Nike “Gold Digging”

August 16, 2012

The US women just completed an amazing Olympics.  Blog writer loves track and field so I will mention the world recording 4 by 100 relay and a blistering 4 by 400 relay by the women runners.  Allyson Felix stood out by winning 3 gold medals and making the finals of the 100 meters.  If you like other sports there are story lines for those as well.

One thing the Olympics cannot escape is sponsorship issues.  The negatives for the US women revolved around sponsorship issues.  The issue as Rule 40.  Basically athletes cannot use the Olympics to market/promote no-Olympic sponsors.  That means Adidas is okay but not Nike.  So athletes like Sanya Richards-Ross complained about it.  This was commercial not free speech and detracted from Olympic performances.  The Olympics sets rules and participation is an honor not a right.  Detraction number 1.  Detraction number 2 was the controversy over the women’s soccer team donning shirts reading “Greatness has been found.”  It was considered gloating and in poor taste.  Again, it becomes about the sponsors and what they want harms the athletes.

Now Nike has a new shirt that is raising eyebrows and protests.  As full disclosure, I do not hate Nike.  In fact I own many Nike shoes and running apparel.  However, there are times when even companies you like do things that are questionable.  The new shirt is for women and says “Gold digging.”  The shirt is meant to be funny.  Gold digging is traditionally a women looking to romance/marry for money.  In this case it means winning gold at the Olympics.  We can question (1) is the joke funny at all and (2) is it more offensive than funny.  Here is one take on it:

We don’t like to be super sensitive about these things, but something about this seems… off. The t-shirt features metallic gold lettering and Nike’s signature check logo and is only available for women (because women presumably love to be called gold diggers). But we can’t help but wonder if some ladies will be less than pleased with this kind of depiction.”

Questions to Consider?

1.  Is the shirt situation a crisis or an incident for Nike?  Explain your decision.

2.  Is it unethical for non-Olympic sponsor to pressure athletes into marking for them during the Olympics?  Why or why not?

3.  What arguments can be made for and against the US Women’s Soccer Team wearing the victory shirts?

4.  Overall, how have Nike’s actions impacted potential customers, especially women?

5.  If you were Nike, how would you defend the gold digging shirt?Image


Apple vs New York Times: Not Really but It Seemed Interesting

February 21, 2012

Anyone following Apple knows that the New York Times wrote a series of very critical articles about the Foxconn that makes iPads and iPods for Apples.  And to be fair, the facility makes produces for other electronics companies as well.  The focus of the article was on the working conditions and why electronics are no longer manufactured in the U.S.  Most people who read the articles would agree that the articles cast Apple in a negative light.  Moreover, a number of protests against Apple were appearing at this time as well.  You can see the earlier case about it at this site.

 

That brings us the supposed fight between Apple and the New York Times.  A number of online sources reported that Apple had snubbed the New York Times by not providing its reporters early access to its OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion operating system.  Here is a sample of the reports:

 

Apple Shuns The New York Times in OS X Mountain Lion Coverage Over Foxconn Reporting

Friday February 17, 2012 7:14 am PST by Eric Slivka

With yesterday’s announcements from Apple regarding its forthcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion operating system, a number of media outlets had been provided with advance briefings and early copies of the software for the purposes of having reviews prepared and ready to go. When Apple published its press release and went live with OS X Mountain Lion information at 8:30 AM Eastern yesterday, the embargo was lifted and all of the pre-briefed publications immediately posted their stories on the topic.

 

February 21, 2012

Snubbing the Media — Strategy or Revenge? Apple’s Stiff-Arming Of the NY Times After Paper’s Foxconn Exposé Offers a PR Lesson In Access Journalism — Gadget Giant Leaves Gray Lady Out In the Cold By Breaking News Elsewhere

Times all-star contributing columnist David Pogue got through to Schiller, but no regular Times journalist could make a dent. The reason for all this disrepect, the Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple speculates, was the hard-hitting Foxconn series the Times’ ran last month. Foxconn assembles roughly 40% of the world’s electronic devices, including those sold by Dells, HP and Sony — but the Times‘ series singled out Apple in way that many, including CEO Cook, thought was misleading and unfair. Was the cold shoulder the Gray Lady got this week really payback for the series? Reporters and editors at the Times seem to think so, Fortune reports.

