SPINdustry? And we wonder why PR is not taken seriously.

February 24, 2010

Public relation (PR) as an industry has a reputation problem.  The problem stems from stakeholders and other managers not taking PR seriously.  This is due in part to a lack of understanding about what PR can do.  Too often PR is treated as simple publicity and not the larger management function that it can be.  Care publicity can be strategic and valuable but PR is more than publicity and is not simple publicity—doing anything to attract attention.  However, the public face of PR is primarily publicity.  The popular press books on PR emphasize publicity.  Now Kim Kardashian, a person whose claim to fame is wanting to be famous and exposing herself to the world via reality television, produced a documentary/show about the PR industry titled SPINdustry.  Interestingly the show features the celebrity “PR firm” Command PR that created Kim’s fame.  Now she is trying to boost Command PR by sharing them with the world.  All of this has been brought to the public thanks to E televisions.  http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978061279

The show gives us “insights” into the world of celebrity-based PR (not real PR).  We learn about celebrities are book and how a “PR firm” works.  Insights are provided by Command PR founder Jonathan Cheban and his top manager Simon Huck. http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978060489

If the start of the show is any indication, PR is about verbally abusing your staff for putting mustard on your sandwich and swearing profusely for added effect.  This is a formula for reality tv success, not real PR.  On reality tv acting like, pardon the expression but it fits so well, a braying ass is the way to more air time and fame.  If what you do is not that interesting you need to rant and rave.  Give the Kardashians credit, they had interesting lives if you are into following celebrity lives.  The web site for Command PR can be found at http://www.commandpr.com/.  It is only a paragraph about the firm and contact information with music.  The introduction and flashes, however, may induce a seizure.  True to a publicity view of PR is heavy on style and short on substance.

Questions to Consider

  1.  How do shows like SPINdustry help to hold PR back from being taken seriously?
  2. How do you think real PR professionals will react to the show and why?
  3. Is reality tv simply a corruption of publicity?  Why or why not?
  4. Do you see any ethical concerns about this situation?
  5. How would you explain this show if people asked you if that was what PR was like?
  6. How might this show impact the future of public relations?
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Is Imagination better than Reality? iPad and Apple Stock drop

January 27, 2010

The Internet buzz for the new Apple tablet has been intense.  See the early blog case about it https://prstrategyandapplication.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/when-a-rumor-is-a-good-thing/.  Or go out online and find any of the thousands of posts and the invention.  It was rumored to do almost anything.  More specifically it would be a huge iPhone (iPod touch if you do not have AT&T) that would be a great book reader, wonderful gaming platform, perfect for on the going video, and change our lives forever.  An investors were excited by the prospect.  Apple stock constantly went up.  There almost seemed to be a correlation between iPad rumors and stock price increases. 

On January 27, 2010, the iPad arrived.  People finally had an official name.  The tablet had been rumored to be called the iSlate or simply called an iPhone on steroids.  Apple CEO Steve Jobs stood before the news media and showed what the iPad could do including a demonstration of its on-screen keyboard.  Finally the Internet had real information, not just rumors or what publishing executives claimed they learned when talking to Apple about creating content for the device.  http://www.ktla.com/business/sns-ap-us-tec-apple,0,3176809.story.  News outlets and bloggers created a second sea of information about the iPad touch.  Now speculation shifted from what it will be and do to how it will impact businesses, society, and individuals. 

