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20 years

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

PR Contest: How many other ways could the IRS have confessed its improper audits of Tea Party names?

All joking aside, what the IRS auditors did in targeting Tea Party groups was just dumb, dumber and dumbest.

Even worse was their PR “plan” to tell the world via a planted question at an American Bar Association meeting.

If not truly dumb, then it falls into the category of “What were they thinking?” i.e. dumb. 

Once the IRS knew it was going to get a PR “audit” for its stupidity, they schemed for a “spontaneous” question which would then allow an IRS official to apologize for its actions.  Didn’t they think a public statement in a room of lawyers in Washington, DC would hit the media fast?  Well it only took about 10 minutes for the first article to appear then the viral fire storm really erupted. 

Any PR pro could have given them 10 other strategies for divulging the news instead of a planted question. 

The question now is what’s the road back from this scandal and brouhaha?  It won’t be easy and I would not recommend using the tax payers’ money for an ad, image or PR campaign.  Yet a trusted IRS is actually critical to a smooth functioning country.  After the dust settles, the IRS should look at other scandals and crises and develop ways to gain public confidence.  Anyone with ideas? 

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Friday, May 10, 2013

What NOT to Assume About Controversial Quotes

Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries' comments in an interview about how he doesn't want plus-sized girls and "losers" shopping in his stores has angered a lot of people, particularly moms.

From a communications perspective, it is a great example and reminder about the permanence of public comments.  After all, Jefferies made these comments 7 years ago in a 2006 interview with Salon Magazine.  Yet my Facebook posts are lighting up about it today, and the following story ran this week!  

Controversial comments are like flames that may settle into embers, but are never reduced to ashes - they can flare up again anytime.

The second important reminder about controversial comments is the assumption that people often make - that they were delivered in error.

There is a healthy, ongoing debate on this point.  Are these controversial comments haunting Jefferies or do they result in coveted publicity for the Abercrombie brand?  Do these comments actually drive "cool" kids - or those who want to be - to stores with a renewed vigor, or do they push would-be customers away in disgust?  Is Jefferies emboldening his base while upsetting those who will never shop at A&F anyway?

Some say Jefferies is brilliant.  Some say he's an idiot who is part of what is wrong with society.

I wonder (sadly) if getting a boycott petition flying through cyberspace can be a boon for this retailer.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Getting Good Ink

A story on low morale among federal workers on NPR's Morning Edition this morning contained one of those memorable quotes of the type that we at CommCore work with our clients to create. 

Darryl Munsey is head of the union bargaining unit for employees of the National Archives and Records Administration. That's the agency that a 2012 survey by the Office of Personnel Management found to have the lowest morale in the entire federal government.

The NPR story focused on how dispirited federal workers feel about the low esteem in which they are held by the public and by Congress. It wrapped up with the following quote by Munsey on his futile efforts to stand up for his members against attacks from all corners: "[I]t's like trying to fight an octopus in a cave, underground, that has just squirted you with ink."

[octopus+ink.jpg]File:Seal of the National Archives and Records Administration (color with partial blue background).jpg

Of all the spokespeople from several agencies quoted in the piece, that's the one that stuck out, and for good reason:

·         It was visual

·         It was pertinent to the situation

·         It projected the spokesperson’s feelings viscerally

Reporters and bloggers will notice a good quote that illustrates their story, or supports and illustrates technical data, the moment they hear it.  In their head that's already the sound-bite that becomes a bumper, or a tease, on a news broadcast; a boxed call-out in a newspaper article; or a viral social media sensation.

And being ready to deliver them naturally and effectively when the opportunity arises requires preparation and training.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

OMG! Private Rants Are Public

One of the more recent viral internet events involves the leaked email rant from a University of Maryland sorority sister.  The profane-laced letter quickly went global and is now one of the more popular memes (move over grumpy cat) spawning photos, hilarious videos, and chatter.

It seems that Millennials are no different when it comes to underestimating the viral power of the internet.  A Google search today of “leaked emails” turns up pages of examples from Matt Lauer to Wal-Mart

In the “old days”- ten years ago, we always stressed to our clients that anything said in public could end up in the Wall Street Journal.  Now it’s more important than ever to understand that any form of communications: from panel discussions at a conference, to a company email, or a personal tweet can pick up momentum and roll through the internet at the speed of fiber optic light.  

 It’s a safe bet that the author of the now famous sorority rant never imagined that her email would be the subject of a dramatic reading on Funny or Die.

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