The implications from the reporter were that Apple was purposeful not providing the New York Times with same early access to information it was providing other journalists.  In essence, the view was Apple was punishing the New York Times for its negative story.  This is a serious charge.  Organizations have every right to decide who they send information to and who they do not.  This point should not be disputed.  However, denying access because of a negative story is a dangerous measure.  At its worst, such an action is an attempt at censorship.  The message is, “mess with us and you pay a price.”  Journalists need to be free to write whatever they feel is appropriate and accurate.  PR people should not corrupt the system by trying to leverage any form of influence over them.  Here is how report described the situation:

 

Was the cold shoulder the Gray Lady got this week really payback for the series?  Reporters and editors at the Times seem to think so. Wemple got two quotes, one off the record, one on:

“They are playing access journalism … I’ve heard it from people inside Apple: They said, look, you guys are going to get less access based on the iEconomy series.”

“We’re never happy with our access to Apple. We never have been. Apple is a difficult company to report on,” says Damon Darlin, the paper’s tech editor. When asked how big a deal is the Journal‘s exclusive with Cook, Darlin responds: “Talking to the CEO of one of the largest technology companies, the highest-valued company of the world? Yes, we would like to do that. They know that.”

However, most reports were amended because there is no proof purposeful action by Apple to freeze out the New York Times.  Apple had briefed reporters before the release but asked for an embargo on stories until a specific time.  Most people based the negative actions by Apple on the New York Times key technology reporter David Pogue’s story was “slow” in appearing after the embargo was lifted and used information from the news release, not the information found in the early briefings.  Later reports included other reporters saying they saw Pogue waiting for a briefing and Pogue stated he had access to the early information.  In the end, the story was a non-story but did allow reporters to vent their frustration with Apple’s generally unresponsive nature to “the media.”

Questions to Consider

1.  If a company was restricting access to a media source after a negative story, could you justify that action?  Why or why not?

2.  What ethical issues are raised in this case especially those about quick, online reports?

3.  What do the tone of the stories saying about Apple’s reputation and relationship with many online and legacy media reporters?

4.  What responsibility does David Pogue have for correcting the story that he had been snubbed by Apple?  How did you reach that conclusion?

5.  Why has Apple used a limited access policy toward the media?  Has it been an effective strategy?  Why or why not?

 


Crisis Insurance for Reputations: Ironically from AIG

October 12, 2011

AIG are three letters associated with the financial crisis of 2008 and the US government bailout of corporations.  AIG received billions in bailout money from the US government after it lost nearly $100 billion dollars in 2008.  In fact the US Treasury still owns a majority of AIG’s common stock.  The price of that stock is still down 95% from its pre-crisis high.  AIG rebranded AIU in Chartis in 2009.  The rebranding was seen as an effort to separate Chartis, a branch of AIG that was profitable in 2008, from AIG thus sparing it the reputational damage created by AIG’s controversial bailout.  Here is how Chartis presents itself on its web site:

Finding New Ways to Lead

We have established ourselves as a world leader in insurance by helping our partners and customers realize their own plans for the future. Our fundamental strength lies in the 40,000 employees who serve more than 70 million clients around the world.

Every day, our people deliver commercial and personal insurance offerings through hundreds of innovative products and services. By counting on us to meet their unique insurance needs, our clients are able to pursue a secure course toward their goals.

Partnering With Our Customers Along Their Way

You can be sure that you have a dedicated partner in Chartis, one who will take on your challenges as its own. By meeting straightforward needs as well as solving complex issues, we make your confidence our number one priority. Whether the need is as fundamental as insuring a home, or as nuanced as covering environmental exposures, we’re committed to delivering what matters most to you.

Commercial Insurance

Every day, our people bring a critical measure of confidence to the plans and projects of businesses like yours. We provide commercial insurance products and services to the full spectrum of enterprises all around the world—from large, multinational, and mid-sized companies to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profit organizations.

Our offerings span traditional insurance categories such as property and casualty, and extend to new areas like political risk and crisis coverage. We also offer a breadth of products designed to meet the special requirements of particular industries.

As your needs evolve, so do our offerings: We maintain an ongoing dialogue with our diverse client base in order to identify emerging risks and respond with innovative underwriting solutions. To learn more about how Chartis can help you with your commercial insurance needs, please visit www.chartisinsurance.com.

Personal Insurance

Chartis has a long history of offering personal insurance solutions to meet the particular needs of individuals, families and students worldwide. Our products and services are tailored to meet the needs of consumers around the world.

Chartis is flexible and grows alongside you and your family. We consistently create dependable new offerings that address changes in your current lifestyle as well as your plans for the future. Our personal insurance solutions encompass a wide array of products, which can be tailored to meet your current and emerging needs.

To learn more about how Chartis can help you with your personal insurance needs for all ages, life stages and lifestyles, please visit www.chartisinsurance.com.

There is no mention of its roots in AIG.  Rebranding to protect reputations is based upon distance and Chartis keeps a wide distance from AIG.

This week, Chartis began offering customers a new insurance product known as ReputationGuard.  ReputationGuard is one of many crisis-related insurance products offered by Chartis.  The novel aspect of the new product was the recognition of the need to protect reputations during a crisis.  Here is how Chartis explains ReputationGuard:

Press Release Source: Chartis On Tuesday October 11, 2011, 9:04 am EDT

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)– The Chartis insurers today introduced ReputationGuard, an insurance policy that provides innovative coverage to help policyholders cope with reputational threats. Developed by Chartis’ Executive Liability division, ReputationGuard delivers the benefit of both access to world-class reputation and crisis communications professionals as well as coverage for costs associated with avoiding or minimizing the potential impact of negative publicity. The result is cutting-edge coverage against publicity that puts reputation and brand image at stake.

A recent survey of public and private board members shows that 69% of them now rank reputation risk as their primary concern.1 Another recent survey found that 79% of business decision makers believe they are only 12 months from a potential crisis.2

ReputationGuard gives policyholders access to a select panel of the internationally recognized and award winning communications firms of Burson-Marsteller and Porter Novelli. These firms are committed to providing strategic guidance and implementation support on critical communications issues on global, national and local scales.

Threats to reputation and brand image are more common and wide reaching today than ever before—and can impact a company’s bottom line. Events such as executive scandals, questions about product safety, data breaches, litigation and other negative publicity can become front page news and quickly impact reputation or brands. ReputationGuard combines the global reach of Chartis and its partners to increase an organization’s preparedness and access to key resources to stem the flow of damaging publicity in order to help protect its most valuable asset – its reputation.

“In today’s world, one person’s negative opinion can quickly become adverse publicity on a global scale,” said Tracie Grella, President of Chartis’ Professional Liability unit. “Public perception of the response to an event can have a lasting impact on an organization’s reputation. ReputationGuard is a unique solution to this exposure.”

Policyholders will gain access to a panel of world-renowned public relations experts and their affiliates:

Burson-Marsteller: Burson-Marsteller is a leading global public relations and communications firm operating across 96 countries. Companies engage Burson-Marsteller when the stakes are highest, during a crisis or at times of fundamental change or transition. It provides companies in crisis with strategic counsel and program development across the spectrum of public relations, public affairs, digital media, advertising and other communications services. For more than half a century, Burson-Marsteller has been selected time and again as a trusted partner to some of the world’s largest companies.

Porter Novelli: A global public relations leader, Porter Novelli has been providing issues and crisis counsel for nearly 40 years, serving clients from 90 locations around the world. Last year the agency introduced its Real-time Reputation specialty, which recognized that a world in which social media can damage hard-won reputations in just minutes requires a fundamentally different way to practice crisis communications. Porter Novelli’s Real-time Reputation Specialty is an end-to-end offering that includes everything from preemptive communications to programs that help restore corporate reputation after an incident. Its team of specialists in brand, corporate communications and social media work with senior corporate and public affairs communicators to plan for adverse events and move rapidly – within minutes – to manage these events both online and off, employing both conventional and digital means to mitigate possible damage to corporate reputation.

Analysts feel the product will be attractive to small and medium sized companies that lack in-house crisis communication capabilities. 

Burson-Marsteller is actually a link back to AIG.  Burson-Marsteller was hired by AIG to help it combat the reputational damage it was suffering from the bailout.  Critics did note that AIG used money from the US government to pay for consulting help designed to address problems from taking that same money from the government.  It was interesting that some news reports used the ReputationGuard announcement to link AIG to Chartis.  In a way, the announcement became a potential reputational threat for Chartis. 

Questions to Consider:

1.  What are the ethical implications of rebranding to escape past problems?  Is there an element of deception in this strategy that should raise ethical concerns?

2.  How much of a threat to Chartis is the revived connection between it and AIG?  Justify your evaluation of the threat?

3.  How does ReputationGuard help to validate much of the crisis communication research about crisis and reputation such as SCCT?

4.  Why was the bailout such a crisis for AIG?

5.  How does being part of ReputationGuard help of hurt the reputations of Burson-Marsteller and Porter Novelli?

6.  If you worked for a company, how would you justify either purchasing or not purchasing ReputationGuard?  In your answer consider the limits to ReputationGuard as a crisis management device.


Too Young for “Push-up” Tops: Abercrombie Kids Slowly Understands

March 31, 2011

Abercrombie Kids, a division of Abercrombie & Fitch, sells to an age range of 7 to 14 years old.  Now that is a fairly broad range and naturally there are differences in what is appropriate for each age range.    So when the company marketed a product across this range, there was some negative reactions.  The product was the top for a bikini.  The top of the “Ashley” was push-up, designed to enhance breasts.  Many mothers and social critics cried foul over sexualizing children as young a 7. 

Here is a sample criticism

“The spring line features three styles of tops: triangle,  bandeau…and push up. All starting at size 7. The push-up tops must be big sellers—they’re at the top of the list of swim top offerings. Of course, I can see why.  When you’re shopping for a bikini, there’s basically one ideal in the universal mind. Even a 7 year old knows you’re supposed to look like the girls in the pages of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

The thing is, it’s our job to show them why that’s not a good idea, not to help them achieve this fantasy sooner.”

The criticisms of Abercrombie appear online and in the traditional news media.  As CNN reported:  “No stranger to controversy, U.S. retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has come under fire for offering a push-up bikini top to young girls.  Its “Ashley” bikini — described as “padded” and a “push-up” — was posted on the Abercrombie Kids website earlier this week.  The company declined to comment Saturday but noted it has since updated the description of its bikini online.”  The consistent theme is these messages was that the marketing was age inappropriate and somewhat “creepy.” 

As background information, here are some addition controversies for Abercrombie:

“In 2002, for instance, the trendy retailer caught flak from parents because it was selling thong underwear in children’s sizes with the words “eye candy” and “wink wink” printed on the front.

In 2001, the company’s quarterly catalog created a stir when it ran photographs of models who appeared to be college-age or younger in the nude, kissing and fondling each other.”

The conflict carried over to Abercrombie Kids’ Facebook page as people debated whether or not the company had acted inappropriately.  As you might expect, there were defenders who were fans of Abercrombie.  Their points was if you do not like it, don’t buy it.  Here is a defending comment: 

Minreal Herrera

‘Ok stop really
Dont lik it? Dont buy it!
Dont lik our comments? Dont read them and to renee i think kids shood hav a say, and u cant control ur child forever! Of u want u can but other kids rnt urs so u cant tell us wat to say or do! So rea…lly… STOp!’

Another point that was made was that the smaller sizes might fit the younger demographic but some age appropriate buyers are smaller than normal for their age and want this style. 

The critics did respond:

“to all the people who said if u dont like it dont buy it.. really??? if u think 7 year olds should make them selves look sexually suggestive then u have a scew loose. u know there is that mom out there who has to “be cool” and buy it. kids dont understand the perverts out there. and too many moms are just plain stupid! so just get rid of it!”

Their point is that sexualizing children is wrong and responsible companies should not facilitate that process.  It is not a question of whether to buy it or not but whether or not it is appropriate at all to sell. 

Abercrombie did change after the “outrage” and related media coverage appeared.  Here is their statement:

“We’ve re-categorized the Ashley swimsuit as padded,” according to a statement posted Monday on the Abercrombie Kids Facebook page. “We agree with those who say it is best ‘suited’ for girls age 12 and older.”

The challenge from stakeholders was respect as Abercrombie changed the marketing of the produce to reflect the concern from critics, to a degree.  People may still debate their age choice.

Questions to Consider

1.  To what degree do you think past controversies affected the current situation and why?

2.  Do you agree or disagree with the critics of the marketing?  Why or why not?

3.  Why would this situation qualify as a paracrisis?

4.  What was the danger if Abercrombie choose to defend its actions?  Could they have done this successfully?  Why or why not?

5.  Some people claim all publicity is good publicity.  Do you feel that is the case here?  Why or why not?

6.  How ethical was Abercrombie in this case?  How ethical were their critics?


Fear the Energy Drinks? New Evidence of the Dangers of Energy Drinks

February 16, 2011

It should be no surprise to anyone that too much energy drink consumption is bad for a person, especially children.  But how much is too much?  And how is bad for a person?  It is not uncommon for young people to drink more than one energy drink to stay up to engage in a variety of activities from gaming to studying.  The issue becomes the risks posed from the energy drinks.  The problem centers on the high amounts of caffeine and other ingredients that provide “energy.”  In reality, those ingredients heart palpitations, seizures, strokes, and even death.  Caffeine is the central ingredient.  Energy drinks typical contains  four to five the amount found in sodas.  Physicians now argue that drinking four or five energy drinks per day can be dangerous for children. 

Here is a summary of a recent medical study

Energy drinks may pose a risk for serious adverse health effects in some children, especially those with diabetes, seizures, cardiac abnormalities or mood and behavior disorders.

A new study, “Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults,” in the March issue of Pediatrics (published online Feb. 14), determined that energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit to children, and both the known and unknown properties of the ingredients, combined with reports of toxicity, may put some children at risk for adverse health events.

Youth account for half of the energy drink market, and according to surveys, 30 percent to 50 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks. Typically, energy drinks contain high levels of stimulants such as caffeine, taurine, and guarana, and safe consumption levels have not been established for most adolescents. Because energy drinks are frequently marketed to athletes and at-risk young adults, it is important for pediatric health care providers to screen for heavy use both alone and with alcohol, and to educate families and children at-risk for energy drink overdose, which can result in seizures, stroke and even sudden death.

Here is the name an link to the full report:  ‘Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults’

This is not an overreaction from a group of concerned parents or scare tactics from a group that does not like energy drinks.  This is a scientifically based study by trained medical professionals trying to understand the potential risk of a product.  Nor is the concern sudden.  In 2010, The American Association of Poison Control Centers began tracking energy drink overdoses and side effects nationwide.  Their findings:  677 cases occurred from October through December of 2010 and 331 have been reported this year (Feb of 2010).  One issue that Poison Control has is the failure of many companies to disclose the amount of caffeine in drinks.  In fact, the Poison Control Centers began issuing warnings about energy drinks three years ago.

If young people are a key target market, we would expect concern from the beverage industry about this new report.  Here is a statement from Maureen Storey, senior vice president of science policy at the American Beverage Association, an industry group, said the report “does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation” about energy drinks. The Association added: 

“Like all foods, beverages and supplements sold in the US, energy drinks and their ingredients are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration,” the ABA said. “When it comes to caffeine, it’s important to put the facts in perspective. Most mainstream energy drinks actually contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee. In fact, young adults getting coffee from popular coffeehouses are getting about twice as much caffeine as they would from a similar size energy drink.”

Here is more from the Association’s news release

“It’s unfortunate that the authors of this article would attempt to lump all energy drinks together in a rhetorical attack when the facts of their review clearly distinguishes the mainstream responsible players from novelty companies seeking attention and increased sales based solely on extreme names and caffeine content.

Their review confirms that the amount of caffeine in mainstream energy drinks is, in fact, moderate. As a comparison, energy drinks typically contain half the caffeine found in regular coffeehouse coffee. Specifically, a 16-ounce regular blend coffee at a popular coffeehouse contains 320 mg of caffeine, while a comparable size mainstream energy drink contains about 160 mg (see graphic here: http://www.ameribev.org/industry-issues/healthy-balanced-diet/beverage-ingredients/caffeine/fact-sheets/download.aspx?id=192). So those suggesting that energy drinks should require warning labels need to be aware of the slippery slope this would create: to be consistent, products at coffeehouses also would require such unnecessary labeling.

Furthermore, our companies market their energy drink products responsibly. It’s unhelpful to the public that the authors would combine certain extreme products with illicit or suggestive names with other more mainstream energy drinks in an effort to sensationalize and demonize the entire product category and gain exposure for their work.

Questions to Consider

1.  How would you evaluate the credibility of the study?  Why does credibility matter in issues management?

2.  How ethical is the charge of misinformation made by the American Beverage Association?  Explain your evaluation.

3.  Is it fair to say the reaction from the American Beverage Association was predictable?  Why or why not?

4.  Should the energy drink makers be worried about new regulations appearing as a result of this study?  Why or why not?

5.  How would you evaluate the American Beverage Association’s reaction from an issues management perspective?  From a crisis management perspective?

6.  How would you evaluate the risk this report posses to the energy drink makers?  How did you arrive at that evaluation?


Bitter Chocolate for Hershey and Others: How Candy Fuels Child Labor

February 13, 2011

In February, chocolate is a popular items for St. Valentine’s Day.  Chocolate does better on Halloween and Easter but St. Valentine’s Day is pretty good as well.  These chocolate holidays are the targets for Green America.  Green America wants to raise awareness of how child labor is used and exploited in the production of chocolate.  Green America is pushing a fair supply chain that asks companies to refuse to purchase cocoa (key ingredient of chocolate) from growers using and abusing child labor, including slave labor.  Moreover, the oppressive government in the Ivory Coast, a major supplier of cocoa, uses chocolate money to stay in power.  Green America is trying to raise awareness as a means of stimulating action.  It asks people to contact Hershey, the main supplier of chocolate in the US, and demand that Hershey change its purchasing of cocoa or face a boycott.  The campaign is known as “Raise the Bar Hershey.”  Here is some of the text form messages they are encouraging people to send:

As a conscientious consumer of chocolate I have one very simple question for you—where is the Fair Trade Hershey Bar?

When I go to buy chocolate, I look for Fair Trade Certified™ cocoa because I know it was made without the worst forms of child labor, forced labor, or human trafficking.  Fair Trade also provides farmers with enough income to care for their families and send their children to school.  I find it unbelievable that Hershey, a company founded on the principle of caring for underprivileged children in the United States, would be comfortable sourcing cocoa that has likely been produced with the worst forms of child labor. 

Shifting to third-party certification is entirely possible, as evidenced by other major chocolate companies such as Cadbury and Nestlé. Green & Black’s and Ben & Jerry’s have both recently committed to going 100% Fair Trade! More and more consumers are seeking out responsible choices—the market is ready for a Fair Trade chocolate bar bearing the Hershey name.

I ask that you meet the goals of the “Raise The Bar, Hershey!” campaign, which include:

* an agreement to take immediate action to eliminate forced and child labor in your cocoa supply chain;

* a commitment to sourcing 100% Fair Trade Certified™ cocoa beans by 2012 for at least one of your top five selling chocolate bars that prominently displays the Hershey name; and

* a commitment to making at least one additional top five selling bar 100% Fair Trade Certified™ every two years thereafter, so that Hershey’s top five selling cocoa bars will all be 100% Fair Trade Certified™ within 10 years.

I look forward to the day that I can choose a Fair Trade Tell Hershey

Green America is upset because the problem of child labor in the cocoa industry has been well known in the industry for many years.  Here is a summary of the problem written in 2010: 

“Hershey’s, Nestlé, and the other big chocolate companies know this. They promised nearly a decade ago to set up a system to certify that no producers in their supply chains use child labor. They gave themselves a July 2005 deadline for that, which came and went without meaningful action. A second voluntary deadline sailed by as well in 2008. There’s a new deadline for voluntary action at the end of this year. Don’t hold your breath.”  Child Slavery

Green America use a variety of communication tactics to make their point.  Here is part of a recent news release:

Planning on buying your sweetheart Hershey chocolates for Valentine’s Day?  You might not be “in the mood” to do so if you knew where that chocolate came from in Western Africa, where trafficked child labor is widely used for chocolate production.  Unlike most leading global chocolate makers (including those in the U.S.), Hershey is still declining to take steps to curb such abuses in its supply chain.  No Kisses

A key communication element is the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate.”  The documentary shows the child labor and abuse within the cocoa industry.  For six dollars, people are sent a copy of the DVD and asked to show it to their friends.  There are also documents rate chocolate companies using a score card related to human rights.  People are also encourage to post messages on Hershey’s Facebook page 

You might ask why Hershey?  Here is the answer:

Hershey is America’s favorite chocolate brand, accounting for 42.5% of the US market. Yet, inside almost every Hershey chocolate product is the bitter truth that the cocoa used to produce the chocolate may very well have been produced under harmful conditions, including forced labor, human trafficking, and abusive child labor.

Since at least 2001, the Hershey Company has been aware of the problems that exist at the start of its supply chain, yet it continues to source from this region without ensuring that labor rights abuses do not occur in the production of the cocoa it uses.

Here is a summary of why we are asking Hershey to Raise The Bar:

Sourcing Much of Hershey’s cocoa is sourced from West Africa, a region plagued by forced labor, human trafficking and abusive child labor. Hershey does not have a system in place to ensure that its cocoa purchases from this region are not tainted by labor rights abuses.
Transparency Hershey continuously refuses to identify its cocoa suppliers; therefore it is impossible to verify that its chocolate was not made under conditions of abusive child labor.
Certification A reputable, independent, third-party certification can ensure that a process is in place to identify and remediate labor rights abuses. For cocoa, the strongest certification system currently available is Fair Trade. Unlike many of its competitors, Hershey’s has not embraced certification. Only one of Hershey’s chocolate bars, in its Dagoba line, is Fair Trade Certified.
Laggard Hershey lags behind its competitors when it comes to purchasing cocoa that has been certified to meet certain labor, social, and environmental standards. Most major chocolate companies offer Fair Trade options now, and many smaller companies have been 100% Fair Trade for years.
Greenwashing Hershey points to various charitable donations to children in the US and programs in West Africa as examples of its social responsibility, yet has no policies in place to ensure that the cocoa used in its products is not produced with forced, trafficked, or child labor.

Questions to Consider

1.  How ethical is it target Hershey?  Provide a rationale for your answer.

2.  Is the Green America campaign a type of astroturfing?  Provide a rationale for your answer.

3.  How does this case illustrate the shift in tactics activists and others use in today’s public relations?

4.  What else could Green America be doing to raise awareness of this issue?  To get people to act on this issue?

5.  Do you consider this issue to be legitimate?  Why or why not?

6.  If you worked for Hershey, what actions would you recommend be taken in reaction to this effort and why?

7.  How does the case illustrate the effects of globalization?

8.  How does this case related to transparency and CSR?


Importing “Skins” Creates Headaches for MTV

January 22, 2011

“Skins” is a show about teenagers that takes a very frank look at sex and drug use.  It was developed and shown in the UK on the BBC.  In 2011, MTV has created an American version.  It is common practice to adapt UK shows for American television.  “The Office” is recent success of American adaptation.  Some shows work, some fail miserably.  “Skins” is consider a minor hit by drawing over 3 million viewers.  But it is also drawing a lot of negative attention for those organizations associated with it.