We now know the iPad does read books, play video games, show videos, and web browses through the Apple Safari browser.  People speculate that Kindle finally has a rival.  A rival with better features (still speculative) and access to content (a known fact).  So iPad will impact the e-reader market in some way.   Next up is video games.  Smart phones brought mobile gaming to millions through apps.  There are mobile gaming systems such as the DSi but those are for people who want games.  Smart phones drew in another group,  people who were not gaming or mobile gaming but now could and did now.  Will the iPad impact video gaming, especially mobile gaming?  The potential is there with the better screen size reducing eye fatigue and frustration of missing a detail that hurts your game play.  The question will return to price and variety of games.  With apps being plentiful the issue may be more price of the iPad than available content.  http://www.modbee.com/business/story/1023644.html#ixzz0dqE1XIVw

 Video is better with a bigger screen.  High definition is not the same on the iPhone screen compared to a bigger screen.  Also the connectivity of the iPad should make it easier to watch videos, especially streaming videos.  There are application for mobile teleconferencing but more people will watch videos than teleconference.  So changes in how people access video many continue.  Nexflix has direct viewing of films and YouTube will be easier to watch while on the move.   The telconferencing eas was anticipated but, as of now, there is no camera for the iPad.  There is also no Flash capability or USB port.  Here is an article that details what is missing from the iPad http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2010/jan/28/apple-tablet-computer.  More evidence that our imagination of what the iPad could be does exceed the reality. 

The oddity in all of this is the stock price reaction to the iPad official reveal.  Apple stock prices went down after the announcement.  In early Wednesday trading the share price fell $4.65 or about 2.3% http://www.ktla.com/business/sns-ap-us-tec-apple,0,3176809.story.  Still Apple is well ahead of where share prices began before the iPad buzz.  But we must wonder if the iPad seemed better in our minds than it did in reality?  Yet more disappointment for people wanting to live or visit Pandora.

Questions to Consider

  1.  Was Apple’s publicity build up to the iPad too successful?  Why or why not?
  2. Is it ethical to leak information online to help build interest in a product?  Why or why not?
  3. How did bloggers and the Internet in general help to build interest in the iPad?
  4. How was the iPad build up a type of investor relations?
  5. What is the advantage of Apple making the announcement after the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)?
  6. Why is CES such an important publicity event in the electronics industry?

Quality Control for Public Relations still an Issue: A Bristol Palin PR Firm?

January 7, 2010

Edward Bernays was one of the voiced calling for some type control over entry into the field of public relations.  He even called for licensing practitioners.  The idea was that licensing would help to make public relations a profession.  Here is a excerpt from his proposed bill to requiring licensing of PR.  For more information on the topic visit the Museum of Public Relations (http://www.prmuseum.com/bernays/bernays_1990.html):

 “On April 7, 1992, a public hearing before a Massachusetts Joint House and Senate Committee on Government Regulations will address the licensing of public relations practitioners. No legal standard for public relations practitioners currently exists. Anyone can hang up a shingle as a public relations practitioner and often does.

The status quo produces two victims: (1) clients or employers of public relations practitioners who usually have no standard by which to measure qualifications and (2) qualified practitioners whose positions are demeaned by those lacking the experience, education, skills and integrity that true professionals have long labored to attain. Equally important, the public interest is poorly served when those who heavily influence the channels of communication and action in a media-dominated society are inept or worse.

To protect the public and their professions, doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers and other professionals sought licensing and registration from the English Parliament in the early 1880s. Professionalism was adopted soon after within the United States. This action protected both the professionals and the public from the malfeasance of impostors.

Voluntary registration as that proposed by Bill #374 would not infringe on First Amendment rights. Persons passing the licensing exam would be entitled to use a special legalized title that would denote mastery of a body of knowledge and adherence to a recognized code of ethics.

The legislative action I urge is in the public interest. The academic requirements for the new profession of public relations will not affect any presently active practitioner. Public relations curricula in many universities will be modified to meet the criteria of state boards or examiners.

Edward L. Bernays” 

While many in the field may view licensing as radical, most agree there are benefits to having some standards for the field.  These standards include training.  Consider how PRSA has an accreditation based on skills and knowledge (there are courses to prepare for the test).  As the PRSA web site note:  “Our profession is among the most misunderstood and criticized. Through their high professional and ethical standards, Accredited professionals contribute to greater understanding of public relations as a vital management function, and undermine those who would refer to our craft as spin, our professionals as flacks, and our currency as misrepresentation and disinformation” (http://www.prsa.org/Learning/Accreditation/).   Moreover, PRSA is active in efforts to improve college public relations curriculum as part of the effort be create a profession through knowledgeable practitioners.

