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Corporate communications

5 Experts on Defending a Brand’s Reputation After a Data Breach

Target-Rain1

Massive data breaches have become an expected holiday season event. This week, a BuzzFeed contributor listed the 10 biggest “hacks” of 2014 (eBay, the USPS, etc.), and the bad publicity stemming from these security failures can be especially damaging during the year’s biggest shopping period.

Retailers have different approaches in defending their reputations after these breaches. Target, for example, sent its CEO to CBS to call the trend “an industry issue” while its CMO displayed its social media “war room” on CNN. Home Depot blamed Microsoft Windows, and other retailers have pointed fingers at credit card companies themselves for failing on the security front.

The question, for retailers and the PR firms/internal teams telling their stories to the public is: what’s the most effective way to balance transparency regarding data security with the need to protect one’s reputation among a skeptical public?

Five industry veterans give us their takes after the jump.

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Budweiser Isn’t Putting Its Clydesdales Down After All

Yes, the news that broke this week was that bad — Budweiser, amid efforts to trim its ad budget, would no longer feature the famed Clydesdale horses in its campaigns.

The Wall Street Journal reported that “the self-proclaimed King of Beers is more of an afterthought among young consumers (at) bars across the U.S.: Some 44% of 21- to 27-year-old drinkers today have never tried Budweiser, according to the brand’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch.”

For that reason, the beer boss of the NFL playoffs decided to put the horses back in the stable causing…well, you heard it, “mass hysteria.”

And then, conveniently, Anheuser-Busch put the kibosh on all that.

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Target Takes to CNN to Reassure Customers Before Black Friday

The tip we received in May naming chief marketer Jeff Jones as the scandal-plagued Target’s new CEO turned out to be false, but Jones is working hard as the chain’s spokesperson this holiday season.

Target has good reason to worry as Black Friday approaches: Home Depot’s recent data breach may have broken the record set last year, but consumers still feel like their data is vulnerable — and Target wisely chose not to blame everything on Microsoft.

For example, yesterday’s CNN Money clip might as well be labeled “sponsored content”:

Note that Jones didn’t directly address the data breach (the company announced related “security and technology enhancements” back in April).

Also: can we add “social drives sales” to Monday’s “10 Client Delusions About Social Media” list?

Tesla Rehires Former PR Chief from Square

teslaYesterday we learned of yet another change in the PR department at Elon Musk’s Tesla: the company has rehired Ricardo Reyes, who served as its PR chief before leaving for a similar position at credit card processing company Square in 2012.

Bloomberg Businessweek broke the news, which comes less than two months after the departure of former Nissan comms/marketing VP Simon Sproule. In case you missed it, Sproule served less than six months at his new gig after joining the Tesla team in March; while Businessweek attributes Sproule’s departure to “struggles he faced trying to hire more staff,” others seem to think he was “poached” by 007 fave Aston Martin after a former colleague became CEO at that company.

For the record, Reyes was not with Tesla during the uproar about a negative New York Times review that Musk himself called “fake.”

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Greenpeace Leaks Edelman’s ‘Shoot the Messenger’ Strategy Docs

transcanada

“Spread doubt about your opponents” is a common strategy recommendation for clients guaranteed to stir up controversy, but that fact doesn’t diminish the effect of the internal Edelman documents that Greenpeace leaked to The New York Times and Canada’s CBC News yesterday.

For reference, Edelman represents TransCanada, one of the companies behind the pending political fistfight better known as the Keystone XL Pipeline. This story concerns a different project called Energy East, which would transform a natural gas pipeline into one equipped to carry more than a million gallons of crude oil across Canada each day. The project, if completed, would also allow for easier exports to the United States.

The docs essentially suggest that TransCanada should do the very same thing other political advocacy groups do: uncover unflattering information about its ideological opponents and leak it to friendly news outlets without placing its own name anywhere in subsequent reports.

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More Clients Want You to Help Them Avoid Paying Taxes

shutterstock_140263030This weekend, The New York Times told us that Europe is moving to close many of the tax loopholes that have attracted so many corporations to The Netherlands even when they have no interest in hemp or socialism.

This is bad news for Starbucks…and great news for financially-focused PR firms.

NYT notes that both the coffee behemoth and the notoriously regulation-averse Apple have signed with RLM Finsbury and its lobbying affiliates in recent years to help more effectively minimize their total tax bills.

The real product being sold here is expertise on international tax policies and those ever-shifting loopholes; one year you establish a tax shelter in Ireland, but next year who knows?

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Home Depot Crisis Comms Plan: Blame Microsoft

Home Depot

On Friday we told you that Home Depot was in need of some serious reputation cleanup in aisle 1 after a second story concerning digital privacy breaches went public: hackers stole approximately 53 million shoppers’ email addresses by targeting self-checkout lanes.

Now it seems the company has developed a strategy to follow its ho-hum “we’re sorry” statement: blame Windows.

9t05Mac dove into an earlier Wall Street Journal report on the event to find this tidbit:

“…the hackers were able to jump the barriers between a peripheral third-party vendor system and the company’s more secure main computer network by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system, the people briefed on the investigation said.”

This report comes at a particularly bad time for Microsoft.

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Weather Channel: Climate Change Is Real, No Matter What Our Co-Founder Says

We all know that RTs do not equal endorsements. We also know, via The Weather Channel, that odd and easily disprovable statements from co-founders do not equal the official positions of entire organizations.

John Coleman is an old-school meteorologist who happens to believe that climate change is a bunch of hooey; he appeared on Fox’s The Kelly File last week to talk about that fact.

Coleman also co-founded The Weather Channel, and the organization has gone out of its way since he made headlines to distance itself from his opinions.

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Lululemon Just Can’t Win

shutterstock_64829434

In a story we missed over the weekend, Lululemon is in trouble yet again — this time for what seems like the most harmless “partnership” in the world.

Last week, the Canadian company announced that it would be an official sponsor of the Dalai Lama and his Center for Peace and Education. Can you predict what happened next?

As a publicly traded company, Lululemon’s primary responsibilities are to its investors; customers come second and “peace and education” come a distant third, no matter what the marketing copy says.

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Walmart Kills Its ‘Fat Girl Costumes’ Category

Fat Girl Costumes via Jezebel

Image via Jezebel

Well, that was fast. Just a few hours after Jezebel and Adweek successively posted on the existence of the headlining category on Walmart’s retail page, it has disappeared.

We would talk about the “why” behind this story, but the “how” is more relevant — and based on multiple recent tales of big-name retailers associated with undesirable products (remember Sears and the swastika rings?), we have to blame the third-party merchandisers and/or developers who are hired to help run these brands’ retail sites.

Can we all agree at this point that such relationships are often problematic? These third-party providers have no real connection to the businesses they serve and often display a stunning unfamiliarity with the brands’ voices.

Also: based on the time elapsed between these two consumer complaints, we have to wonder whether it was the products themselves or the ensuing press coverage that spurred Walmart to action…

We do love Kristyn’s reponse to the response, though.

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