Tag Archives: public relations

No Good Deed…

For our Foodie Friday Fun piece I want to look at something Whole Foods announced a month or so ago. On the surface it seems as if it’s very much in keeping with their brand positioning and is something that will make a positive contribution in sustaining the food chain. Why, then, are so many people questioning both their motives and the effectiveness of what they’re doing? A quick examination is useful in raising issues we can all think about as we try to move our businesses forward.

Atlantic cod fisheries have collapsed

Atlantic cod fisheries have collapsed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First the facts.  Whole Foods announced that they will stop selling fish caught from depleted waters or through ecologically damaging methods.  They won’t carry wild-caught seafood that is “red-rated,” a color code that indicates it’s either overfished or caught in a way that harms other species.   This will impact the sale of octopus, gray sole, skate, Atlantic halibut and Atlantic cod caught by trawls, which some say can destroy habitats. Instead, they say they’re going to sell sustainable replacements like cod caught on lines and halibut from the Pacific.  Pretty straightforward, right?  Hopefully by not selling the fish that’s most threatened or whose capture might damage the environment, Whole Foods is marching in step with their brand image and their customers’ mindset.

Except maybe not.  First, for those of us on the east coast, Pacific fish needs to be flown here.  Without having the “is global warming manmade” fight, let’s just assume it’s better to eat locally sourced ingredients for a lot of reasons, the environment and taste among them.  Next, it ignores items such as scallops which are not endangered but are caught using many of the same methods (dredging) that are being excluded.  Third, the list the chain is following is produced by the Blue Ocean Institute and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California which some attack as having their own agenda.  Finally, the more cynical (read that as New England fisherman) commenters question if the whole thing isn’t just a PR stunt to get some good out of the fact that cod and other of the “red-rated” fish will be hard to find and very expensive so to mitigate the lack of availability the chain is just tossing it out completely.

I have no clue which position is right or wrong.  I raise the discussion because it’s a great example of how even what seems to be a company trying to do some good can involve an awful lot of issues to which technology gives a lot of visibility.  What about the fisherman whose livelihoods are affected?  What about other local jobs that support them and the excellent work most local fishing communities are doing to preserve the fishing beds (which obviously they should have started a long time ago or we’d not be having this discussion!)?

We’ll file this one under no good deed goes unpunished, I guess.  It’s all of our jobs to try to do good as we’re doing well.  The trick is to make sure that others see it the same way and if they don’t, that at least you’ve considered their positions and are prepared to discuss your reasoning.

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Filed under food, Reality checks

When Does An Offer Of Help Constitute A Bribe?

I’ve been wrestling with something over the last 24 hours and I’m hoping you all might have some thoughts on the matter.  As I’ve mentioned before, as someone who blogs on a regular basis, I get offers from various folks almost every day.  These offers are interview opportunities, review copies of books, maybe the odd report here or there, and I’m usually happy to hear about them.  It may not seem like it, but coming up with content for the screed can be a challenge!

Bribe Deutsch: Bestechung Suomi: Lahjus Русски...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, yesterday I received an offer from a publicist to interview an author and/or to get a copy of the author’s new book.  Nothing unusual there.  What followed in the email, however, is what’s giving me pause:

In exchange for your help, we’re also happy to help you in any way we can – from blogging about you, sending traffic your way or even getting you linked into our affiliate program to make you a few bucks.

As an author myself, I’m always looking to grow the readership of this blog (and I hope you tell folks to check it out when you can!), so an offer of traffic or publicity or some cash based on book sales are things which are appealing.  On the surface, this is something that’s just a “you help me out, here is how I can help you” exchange that goes on in business all the time.  So let me explain why I’m troubled.

There’s a statement on the PR firm‘s website which says they always act with honesty and integrity and never compromise the truth. They also stick to “white hat” marketing tactics, never trying anything that could comprise a client’s image or brand.  Very commendable, so why does the above offer feel smarmy?  In my mind, it feels like a bribe – write about our client and we’ll do what we can for you.  Maybe it’s because everything is conditioned on me publicizing their client instead of a “we love your blog, we’re going to publicize it and by the way, you might be interested in this other person with whom we’re working.”  Of course, one had to wonder what happens when 20 or 30 of these offers are accepted – how much linking and writing can they really do?  How many book sales would it take to generate meaningful cash, or even enough for a trip to the movies?