Education, including accreditation, is one way to build public relations’ credibility as a “profession.”  Profession is in quotation marks because there are debates over what constitutes a profession and whether or not public relations meets those criteria.  Profession is used here in common usage rather than a technical term.  Bernays complained “Anyone can hang up a shingle and become a … public relations practitioner” http://www.prmuseum.com/bernays/bernays_1990.html.  He meant that as a criticism, not a compliment.

On Jan. 7, 2010, a story begins to spread about Sarah Palin’s 19 year old daughter Bristol forming a public relations firm.  It appeared in traditional media, trade sites (http://www.bulldogreporter.com/ME2/Audiences/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=53D88D74A99849C185183B336A3F3B02&tier=4&id=7EB04417671A4C3FAA4988D823377F05&AudID=213D92F8BE0D4A1BB62EB3DF18FCCC68), and blogs.  One observer said she should be prepared because she grew up in a family that was using public relations http://www.prmuseum.com/bernays/bernays_1990.html.  That is a very weak argument.  If your parents were accountants, does that make you’re an accountant?  Bernays pointed is proved if a 19 year-old with no training in public relations can form a public relations firm.  Where is the check on quality?

Idea that the business is a public relations firm is implied in the documents filed by Palin.  Her attorney noted the BSMP LLC and is a single-member limited liability corporation includes lobbying, public relations, and political consulting.  Bristol Palin is an ambassador for the Candie’s Foundation, a pro-abstinence group.  It was observed that single-member limited liability corporations are used when a person starts receiving income from various sources because it offers tax advantages http://www.mediabistro.com/prnewser/media_people/bristol_palin_launching_pr_firm_147936.asp

So the business may never really be a public relations practice.  But still, it raises questions about how easy it is for anyone to call what they do public relations.  Those calling themselves public relations include company designed to be paid for editing Wikipedia content.  Public relations can be harmed when untrained practitioners inflict themselves on unknowing clients.

Question to Consider

  1.  What are the arguments against licensing of public relations practitioners?
  2. Why might accreditation be an effective alternative to licensing practitioners?
  3. What is needed to make accreditation more meaningful in public relations and business in general?
  4. Why is it dangerous to the public and the practice to have poorly trained individuals acting as public relations practitioners?
  5. What does PRSA recommend as the curriculum for a public relations major?
  6. How is this case an example of treating public relations as just publicity?

When a Rumor is a Good Thing

January 1, 2010

Publicity efforts in public relations are primarily a “push” effort.  PR people try to get others to use or view their information.  It is rare when publicity is a “pull” effort where people seek out your information.  Crises are an example of “pull” efforts as stakeholders want to know what happened.  However, no sane managers want to build publicity efforts around a crisis.  Yes, you can get positive effects from an extreme well managed crisis but that is not a option with a high reward value given the costs (damages) and risks.  It is within the realm of crises that we find rumors and the right type of “pull” effort.

In crises, rumors or rumours are defined as incorrect information circulating about your organization.  More generally, a rumor is information that lacks verification—people do not know whether or not it is true.  We typically think of rumors as a bad thing, as in crises, but rumors can be true and beneficial.  One popular view of rumors is that they are sensemaking efforts designed to reduce uncertainty.  As rumor experts Bordia and DiFonzo (2004) stated, “Rumors arise in situations that are personally relevant but ambiguous or cognitively unclear, and when credible explanations are not available from traditional sources” (p. 33).  [To see the first page of their article go to http://www.jstor.org/pss/3649102 which is Social Psychological Quarterly (2006) volume 1].  Most rumor research still focuses on how sensemaking is used to cope with problems (dread).  But the research also examines wish rumors which can be linked to opportunities.

