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Friday, September 28, 2012

LivingSocial Hits a Home Run with Baseball Playoffs

Strike fast and be opportunistic are good mantras for successful PR.

Online coupon company LivingSocial hit the proverbial home run but coming to the rescue of the Washington DC Metro system just before the Washington Nationals appear in the National League playoffs.

LivingSocial agreed to pick up the tab to keep the DC Metro open after midnight in the event that the playoff games go late.  Within a day the PR impact of this decision far exceeds the $29,500 deposit the company put down to help out the cash strapped metro.

Politicians such as Sen. John Warner (D-VA) were heaping praise on LivingSocial on Friday. The relief pitch from LivingSocial responds to the problem that arose from a recent extra inning game at Nationals Park which ended after midnight and hundreds of fans were stranded since the Metro was closed.  The city and Metro said they wanted to fix the problem before the playoffs and LivingSocial jumped at the chance.

The cost could be a lot cheaper than the $29K deposit since it will be offset by the number of people who ride the subway after closing hours.  Truth be told, this was also a good move for LivingSocial since the company just received an $32 million tax break to build headquarters in DC.

With such good PR, we’ll see how the company adds to its good will during the playoffs.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ears Are Everywhere

Loose Lips Sink Ships

The latest dust up in the presidential campaign revolves around a secretly recorded video clip of Mitt Romney during a "private' campaign appearance.    With almost 130 million smartphones in the USA, all the world's a stage.  We're not just singling out one side.  President Obama had a similar hot microphone incident in March with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in South Korea.

Back in my news anchor days, I mistakenly uttered one of those seven dirty words that in the 70's George Carlin  reminded us we couldn't say on television.  After that, I treated every microphone as "hot".  

Even back in the stone-age before cell phones, CommCore has been advising clients to be careful what they say in seemingly private settings.  We know of trade secrets lost because colleagues chatted too loudly at their seats on flights headed to major trade shows.  Competitors are everywhere.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

BPI's Beef

Last week Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), the makers of what the beef industry calls "lean, finely-textured beef," notoriously known to most of the public as Pink Slime, filed a major anti-defamation lawsuit against ABC News. The implications of their beef with the news network go far beyond the $1.2 billion in reparation and damages that BPI seeks.

BPI claims that ABC "knowingly" engaged in a "disinformation campaign" that cost the company as much as 80% of its business, put it into bankruptcy, and forced it to shut three plants and lay off hundreds of workers. BPI has hired a high profile former US Attorney who has defended the likes of GE, Microsoft and Phillip Morris. ABC News plans to vigorously defend itself against what it sees as an attack on its reputation and freedom of the press.

Legalities aside, food industry experts are divided on whether the suit -- which faces huge legal hurdles -- was filed in part to support a PR agenda that includes a website campaign.

Some, like Marion Nestle of Food Politics, say the suit is a bad PR move – "absurd" and "the company deserves a prize for chutzpah." Others agree with Chris Gidez of PR firm Hill & Knowlton who says in a case like this a firm's PR considerations are based on the facts and how important they are to their business.

At CommCore the situation reminds us of what we advise our crisis communications clients:

• Always make your crisis response decisions based on inputs from ALL parts of the organization – communications, investor relations, finance, legal, safety, HR, etc
• Don’t let one area's decisions unwittingly cause major headaches for another division of the enterprise.
• Have a crisis response and communications plan prepared in advance. The emergence of a crisis is not the time to start creating check lists and decision trees.
• Run simulations and have key spokespeople trained in crisis communications.

Think short term and long term on your crisis planning and response.

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