Let’s suppose that for one perverse week, there was no life outside of Strumpette.
Amanda Chapel is on a tear. Injustice has been committed and it involves Richard Edelman. It seems that the CEO who is running PR’s Web 2.0 revolution rushed to judgment in a blog post about the Duke lacrosse team and Amanda wants him to break down and visit the PR confessional. “At least Nifong apologized. What about our PR leader? How much you want to bet we do not hear a word?” We hear not a word. On this day Strumpette is about courage and conviction, ruthless accountability, qualities you do not usually associate with public relations. Maybe that’s why this blog stands out.
Amanda Chapel is on a tear. Injustice has been committed and it involves Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR. It has been 100 days since Torossian threatened to sue Strumpette, who has been relentlessly hounding him about taking “Girls Gone Wild” as a client. Chapel calls Torossian on his cell and asks for comment (talk about cajones). “He was quite emphatic about personally helping my dear old mother increase the size of my family. He repeated it several times. What a nice guy," writes Chapel about the conversation. In another post this day it is reconfirmed that Weber Shandwick CEO Harris Diamond is a clown and PR Weak is a toady trade pub. Where else can the head of a PR firm make this kind of news? When was our business close to being this interesting?
Today’s post throws you. It includes photos from Africa by “one of the Amanda(s).” You cannot confirm that there is actually is a single Amanda and now there are supposed to be several. We are operating on different levels here, involving mischief, myth, and art, subjects of the book “Trickster Makes This World” by Lewis Hyde. Could that book be the Strumpette Bible? I am only on page 72 but there are clues there to the mix of revolutionary vigor, practical advice, and playfulness we see on Strumpette. Could the prismatic reality of public relations actually have a basis in historical theory?
Today Strumpette breaks new ground with a “Breaking News” report on a PR murder mystery that may involve art imitating life, or the other way around. Is it true that PR now has a “seat at the table” in the “C-suite” because we are important enough to have our own murder mystery sub-genre?
Uncle Phil issues his latest gospel about PR basics. Stop, listen, learn. He is a consumer and he is pissed at eBay and he is letting us know that anybody with half a brain, a blog, and some time can damage a company. Some things bear repeating.
Amanda posts a short, entertaining video that highlights the similarities between crisis communications and bullfighting. The video features some really fun music. Fun, fun, fun with the new wave of Strumpette videos. Today Strumpette is about blending visuals, audio and text for a blog that stands out for its innate, subdued artistry.
Lessons in crisis communications from Eric Starkman. It’s Saturday, in the summertime, and I am reading about the business. This could qualify as an addiction.
“If you don’t come in on Sunday, don’t bother to come in Monday,” the mythical boss screams. Should be a rollicking good week. Murdoch is displeased with the Bancrofts (told you so), Paris gets sprung from jail (we’re breathless) and tells all (or some) to Larry King, the Fed may hint at raising or lowering rates, or do nothing, we will see dangerous lawlessness escalate in Iraq, Iran, Gaza and elsewhere, and who knows what we’ll find on Strumpette.
Mark Rose is founder and CEO of RosePR/new media, offering best-of-breed digital communications strategies and resources. He is also editor of PRBlogNews , a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.
Posted by an Honored Guest Saturday, June 23, 2007
Did you catch the Whole Foods vs. FTC fight this week. Great lesson in communications, i.e what to do... and especially what NOT to do.
Well, today we've got a special treat. Today we have an analysis by Eric Starkman, President of Starkman & Associates.
Starkman, a seasoned crisis communications executive, is well known and respected among the national media. He's a journo turned crisis communications pro with pretty extensive creds. Eric’s career includes reporter-editor gigs at major newspapers in the U.S. and Canada, including The Toronto Star, The Montreal Gazette and The Detroit News. Charlie Gasparino, one of the most respected – and feared – reporters on Wall Street, includes Starkman in the acknowledgements of his acclaimed book “Blood on the Street.” Starkman was later the head of the Corporate Communications practice at one of the largest national Investor Relations firms, the former Morgen-Walke Associates.