In December of 2009, more Internet traffic was being generated for an Apple rumor.  Now Apple has had its share of problem rumors.  The best case being Steve Job’s supposed heart attack that caused Apple stock to drop in price (http://flowtv.org/?p=2259).  But in December of 2009, the focus was on a potential new product, the Apple tablet.  Many legitimate new sources were reporting on the rumor including the Financial Times (http://blogs.ft.com/techblog/2009/12/exclusive-apple-to-host-event-in-january/) and Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-apple-tablet31-2009dec31,0,5542993.story).   The rumor reports are a form of publicity for the “product.”  People, driven by uncertainty caused by a lack of official information by Apple, are searching the Internet for more information about the Apple tablet thereby fueling the rumor.  This is “pull” publicity as people seek information about the product via rumors.

The rumored product is essentially a large version of the iPhone with a screen just over 10 inches.  The device will be very light and capable of being a book reader like Kindle.  It will have a touch screen and virtual keyboard so no need for a mouse.  Evidence to support the rumor come from searches of the U.s. Patent Office records, Apple booking the San Francisco Convention Center in later January for product announcement, and people close to Apple releasing information (anonymous sources).  In addition, people “know” the product will cost around $800 and be released in the summer of 2010.  One of the hot places for information is Mac Rumors, a blog written by Arnold Kim that tracks rumors about Apple http://www.macrumors.com/

Here is sample of content from Mac Rumors about the Apple tablet:

“Exactly what purpose or role an Apple tablet will fulfill is a legitimate question that has been raised on a number of occasions. Since other company’s tablets have so far been commercially unsuccessful, what could Apple bring to the table that will suddenly make them a success? Steve Jobs himself has previously questioned what they were good for besides surfing the web in the bathroom.

Gruber believes the upcoming Apple Tablet will replace the low end of Apple’s portable computer market which is currently held by the MacBook and instead focus on some core functionality and do it well.

And so in answer to my central question, regarding why buy The Tablet if you already have an iPhone and a MacBook, my best guess is that ultimately, The Tablet is something you’ll buy instead of a MacBook.

Like all Apple products, The Tablet will do less than we expect but the things it does do, it will do insanely well. It will offer a fraction of the functionality of a MacBook — but that fraction will be way more fun.

Apple clearly has been able to reinvent a class of product like they did with the MP3 player (iPod) and mobile phone (iPhone), and people are certainly hoping they will be able to do the same thing with the Tablet. Much of the differentiation of these products was done in software, so we agree with Gruber that the Tablet OS can’t and won’t simply be a scaled up iPhone OS or scaled down Mac OS.

One common prediction I disagree with is that The Tablet will simply be more or less an iPod Touch with a much bigger display. But in the same way that it made no sense for Apple to design the iPhone OS to run Mac software, it makes little sense for a device with a 7-inch (let alone larger) display to run software designed for a 3.5-inch display.

Exactly how that will be accomplished, of course, is the big secret.

Apple is rumored to be launching their Tablet in 2010 and Steve Jobs has been described as being extremely happy with the upcoming device.”  http://www.macrumors.com/

There is a lot of information out there for a product Apple has never officially discussed.  There is even more interest than information at this point.  The case illustrates the potential of a rumor to fuel “pull” publicity.  Of course not all organizations are Apple and not all products will generate such interest but there is potential for positive rumors when information is scare and interest is high.  The key is find ways to leak information to help move the rumor along.

Questions to Consider

  1. Is it ethical for organizations to fuel rumors about themselves?  Why or why not?
  2. How does the online environment help to make rumors an effective form of “pull” publicity?
  3. Based on the case, what are the optimal conditions necessary for creating an effective rumor to drive positive publicity?
  4. What is the role on a site like Mac Rumors in this process of rumors for positive publicity?
  5. How might an organization transition/build from rumor publicity to traditional publicity?
  6. What are the greatest risks associated with using rumors to develop positive, “pull” publicity?

