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The 15-Seconds Blog

  • PR News Throws Up An Air Ball

    It is not uncommon, in an effort to be topical and edgy, for advertisers to say things they regret. It takes PR savvy to quickly recover from such a mistake.




    One of our readers alerted us to a surprising example of how NOT to recover — and the most interesting part is that the mistake was made by PR News, an outfit that publishes newsletters, blogs, guidebooks and other resources which they say hone  PR practitioners skills in things like media relations and crisis management.

    It seems PR News sent out a blast email this week trying to get businesses to buy some of their products.  The email talked about how to “score big” in business and carried the subject line: “Don’t be like Wichita State.”

    Apparently the theory was that the subject might catch the eye of folks following the NCAA basketball championships.  What PR News failed to understand is that it would offend supporters of the Wichita State basketball team which had just lost in the tournament following a 35-0 start to the season.


    According to the Wichita Eagle, Barth Hague, the school’s associate vice president for university relations and chief marketing officer, sent an email to PR News objecting and requesting a “full and formal apology.”

    PR News’s VP for marketing, Amy Jefferies responded in a note saying:

    “Hi Beth – I am truly sorry for this oversight on our part and any stress this has caused you…”

    In an effort to make good Jefferies added: “Are there any PR News products I can offer you and your team free of charge – Guidebooks, a PR News subscription or conference attendance?”t lesson has been learned by my team for future promotions.”

    Getting free PR products from an outfit that just insulted your organization was not a slam dunk in the view of folks at Wichita State.  And even if you are going to make the offer — you should not call some guy named Barth — Beth.
    What is most surprising is that news organizations following the story tried to get PR News’s comment and initially the PR outfit was slow to respond. They finally sent out another email blast yesterday apologizing more fully.
    We are sure that somewhere in all those materials that PR News sells to businesses — is the suggestion that if you are the subject of controversy — when the media ask you about it — you should respond.


  • GM’s Barra Bars Broadcast Media

    GM crash

    General Motor’s Mary Barra admitted this week that, “something went wrong with our process…and terrible things happened.”

    And while that is certainly true and laudable for the new CEO of the auto giant to admit her company mishandled some safety issues for 13 years, saying she is deeply sorry is not quite enough.

    Yesterday, she held what GM described as a news conference but, according the the WXYZ-TV report below, only handful of print reporters were invited, slamming the car door on  local Detroit stations and the national news networks.

    There are times (particularly when dealing with good news situations) when companies can play favorites. But when you are in a hole like GM — you can’t afford to annoy major parts of the media.

    Inviting only selected media reminds us of the Tiger Wood’s debacle of a “Press Conference” when he was trying to dig himself out of a shameful image disaster. Woods invited only “friendly” reporters,those whose livelihoods depend on access to the golf pro – and he did not take questions.

    Barra did take some questions yesterday but by excluding broadcast media she gave the impression that GM has something to hide…it was a backward step in what she called “the journey to resolve this.”

    “As a member of the GM family and as a mom with a family of my own, this really hits home for me. We have apologized, but that is just one step in the journey to resolve this,” Barra said.

    Too bad she didn’t invite the broadcast media along for the ride.

  • Targeting GM – PR Challenges of Companies In Trouble

    15-Seconds Co-founder Bill Harlow was on Varney & Co. on Fox Business News this morning talking about the keys to how General Motors and Target have responded to recent controversies.

    How can GM control its current PR crisis?