Monthly Archives: November 2013


PR and Reality v. Money in My Pocket

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Walmart has an image problem. Ask the proverbial passerby and he/she will tell you that Walmart underpays its employees, offers little in the way of job satisfaction and advancement, and functions prominently as a dead end for most retail workers.

The stock market has an image problem. Ask the proverbial passerby and he/she will tell you that the market is geared for the bigger funds and banks, offers little hope of profit for the common man, and functions prominently as a dead end for most people’s retirement funds.

Obamacare has an image problem. Ask the proverbial passerby and he/she will tell you that Obamacare is difficult to access, offers little hope in the way of customer concern, and functions prominently as a dead end for people who have had their insurance terminated.

But at the end of the day who cares? When there’s a killer deal to be had, our scruples and social compunctions suddenly feel a tickle in the throat and find a way to call in sick.

Walmart is obviously the poster boy for these problems. In addition to the negative perception mentioned above, the company is also facing a pending labor strike, a lawsuit for labor violations, and a viral face-plant for collecting holiday food donations for its underpaid workers. And yet, from a business perspective, life couldn’t be rosier. Forbes is reporting that even in the midst of the scandals and problems, this year’s Black Friday is shaping up to be one of the best yet. Offer us cheap goods, and we will beat a path to your door.

Similarly, when stocks trend up, there’s an ever-present sensation across America that we must jump on that bandwagon right now. And once gets going (if ever), people will follow the states’ leads and jump on the cheap insurance bandwagon. Collectively we’re just suckers for the big deal.

The question is not can it change, but will it? Sadly not anytime soon, and that’s something you can take to the bank.


The PR Coup of Friendly Rivals


It’s a PR war out there, and like in any war, enemies will be enemies. Smear campaigns, openly aggressive tactics, a win-at-all-costs attitude: you do what you gotta do to gain the advantage. However, even in the most brutal of wars, sometimes the unexpected happens. In the midst of the horrific craziness that was WWI, the winter of 1914 saw a break in hostilities that was to never be repeated. During the week leading up to the holidays, British and German soldiers started venturing out into no-man’s land. Eventually they sang and drank together, exchanged gifts, and even played a few games of soccer. When the generals from both sides found about it, they took steps to insure that such peaceful gestures would not be repeated.

Obviously, the world of commercial PR does not bear any of the significance of armed conflict. To compare the two in any real way borders on the ridiculous. However, the notion that peace can have a value should not be overlooked. And that’s true even in the cutthroat “my-client-is-king” arena.

There’s no dearth of companies, institutions, and individuals putting out PR pieces that snipe and cut away at their opponents. In certain arenas (such as politics) this has already been accepted as standard, if not self-destructive, fare. Occasionally, though, there have been flashes of rivalries which took a decidedly friendly tone.

Coke and Pepsi have been at the forefront of this movement. Here’s the latest contribution to the cause:

What’s surprising about this ad is the sheer lack of negativity. Cute, seasonal, just a tiny bit quirky, and apparently that’s all it took for the ad to appear everywhere on the internet.

Another great rivalry that went viral was that between Nandos and Santam. You can watch it here. They each spoofed the other’s commercials with the end result being a nice donation to charity. This exchange on Youtube garnered collectively close to a million views.

With these and others, the public relations takeaway is clear. You can go after your opponents, but do it in a positive way, and you can actually see better results.