure as heck do NOT post every single update to Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Businesses Could be Using Foursquare Better

Here’s the secret ingredient: Photos. Include fun photos of your storefront, employees (smiling, preferably), specials, or a behind-the-scenes view of what’s going on. These kind of unique details draw people in, and it can certainly be endearing to customers. I’d love to see an “ask us about this photo” post at some place I check in, then feel like an insider when I take them up on the offer. I’d be getting to know the business better, and maybe even getting a special deal.

I’m glad to see Foursquare innovating and I look forward to what’s next. The real test will be adoption. It won’t be genuinely interesting  until more businesses and users get in on it and get creative. I just hope the next major developments don’t take as long – and with any luck they won’t. I’m sure Foursquare itself has also surely noticed its buzz decline, like Marketplace and your humble author.

What do you think? Are you on Foursquare? Have you been on it and lost interest? Have you ever gotten a deal somewhere because through the app? Let us hear from you in the comments!