Raisin in the Spotlight: Sun-Maid goes CGI

December 4, 2009

In 2006, Sun-Maid made a significant change in the Sun-Maid girl. The 1915 image was revised, in advertising not on the box, with a CGI makeover for part of the 90th anniversary.  This was not the first revision to the iconic Sun-maid girl but is clearly the most dramatic.  The original image is from a watercolor painting of Lorraine Collett Petersen, an actual person.  The most recent CGI version changes the pose from just holding a basket to holding a bunch of grades too and updating her look.  You can find a history of the image at http://www.sun-maid.com/en/about/sunmaid_girl.html.  Keep in mind the image on the box did not change, only the advertisements and the image used at the web site.  Other iconic advertising images, including Betty Crocker and Misses Butterworth have be revised over the years.

Both the new look and CGI effect have draw attention and critics, much of it recent attention.  In December of 2009, Yahoo featured a story about the change and its critics.  Here is their description of the change:  “in giving the female face of their product a substantial makeover from a young, early 20th-century girl into a buxom, modern young woman, leading some to say that the newly made-over raisin girl looks like a Barbie Doll in Amish attire.” http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/108296/sun-maid-girl-makeover-sparks-controversy.html?mod=family-love_money

The Yahoo story noted critics were both conservative and liberal. 

Conservative Critic

“If you spend as much time watching television–particularly children’s programs — as I do lately, you are probably wondering the same thing I am: Since when did the Sun-Maid Girl become hot? Apparently the computer-animated version of the Sun-Maid Girl has been out and about, gallivanting through the grape rows of the San Joaquin Valley since around 2007. According to Sun-Maid, Lorraine Collett-Petersen is the source of inspiration dating back to 1916. She had a few face-lifts over the years (the one with whom we are most familiar dates from 1970) but, we are assured, her image “has always stayed true to the original image of Lorraine Collett that has been trusted and cherished by consumers around the world for generations.” Really? Have you seen the original Sun-Maid Girl? Have her bake some raisin-nut bread for you, sure. But for a night out on the town, I’m taking the one reimagined by Synthespian Studios. Even the voice is seductive. It’s as if Julia Roberts decided to don a red bonnet and start picking grapes. I just can’t wait for the computer-animated version of the Land O’Lakes Indian girl!” http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/12/who_smuggled_the_sunmaid_girl.asp

Liberal Critic

Sun-Maid has had yet another makeover. And apparently some implants. And a cleanse. Lorraine Collett-Petersen would hardly recognize herself. Even if the company claims it “has always stayed true to the original image.”  One comment noted, “Ugh, gross. What’s wrong with the cute, retro styling of the old one?”  http://jezebel.com/5416403/truth-in-advertising

Here is the Sun-Maid position:

“Set to turn 90, the Sun-Maid Girl deserves a new look for the new century and our continued mission of sharing the benefits of naturally delicious raisins and other dried fruits with consumers,” said Barry Kriebel, president, Sun-Maid Growers of California. “We’re excited with the resulting television commercials, which put a modern spin on our message that raisins are ‘Just Grapes and Sunshine.’”  http://www.awn.com/news/commercials/sun-maid-girl-gets-cgi-makeover

Questions to Consider

  1.  How would you evaluate the effect of the makeover on the Sun-Maid reputation?
  2. Why would Sun-Maid change the visual for advertising and the web but not for the box?  Is there a problem with this split visual representation?
  3. If part of the change was to attract stakeholder attention, how would you rate the success of the effort?  What is the basis for your evaluation?
  4. Do you agree or disagree with Sun-Maid’s rationale and why?
  5. What argument could be made for creating wide exposure of that change?
  6. How else could Sun-Maid have promoted the visual update?
  7. What are the benefits and liabilities of using a CGI version of the visual?