I turned them down, mostly because the author’s expertise doesn’t really match the focus of this blog.  I probably could have found an area of the author’s expertise to fit but there was the other issue of why I was speaking to her in the first place.  While this isn’t the first time I’ve received offers for stuff beyond the interview opportunity or review copy of a book, it is one of the most blatant.  So what do you think?  Am I being too critical or do you think this steps over the ethical line?

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Filed under Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Here Is A Great Lesson On Conversing

I use this space to complain from time to time (I know, you hadn’t noticed).  One of the targets of my screed is PR folks who send out emails requesting I interview and write about whatever person they’re pushing even if those people have nothing to do with what I write about.  In just the last few days (based on what I can find in my Trash folder), I’ve received offers to write (along with a press release and interview contact information) about a new system that eliminates fat cells in problem areas, without surgery or downtime, with the use of high intensity, focused ultrasound waves.  I got another from a press guy who has a client that’s a businessperson who believes that today’s tough economy may just be the best thing that’s happened to America in a long time (we’re focusing less on things and more on faith).  Others come from an email address that is supposed to be a person but is signed by “account #6” (oops).  There are several others.

Which is why this note was so refreshing (and why I’m giving them some props). Continue reading

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Filed under Helpful Hints

Answer Me!

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

We’ve talked a lot over the last couple of years in this space about companies and social media.  We’ve talked about how it’s not like printing a magazine ad or a TV commercial, meaning that those media are shot, edited, distributed and done.  Social media is a commitment; it requires support and maintenance.  You’ve been with me on that, right?

Apparently, we’re kind of alone out here kids, or at least I’m led to believe that based on some research I read the other day.  But maybe I’m overreacting – let’s see what you think. Continue reading

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Filed under digital media

Asking The Right Way

The Business Process Management Life-Cycle

I’ve been at this blogging thing going on three years now.  I know – you’d think I’d run out of things to say but there are an awful lot of random thoughts bouncing around my head.  Besides, lots of folks are really helpful about suggesting topics when I feel as if I’m running out of ideas (and you should feel free to do so).

Hopefully because I’m interesting but maybe because I’ve been at it a while, some of the folks suggesting topics are paid to do so.  That’s right – PR folks who want me to write about a book their client has written or some great new product they’ve released.  I got three of these yesterday (a typical day) and what was great is that one of them actually asked the right way. Continue reading

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Filed under digital media, Helpful Hints

Why Newspapers Won’t Die

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Hope everyone had a great holiday and now it’s back to business. My business brain got turned on yesterday as I read the article on the front of the NY Times business section. If you haven’t read the piece on how an unscrupulous web vendor grew his business by exploiting Google’s algorithm (my guess is it’s the same with the other search engines as well), you can read it here.  The gist of it is this dirtball welcomes and precipitates customer complaints, saying they vault his business higher in Internet search results.  It’s really frightening but in the almost 48 hours since it was published (on the web site Saturday night) a lot has happened.  Most importantly, it shows me once again why newspapers won’t die any time soon. Continue reading

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Undercover Boss

A typical wheelie bin household waste receptacle

Like many of you (well, 38 million of you anyway), I watched the debut of Undercover Boss following the Super Bowl broadcast. Interesting premise – a CEO goes undercover at his own company to see how the “stuff” rolls downhill until it lands amidst the workers we see on the show.
On the show the CEO of Waste Management, a seemingly nice enough guy, got a taste of how the policies he sets forth get implemented. It’s like a big corporate game of telephone and he was looking to understand what came out the other end. What he found out was that even with the best of intentions (and we can debate for hours what came out in the editing room), policies often get screwed up on the way to reality.  And that’s what hit me throughout: Continue reading

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks