Archive for the 'PR disaster' Category

Punch Drunk PR

January 20, 2008

With Alan Hansen signed up at Morrison’s, Jamie Oliver representing chicken giants Sainsbury’s, and ‘food porn’ in the shape of M&S advertising, high street supermarkets are busy fighting for consumer footfall. PR’s role in all this is interesting; just like a high profile interview with a CEO from a big corporate, PRs can also impress journalists with access to tomorrow’s ‘must have’ items before they hit the shelves. This week I encountered one High Street supermarket who in PR = ROI terms, are making expensive mistakes.

In the February edition of Decanter magazine, M&S were awarded three gold stars for a wine from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux, produced by Châteaux Moulinet. This is no small feat and the wine (priced reasonably at £18) is surrounded by expensive wines stocked by famous wine merchants. That a high street supermarket can compete with the quality of Corney and Barrow etc on the pages of specialist wine magazine, is a real coup.

Imagine my disappointment then when taking a copy of my trusty magazine I headed to the M&S on Oxford Street only to find the wine missing from their shelves. An enquiry to a sales assistant was met with a blank start and I soon had the M&S wine ordering sheet in front of me and was told to look for it myself. Still no luck. “ok”, I said to myself, “ this is the February edition and we are still in January, I’ll ring the head office.”

M&S head office claimed never to have heard of the wine, and also hadn’t seen Decanter magazine (despite the fact it’s been out for half a month). They tried to sell me a case of Champagne before telling me that I should try my local store.

Exasperated, I give up.

What is the point of your PR team building a relationship with a key consumer magazine, if your sales team and CRM system isn’t sophisticated enough able to capitalise and close the sale?

All in all, a wasted opportunity.



A PR lesson – don’t lie.

October 31, 2007

We thought this one, which might have been missed in London, was worth a look. Pat Philbin the External Affairs Director for the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) learnt a valuable lesson this week… PR is about media management, not about lying.

A FEMA a news conference was called in Washington last week to discuss the response to the Southern California wildfires. The briefing was called at very, very short notice, making it impossible for journalists to attend.

However when the press coverage was screened Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson, the deputy administrator of FEMA was seen fielding numerous questions from the ‘press’. The journalists in the audience turned out to be FEMA employees pretending to be journalists offering up simple questions for their boss.

FEMA later issued an apology.

Quite how the PR team thought they would get away with such a scandalous abuse of trust is another matter, but Philburn who was due to become director of public affairs for National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell last Monday, has been politely told he is no longer required.

Remember, journalists may be bad-tempered, but they’re not stupid, and are more than capable of spotting their colleagues [or not] in a crowd.

A PR ‘Disaster’

August 13, 2007

An anonymous PR confession 

Last Friday started as unremarkably as any other Friday in PR, a more relaxed attire, the radio blaring in the corner of the room, and scores of happy employees preparing for the weekend.  

Fridays in PR are the best things about working for an agency – there are always drinks to go to after work and it’s the one day of the week where you can take a long lunch and have that pint without feeling guilty. 

This particular Friday however, had a surprise in store. 

We all send press releases out to hundreds of journalists every day. It’s what we do. Before sending, you slave over a media list to make sure you’ve got the most up to date contact addresses, and to save yourself the burden of updating excel sheets after a deluge of bounce backs.  

You polish the story, where necessary you regionalise stats and quotes, you check, double check, and then check again that you’ve spelt all the words in the headline correctly and then…. you send. You get onto the phones and you sell in like your life depends upon it. 

Journalists know we blanket send press releases out, but an unwritten rule exists in PR – you always bcc journalists and NEVER cc. So, you fiddle with Outlook so that the bespoke media list drops into the BCC section and after a final check you send. 

Last Friday however, I committed the cardinal sin. If the CIPR kept a PR excommunication list in their leafy St James HQ, then my name would now be on it.  

Not concentrating and wanting to send the my press release out before I went to a meeting, I skipped my usually rigorous press release sign off procedure and sent the press release cc’d to my entire media list! I had just sent the release cc’d to every national business editor in the country, as well as a series of business trade magazines. If that wasn’t bad enough, I had also copied in the rest of my account team which included the account director. 

After I had overcome the feelings of nausea, I picked up the phones and begun the sell in. “oh you’re the idiot that copied us all into your release aren’t you?” was one of the nicer comments. There was a light at the end of the tunnel – most of the national journalists missed the error, mainly due to the fact that I had released the story the same day as billions of dollars, pounds and euros were being wiped off share values. ‘Another’ survey was not at the forefront of their minds. 

The trades were less polite, a couple even said they weren’t going to run the story because of the cc error. Another said it was an ‘insult’. But, I ploughed on and the more open I was about the mistake the more the story seemed to strike a chord with a few of the writers – it remains to be seen whether the story will pick up coverage. 

At the stroke of 5pm, I picked up my bag and headed to the pub. I hope I still have a job this time next week.