Leggo Some Eggo: Beneath the Shortage

November 22, 2009

In November of 2009, the major news outlets carried the story of a pending food shortage in the US.  The story also spread across Facebook and Twitter. The product shortage would last until the summer of 2010.  The food in short supply, Kellogg frozen waffles—Eggos.  Not a major crisis for consumers but it is a problem for Kellogg.  Shortage means less sale of the product.  Moreover, the shortage is a result of business discontinuity.  Kellogg manufactures Eggos in four locations in the US.  The largest bakery was offline while major equipment changes were in being made.  That was a planned stoppage.  The cause of the shortage was the unexpected shutdown of the bakery in Atlanta, GA.  When heavy rains flooded Atlanta, the Kellogg facility was a flood casualty.  Flood waters are not clean so the facility needed to be thoroughly scrubbed before it could reopen.  Here is how Kellogg explained the situation on their web site:

“Question:

I have not been able to find Eggo® waffles in the store. When will they be available again?

Answer:

Kellogg Company recently experienced supply constraints caused by flood damage at our bakery in Atlanta.  In addition, we’ve been making significant equipment enhancements and repairs in our largest waffle bakery.  Unfortunately, this is taking longer than anticipated. 

The Eggo™ team is working around the clock to bring everyone’s favorite waffles back to store shelves as quickly as possible.  We hope to regain full distribution of Eggo products by the middle of 2010. This is a top priority for Kellogg Company.
 

 

Click here to receive periodic updates from the Eggo® brand about your favorite products, including news about when they will be back on shelf, or for more information, call 866-971-3320.  Thank you for your patience during this time, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

http://www2.kelloggs.com/general.aspx?id=3006&terms=eggo

Most of the news reports repeated Kellogg’s story.  Flood coupled with an equipment change created the shortage.  For a sample story see http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2009-11-18-eggo-shortage_N.htm?csp=34

But there was more to the Atlanta facility closure and business interruption than the flood story revealed.  The Atlanta facility has been closed prior to flood for extensive cleaning.  According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA), the facility was closed due to Listeria monocytogenes being found in some samples of Eggos.  Listeria is a rather harmless bacteria but can be dangerous for people with weak immune systems, newborns, and pregnant women.  It is estimated that 4,500 cases of Eggos were recalled in early September.  The facility was then closed for cleaning and was about to restart when the floods hit.  The news stories and Kellogg information did not address the Listeria shutdown, all the blame rested on the flood.  http://www.wsbtv.com/news/21661515/detail.html

The Listeria recall was not a secret.  The recall was voluntary and reported in September.  It was an FDA Class II recall meaning the probably of serious illness was remote.  There were no illnesses reported from the tainted Eggos either.  The GDA oversaw the cleaning process.  The exact products recalled were:

Kellogg’s Eggo Cinnamon Toast waffles, 10-count package, UPC code 3800040440 with “Best If Used Before” dates beginning with: NOV22 10 EA, NOV23 10 EA and NOV24 10 EA.

Kellogg’s Eggo Toaster Swirlz Cinnamon Roll Minis eight-count package, UPC code 3800023370 with a “Best If Used Before” date beginning with NOV15 10 EA. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/food-poisoning/news/20090902/eggo-recall

Questions to Consider

  1.  Was it ethical for Kellogg to avoid the discussion of Listeria when explaining the Eggo shortage?
  2. Why would Kellogg want to avoid mentioning the Listeria in the shortage coverage?
  3. What is the advantage to Kellogg discussing the Listeria issue given that a few media outlets and online commentators made the connection?
  4. What does this case illustrate about the power of the Internet and the news media to reveal information companies wish to avoid—why it is hard to “hide” information these days?
  5. How could Kellogg use the shortage to benefit the Eggo brand, especially its online presence?
  6. How would you rate Kellogg’s handling of the initial Listeria problem and what justifies your rating?
  7. How is this case related to risk communication?

