Category Archives: PR Problem

Seeing Red


That’s some tempest in a teapot…er, Starbucks cup…brewing through the newsphere today. Before you could say “Is it Christmas yet?” the entire holiday blew up for the good, simple folks based in Seattle. Did they really think they could go minimalist this season?

All it took was one irate, self-described social media personality to upload a clever, gotcha You Tube video, and Donald Trump weighing in at a pit stop in Illinois to completely upend their Christmas packaging and put them on the defensive. “Maybe we should boycott them,” he said, even though he claims to have “one of the most successful Starbucks in Trump Tower.”

Can you imagine how many meetings were held and how much money was spent for the company to go all PC on us? “We’re embracing the simplicity and the quietness of it. It’s a more open way to usher in the holiday,” said Jeffrey Fields, Starbucks vice president of design and content. In a statement the coffee giant said the red cup allows for customers to put their own drawings and messages on it.

Really? How’s this message: “Nice try, Starbucks! Can’t wait to see what happens next year!”


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Netflix No-No: 60% Price Hike

We’re in the dog days of summer, and people are hot and bothered. Young people, in particular, have a lot of time on their hands. Yesterday, they turned their wrath on Netflix, which hiked its prices 60%.

Bad timing, Netflix, and a bad blow to your brand.

Thousands of subscribers have made their anger known by taking to the Internet airwaves, and my guess is that it’s only a matter of days before we see the first marketing offensive from Redbox and Blockbuster. Consumers will be all ears.

Take the Professor. A Netflix customer for several years, who throws on a DVD mainly while trotting on the treadmill, she will now take a look at less expensive alternatives. Why? Because she didn’t utilize Netflix to its fullest potential, and she didn’t care. The price was right and she never gave it another thought.

The Professor’s advice to Netflix: ramp up your crisis management PR, you’re going to need it.

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Hasta La Vista, Baby

Talk about blowing your brand. What is it with older, male politicians? Aren’t they supposed to be slowing down as they get older? Or is the limelight so much of an aphrodisiac that one throws out all good judgement?

This weeks two new names were added to the list of brand busters: former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has admitted to fathering the child of an ex-employee,  and the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, sitting in the slammer following his arrest for sexual assault on a hotel maid.

Thanks to 21st century technology and the sheer wattage of this news, these politicians can rest assured that the smearing of their names will reach every corner of the globe. If John Edwards or Eliot Spitzer are any indication, re-branding will be a long, slow road. Bon voyage.

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Cookbook Author Eats Crow

Sometimes, there’s really not much you can do but eat crow. That’s what The Barefoot Contessa did to salvage her reputation after twice denying a sick boy’s Make-a-Wish desire to meet the cookbook author.

Last week the Contessa, a.k.a. Ina Garten, was called out by for the snub. An avalanche of criticism poured forth, particularly after a spokesperson for her said she receives hundreds of requests each month to support charities and couldn’t possibly help all of them.

The negative PR has been relentless, however, the Professor says it’s time to throw her a bone. She has reversed course and invited six-year-old Enzo Pereda to visit her show.


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Beware the Spider Web

With three hit movies already in the can, and a fourth announced to debut Fourth of July weekend, 2012, there was no reason not to think that “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway wouldn’t be anything but a huge success. Never mind that Bono and The Edge wrote the music and lyrics, and Tony Award-winning director Julie Taymor was positioned at the helm.

But the injury-plagued $65 million musical just couldn’t get past the relentless bad press, despite the show’s efforts to stem the bad PR, and now it looks like the spider has woven yet one more layer: Taymor is out, the show will be shut down for several months, new songs will be written, and a new director, “The Boy From Oz” director Philip William McKinley, will take over.

Will “Spider-Man” recover? Only time will tell. But from the Professor’s perspective, the show made smart PR moves by confronting its problems publicly and finding solutions. This is classic crisis communications strategy: acknowledge the problem and tell the public what you plan to do about it.

True, it took a long time to put the strategy into place, which is a no-no, but it’s said that Taymor resisted outside help.

Something tells me the story won’t end here. What do you think? Did Spider-Man spin the story correctly? Will the spider web continue to grow?

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Can He Be Saved? Part II

For soiled reputations, it’s hard to beat John Edwards’. It will be a long, long time before he’ll have any positive PR.

The latest news, published in today’s New York Times, is that Edwards has been MIA, most likely because a federal grand jury in Raleigh may soon indict him for misappropriating campaign finances (for the care of his baby mama and baby). Dozens of people have been subpoenaed, including campaign campaign workers, top aides, friends and his lover, Rielle Hunter. The feds have even interviewed 100-year-old “Bunny” Mellon, who may have given as much as $6 million. Talk about not leaving any stone unturned.

To make matters worse, Edwards is also caught up in a civil suit brought by Hunter against Andrew Young, the campaign aide who covered up for his boss by claiming paternity of the couple’s child. He later penned a tell-all book on the messy affair. Oh, and did I mention the sex tape that Hunter says Young took from her? That trial, scheduled to begin next week, has been postponed until the fall.

No, don’t expect to see anything nice for at least another decade.

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PR Pickle for Bachelorette

Ed, you horndog! You proposed to Jillian on national television with a $60,000 ring from celebrity jeweler Neil Lane but you left not one, but two unsuspecting girls behind, both of whom claim to have slept with you while you were off romancing The Bachelorette. What were you thinking?

Sure, maybe that’s par for the course for a single, young professional hanging out in Chicago, and lord knows, I met enough of them back in the day, but this is reality TV! Did you think no one would notice? Did you think your jilted lovers weren’t going to go straight to Us Weekly with a day-by-day, minute-by-minute email trail of lies?

Take it from Professor PR, here’s what you need to do: Go back on national TV and be honest about who you are: a 30-year-old, red-blooded American male who fell in lust with three different woman more or less at the same time. Is that a crime? Of course you are sorry you hurt all three, but if you want to keep Jillian and make it to the alter next year (and that million-dollar television payout), you’d better pull out all the PR stops, publicly and privately.

And please, could you lose those green, Richard Simmons shorts? Now that’s bad PR.

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