Public Relations

Swag for Cred

Mothers writing on the Internet about products they like tend to be trusted by other mothers. That’s why marketing and PR agencies try mightily to convert these key influencers into becoming “brand ambassadors” with product samples, contests and the like.

Flattered or grateful, many blogging mommies will go so far as to place advertisers’ banner ads for free on their sites. But because they want to be paid for such activites, some bloggers are becoming more vocal about the stupidity of their fellow bloggers getting nothing but swag or links in exchange for promotional posts. [PRNewser, 5/13/10].

Mom Central CEO Stacy DeBroff says moms blogging for free stuff was not as common as people may think. But she told PR Newser, “The minute you become too commercial, you lose your audience, and when you lose your audience you lose your influence.”

Giving Offense, Getting Noticed

I used to work as a public affairs director at a large mental health organization. Not the kind of place that would get a kick out of a recent Burger King commercial.

A man in a surreally oversized plastic “king” head with a creepy grin is running through an office building pursued by a man dressed in a white lab coat who yells, “Stop that King, he’s crazy!”

It seems the meat sovereign is insane to be “giving away” sandwiches for $3.99.

There is so much stigma assigned to mental illness that this kind of stuff puts people on edge. But as advertising, it works. I remembered it, and it garnered a lot of press notice.

When Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s hot-tempered chief of staff, criticized somebody’s stupid move as “retarded,” the uproar commenced. Sarah Palin, who has a young son with Down’s Syndrome, seized the opportunity to call for Emmanual’s dismissal. Proving once again that one person’s/organization’s bad P.R. is another’s opportunity.

One Man’s Meat

The same event can be nutritious P.R. for one organization and toxic to another.

Case in point: the Greenpeace assault on Nestle’s Facebook page, a barrage of comments designed to embarrass the global conglomerate into stopping its use of palm oil, which conservationists maintain leads to the destruction of Southeast Asian rainforests and their inhabitants. (The campaign created a widely viewed video of a man opening a Nestle Twix chocolate bar  and biting into a orangutan’s bloody severed finger.)

As a result of Greenpeace’s “brand-jacking,” Nestle went into “damage control” mode and promised to stop buying palm oil from Sinar Mas, the big Indonesian supplier of oil to Nestle.

It was  a moment of triumph for Greenpeace. “Facebook has become a hotbed for activism,” Greenpeace press officer Daniel Kessler told Joe Ciarallo of PRNewser, (4/5/10). “We have offices in 40 countries and many of our offices are participating in this campaign. Each has their own Facebook page.”

More is coming. As noted on PRNewser, a blog post on Greenpeace’s Web site states, “There’s no quick-PR-fix to get out of this one; Nestle is going to have to really clean up its supply chain.”  Kessler said, “They need to do supply chain analysis to make sure they’re not sourcing palm oil.

PRNewser also points out that Greenpeace now has a campaign to force change at Facebook itself. The activists want the social media site to use renewable energy to run its data centers. The new group on Facebook – “We want facebook to use 100% renewable energy” — has more than 200,000 members.

Social media isn’t just for personal frivolity or a new conduit for selling – it’s proving to be a powerful tool for passionate change seekers.  The world is changing, rapidly. Corporations and institutions had better get ready by putting in place rapid-response crisis management – before the next dust-up occurs.

Tiger Woods Returns

Monday marks the return of Tiger Woods – to press conferences.

The golf legend faced off today against 200 reporters in Augusta, Georgia, the site of the Master’s tournament. It was his first such appearance since he ran his SUV into a tree last Thanksgiving, and his life off a cliff. Golf took a back seat as revelations tumbled out about his serial infidelity. Then came cancelled endorsement contracts and a stint in sexual compulsion rehab (missing his son’s first birthday in the process).

The media verdict: Tiger handled the barrage of questions very well, for the most part. And since the scandal has prompted scrutiny of his whole life, he was also asked about taking performance-enhancing drugs. “I’ve never taken any illegal drug in my life,” he said. A doctor named Anthony Galea treated Woods for an injured knee in 2008 and 2009. So he was asked about his knee … it’s fine. Easy putt.

Press conference humility and humor are a great way to get another whack at the ball, a fresh start — and firms like PubArts can be a great ally in media management of all sorts. For even in a culture like ours, as obsessed with celebrity come-uppance as Woods was with cocktail waitresses, we all love a winner. And winners get back up when they fall, or are knocked, off their pedestals. That line about there being “no second acts in American lives?” … So untrue.

For now, it seems like most everyone is ready for Tiger to begin another phase in his storied career by donning once again the green blazer bestowed on the tournament’s victor. “I’m going to try to go out and win this thing,” he declared. He also indicated his wife Elin wouldn’t be in attendance.

A Whale of a Problem

The Hump, an upscale sushi hangout at the Santa Monica airport, recently got caught serving endangered sei whale. Facing jail time, huge fines, television cameras, and daily placard-wielding protesters, the owner tried to quell the tsunami of fury by emailing a series of apologetic announcements, the last one stating that the 12-year-old business would close for good.

But press releases, excellent tools though they may be, cannot alone bring closure.

The revelation couldn’t have had worse timing from the restaurant’s perspective – or better, for conservationists and humanists (and whales). Just before the bust, “The Cove” won the Academy Award for documenting the herding and bludgeoning of dolphins in Japan.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act wasn’t enough to keep the creature off The Hump’s menu – unless you consider “off menu” to be the trunk of a Mercedes, from which the meat was reportedly doled out to wealthy gourmands on the sly. The p.r. mea culpas only came after the restaurant was harpooned in a sting operation.

Facing the inevitable, The Hump acted with prudence. It accepted full responsibility for its sneaky venality and greed (without using those words unfortunately). The owner even promised (beyond the possible fines up to $200,000 and a year in prison for the chef) to make a “substantial contribution to one or more responsible organizations dedicated to the preservation of whales and other endangered species.”

One of those endangered entities would appear to be another restaurant called Typhoon. It’s located just downstairs from The Hump, also operating on a lease from the City of Santa Monica. And owned by the same person.