Citibank: Good Company/Bad Company

November 15, 2009

Citibank is pursuing an important element of public relations by building community relations.  The past year has been tough for Citibank as it lost millions of dollars during the financial meltdown.  Of course, Citibank’s own practices contributed to the losses so we should not feel too bad.  Citibank is helping to feed hungry New Yorkers this year:

“City Harvest, the world’s first food rescue organization dedicated to feeding New York City’s hungry men, women and children is joining forces this holiday season with Citibank. As part of “Our Promise to New York,” Citibank will contribute $100,000 to help City Harvest rescue and deliver close to 400,000 pounds of food to feed hungry New Yorkers this Thanksgiving.

The partnership commenced earlier this month with a three-week-long food drive in 106 Citibank branches throughout the five boroughs. The food drive continues through November 14. By encouraging their customers and the local community to donate, Citibank hopes to collect 20,000 pounds of nonperishable ingredients for City Harvest to distribute to community programs around the city. Suggested donations include instant mashed potatoes, stuffing, canned green beans, canned yams, cranberry sauce, canned gravy — and all of the other ‘trimmings’ for a Thanksgiving meal. Visit www.cityharvest.org to find a participating Citibank branch near you.” Citibank’s rationale for the program: “’We launched ‘Our Promise to New York’ in September to reinforce our strong and ongoing commitment to putting our customers at the center of everything we do and to keeping New York City the best city in the world,” said Bill Brown, Citibank Manhattan Division Manager. ‘We’re especially gratified to be able to partner with City Harvest to help feed our fellow New Yorkers this holiday season,’” he continued. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Citibank-and-City-Harvest-prnews-4032874734.html?x=0&.v=1

To learn more about City Harvest, visit www.cityharvest.org.

An event was planned as well around the giving:

“WHAT

  • 150+ Citibank volunteers will help City Harvest re-pack 50,000 pounds of fresh produce from local farmers for City Harvest to distribute to community programs throughout New York City.
  • Olympic Figure Skater Nancy Kerrigan will stop by to lend her support, sign autographs and tape a 30 second public service announcement about Citibank’s commitment to local communities and the importance of giving back.
  • 2010 Figure Skating Olympic Hopeful Hayley Sacks will also be on hand to meet and greet fans and sign autographs.

WHEN

  • Saturday, November 14, 2009
    10:15 a.m……………………Opening remarks and event kick-off
    11:00-11:15 a.m………………………Nancy Kerrigan PSA taping
    11:15 a.m.-12:00 p.m…..Nancy Kerrigan, Hayley Sacks meet and greet

WHERE

  • The Pond at Bryant Park, located at 6th Ave and 41st Street

The Pond at Bryant Park, made possible by Citi, provides locals and visitors with a one-stop-shop for outdoor winter fun and New York City’s first and only free admission ice skating rink. The 17,000-square-foot rink offers 360 degree viewing access and can accommodate up to 500 people.” http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Citibank-and-City-Harvest-bw-2808898907.html?x=0&.v=1

This community relations publicity came shortly after Citibank announced new fees for its customers.  Customers with checking accounts will how have to pay $7.50 a month if they do not maintain a balance of $1,500.  In the past the fee was waived if customers set up direct deposit of paychecks or two automatic bill payments.  http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local-beat/Citibank-to-Increase-Checking-Fees-69817797.html So there was some bad news for some constituents of Citibank as well.

Questions to Consider

  1. What problems and/or benefits do you see in mixing these the positive and negative messages?
  2. Is the community relations effort a logical action for Citibank—consistent with business?  Why or why not?
  3. What is the value of have the two figure skaters at the event?
  4. Do you see any problems about announcing a filming of a PSA about Citibank’s community efforts?  Why or why not?
  5. Why does the new fee create a negative impression when it is a legal business practice?
  6. How do you think the recent financial crisis will color constituents’ perceptions of any action, good or bad, taken by Citibank?

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