Leading the charge against “Skins” is The Parents Television Council (PTC).  The PTC is a conservative organization that promotes family values.  Part of that effort includes warning parents about inappropriate show, pressuring networks to remove the inappropriate shows, and persuading advertisers to stop buy time on inappropriate shows.  Whether or not you agree with their view point, the PTC has well-organized communication plan for creating pressure fueled by the Internet.  Through Internet channels, the PTC can gain signatures for petitions, have people e-mail target networks and advertisers, contact the government, and solicit donations.  They have an excellent model for how public relations can be used to further the goals of activists, especially in the online environment.  It is worth a visit to their web site to see how they use online public relations.

Many people argue that if the PTC does not like a show, then they should not watch the show.  If you review the list of shows the PTC targets, you will probably find a show you like and agree people should just change the channel.  However, the PTC is exercising free speech and have a right to complain about content they do not like.  But that does not mean others have to agree with them or change programming.  “Skins” is pushing the boundaries and the PTC is arguing that it qualifies as child pornography and note it may be the most dangerous show ever. The PTC has requested a Federal investigation into charges of child pornography and exploitation. 

The PTC’s primary targets are advertisers.  They ask people to pressure advertisers to not buy time on inappropriate shows.  The idea is guilt by association.  If they advertisers supports and show that is not family friendly, the advertiser is not family friendly.  If it is difficult to get advertisers for a show, no network will keep running that show.  Television is about money and money comes from advertisers. 

Here is a statement that illustrates the PTC tactic:

“Every single advertiser who sponsored the premiere episode of ‘Skins’ is not only endorsing, but glorifying teen drug and alcohol abuse, not to mention a plethora of baseless sexual content. The following companies and brand names can rest assured that they will be hearing from PTC about their decision to sponsor the program: Schick Hydro, H&R Block, L’Oreal, Subway, Foot Locker, Orbit chewing gum and Extra chewing gum. We sincerely hope these advertisers will agree that the content in ‘Skins’ is harmful to their corporate image,” Winter concluded.

So far, Taco Bell and GM had both stopped advertising on skins. 

Taco Bell said:

A Taco Bell spokesman said Thursday evening, “We advertise on a variety of MTV programs that reach our core demographic of 18 to 34 year olds, which included the premiere episode of Skins. Upon further review, we’ve decided that the show is not a fit for our brand and have moved our advertising to other MTV programming.”

The PTC was very happy with these actions:

The Parents Television Council ™ joined with families and parents to thank Taco Bell for pulling advertisements from MTV’s new show, “Skins.” Following a PTC take action alert asking members to contact Taco Bell about sponsoring the program, the company asserted that the racy content was not in line with its brand.

The PTC also praised General Motors for its swift response after our members contacted GM about two Chevy Volt advertisements which aired during “Skins.”

“PTC applauds Taco Bell for pulling its ad dollars away from the extremely graphic content on MTV’s ‘Skins.’ We express our thanks o n behalf of countless families, especially those who contacted Taco Bell directly with their concerns ,” PTC President Tim Winter said.

“PTC also thanks General Motors for swiftly responding to PTC members’ concerns about Chevy Volt advertisements. GM told PTC that ‘Skins’ was on its ‘do not buy’ list on MTV, and that MTV admitted placing the Chevy commercial on ‘Skins’ in error. GM also stated that MTV had apologized for its error.

“Skins” still has some advertisers.  Viacom, owners of MTV, have asked the show be careful because being associated with child pornography is not what any company wants.

Here is how the creator of the series, Bryan Elsley responded:

Skins is definitely not the most dangerous program ever on television,” Elsley said. “People should just watch the show and see if they feel it’s really as bad as they think. It might be worthwhile reminding people that the first episode of Skins is about a boy who sets out to lose his virginity and realizes later in the episode that he’s not ready.”

H&R Block and Wrigley’s can be added to the list of lost sponsors.  Also ratings for the second episode fell by 50%.

Questions to Consider

1.  How does this case illustrate the power of online public relations/communication?

2.  Is it ethical to use charges of child pornography in this case?  Why or why not?

3.  What else could those associated with “Skins” due to defend the show?

4.  How does the response by Taco Bell serve to validate the efforts of the PTC?

5.  Is this case about free speech or censorship?  Justify your answer.

6.  What is the risk of the PTC effort backfiring by increasing the popularity of “Skins?”


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