Without further ado... here's Eric.
The "Taken Out of Context" Defense
By Eric Starkman
I've always been dubious about the "taken out of context" defense. It's like the dog-ate-my-homework excuse. Sure it's a possible explanation, but nobody really buys it.
Merrill Lynch gave it a shot when it first became public that its once-high-profile analyst Henry Blodgett was singing the praises of certain stocks publicly while privately referring to them in emails as "crap" and "pieces of s***." Ouch. Merrill, to its credit, came clean a week later and acknowledged that the analyst's e-mails were "unacceptable" and "inappropriate and well below the standards that Merrill aims to achieve."
Flash forward to this year and you have former Wal-Mart marketing executive Julie Roehm giving the "taken out of context" defense a whirl. Roehm was fired for various alleged improprieties, including an inappropriate relationship with an underling. She claims that some of the risqué comments in a series of lovelorn emails to subordinate Sean Womack are "easily explainable" and don't prove that she violated the retailer's policy against employee fraternization. If that's the case, I'd love to see Wal-Mart's HR manual. I just can't figure out any scenario under which "I think about us together all the time. Little moments like watching your face when you kiss me..." could possibly be deemed appropriate corporate-speak.
Don't get me wrong -- I am hardly declaring Goliath victor over David in this PR battle. Wal-Mart has had plenty of its own missteps in the public handling of this affair -- ahem, no pun intended -- but we'll leave that Monday morning quarterbacking for another day.
So back to current headlines and more people with context issues. This time it is John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, who is waving the "taken out of context" flag. At issue are some seemingly damaging comments he made in emails and other correspondence that the FTC subsequently cited when issuing its rationale for blocking the retailer's proposed acquisition of rival Wild Oats Markets. Among the remarks was a discussion about how the acquisition would enable the company to "avoid nasty price wars" that could harm gross margins. Hmmm, that sure smells of antitrust aroma to me.
Here's the kicker: Turns out Mackay’s comments really were taken out of context and "easily explainable" as well (eat your heart out, Julie Roehm).
While Whole Foods certainly gets some positive points for backing up its claims of comments being taken out of context with tangible evidence, they are offset by demerits earned for two negative outcomes generated by their transparency play.
First, Whole Foods' leadership lets its collective frustration get the better of themselves by launching a highly questionable and very vitriolic attack on the FTC as part of its posted defense. Questioning the legitimacy of the agency and the ethics of government bureaucrats before whom you have significant business dealings is not a smart negotiating tactic.
The second related cringe-inducer is from a PR standpoint: As shared in his blog, Mackay argued that Whole Foods faces formidable competition from mainstream supermarkets, not just ones specializing in natural foods. He is especially passionate about Wegmans Food Markets, an upscale Northeast supermarket chain with legions of fans, including one of my colleagues, who lives for its chocolate chip muffins.
To wit: "Wegman's (sic) operates huge stores with excellent quality of perishables and low prices and it is difficult for us to effectively compete against them". (emphasis mine).
If I were Wegmans, I'd have my advertising team working on full-page advertisements with the following headline: "Even Whole Foods Raves about Our Excellent Quality and Low Prices." John Mackay has already written the ad copy.
Eric Starkman is President of Starkman & Associates, a full service public and investor relations firm based in New York City. Prior to a career in PR, he was a journalist with several major newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. The firm has a strong crisis communications practice, having worked with numerous organizations and high-profile individuals to manage and mitigate the reputational damage of real and perceived communications crises.
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
Kathleen Durazo about A Measly $2.8 Million Goes Missing, Lawsuit Results Fri, Jul 31, 10:58:34 AM Ray Durazo (the founder) sold the company to Dan in 1999. He was not involved in any of this. He (and I) found out about the lawsuit in the LA Times. In addition to embezzling this m [...]