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Corporate communications

General Mills Holds Its Nose, Leaps into Climate Change

GM-cereal

General Mills, the maker of Cheerios and other such consumer goods, took a bold step into the CSR pool this week by announcing that it would make changes to its agricultural practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously mounting related advocacy efforts designed to affect public policy.

What does this mean? From the company’s post on the matter yesterday:

“Nearly 2/3 of the GHG emissions and 99 percent of water use throughout our value chain occur upstream of our direct operations in agriculture, ingredients and packaging”

So they’re insisting that their suppliers get on board by reducing those emissions and “achiev[ing] zero net deforestation in high-risk supply chains by 2020″…or else. We assume.

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Apple’s PR Strategy Has Sprung a Leak

apple-logoAnyone notice a recent shift in Apple’s PR strategy?

The departure of longtime VP of worldwide corporate communications Katie Cotton seems to have marked the end of a certain phase in the company’s development, and way back in February 2013 the company announced plans to increase its PR spend and get more aggressive with message management efforts.

That news, along with Tim Cook’s decision to straight-up apologize for Apple Maps, clarified the difference between the new CEO and Steve Jobs (who would never admit to much of anything and held a notoriously tight grip on all communications).

Leaks are nothing new for Apple, but over the past week we’ve seen several:

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Internal Comms 101: Don’t Fire The Exec That Everyone Likes

demoulasUp in New England, the workers at the grocery store chain Market Basket are up in arms. The president of the company Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted last month over a family dispute. His wasn’t the only head to roll: two other execs were fired and seven stepped down according to Business Insider.

But it’s Demoulas’ dismissal that has the company’s employees riled up. To the point in fact that some of them were dismissed for organizing protests on his behalf.

And it’s not just the employees; local politicians are asking shoppers to boycott the store until Demoulas is reinstated. And shoppers look to be obliging that request. It’s turned into an issue that has sparked protests in the street and lots of coverage by The Boston Globe.

Business and family many times don’t mix. There are some big issues (including lawsuits) driving the rift in this family business. Generally, for the sake of the business, fights between partners have to be kept under control.

More than that, it’s a bad idea to can a leader that has the loyalty and dedication that Demoulas clearly has. Compromise would’ve been a much less painful option.

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Comcast Cries Mea Culpa on ‘Hellish’ Service Call…But Does It Make a Difference?

bad customer service comcast

Comcast pissed off the wrong customer last week when it botched a service call with Ryan Block, former editor of the tech site Engadget and product developer at AOL.

NPR called it “condescending“; Gawker called it “hellish“; The Verge called it “a nightmare“; Yahoo called it “terrorizing.”

As fellow PRNewser Shawn Paul Wood posted earlier, “flacks who enjoy the various #PRFail called it ‘priceless’”. In case you missed it, you can hear what went down at the link: Comcast ‘Provides’ What May Be The Worst Service Call Ever. ”

A week later, the company’s Chief Operating Officer Dave Watson calls it “typical”, saying the incident was “painful to listen to” but that the rep “did a lot of what we trained him…to do.”

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Could 18,000 Layoffs Be a #PRWin for Microsoft?

New-Microsoft-Logo-PPT-BackgroundsIf your stock portfolio contains Microsoft, today is a good day. If you happen to work for Microsoft, then it probably isn’t.

In case you’ve been living underneath a rock, the company announced this morning that it would eliminate up to 18,000 jobs, canning 14% of its workforce.

That’s a big deal on its own, but it isn’t the only story making headlines.

In fact, investors seem quite happy with the news.

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Crumbs Rises From The Ashes to Sell Cupcakes (And Other Stuff) For Another Day

lemonisLast week we were talking about the demise of Crumbs. Today, we’re talking about its resurrection, with some help from Dippin’ Dots.

Word is the cupcake company will be sold to an investor group that will include Marcus Lemonis, CNBC host (right), and Fischer Enterprises, owner of Dippin’ Dots.

Many people said that Crumbs’ biggest problem was the fact that it hitched its wagon exclusively to a food trend that eventually died out. By the sound of the details that have been revealed so far, the company plans to change that. The addition of these new leaders will also solve some of the marketing challenges that the company clearly had.

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Best Practices: What to Do When Activists Come Calling

bpa_free_logoOne of my go-to quick-and-healthy dinners is a can of Amy’s Organic fat-free vegetable soup topped with slices of chicken sausage.

OK, yes: It’s still processed food (and I know I could and should do better!), but some of that guilt is removed thanks to a new sticker Amy’s has been putting on every can that reads: “This soup is canned in a BPA-free liner.”

Good move, right? This little sticker reinforces the notion that buying Amy’s Organic is the healthier choice. It’s also a perfectly proportional response to health concerns raised by groups such as the Breast Cancer Fund over the use of Bisphenol A, or BPA, in can linings. Other companies, such as Campbell Soup Co., have followed suit in removing BPA from their packaging.

As Advertising Age points out, processed-food companies—even seemingly “good” companies, like Amy’s Organic—are on the defensive as never before, and repeatedly under attack from online health advocates and activists.

The rise in attacks comes from, you guessed it, “social networking tools and digital media, [which] have created opportunity for groups of consumer advocates to target individual brands in order to influence company decisions,” notes Sanford C. Bernstein notes in a recent report.

So what’s a company to do? Should companies respond to every single threat? And how?

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Sears, Walmart Apologize for Selling Nazi Poster (No Comment from Amazon)

walmart

Today we learned that three of the country’s largest online retailers do not effectively screen the products they offer for evidence of Nazism.

On Monday, Digiday reported on the news (first broken by Heeb last week) that Walmart‘s online store offered shoppers a poster featuring an image of the gate at Dachau concentration camp, which was the very first opened by the German government to hold political prisoners in 1933 (and at which tens of thousands of innocent people died). The fact that the saying on the gate reads “work makes you free” is especially perverse.

Further searches revealed that Amazon and Sears also featured the item online. Their excuse? The dreaded “third party vendor.”

Let’s compare their statements.

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LEGO Issues Tepid Response to Shell Controversy; Greenpeace Issues Mock PSA

One has to admire Greenpeace’s dedication to solid production values. Check out this mock PSA, which came out today:

The org might not be so great with money, but it certainly jumped on the opportunity to criticize LEGO’s new partnership with big bad Shell a week ago, writing that the decision to include the Shell logo on some products (and reap the retail rewards) meant that the company was putting cold, hard cash “above its commitment to the environment and children’s futures.”

There’s also the expected petition complete with an image of a polar bear balancing on a LEGO ice block in a sea filled with oil and what looks like a pirated rig. All of those things and LEGO’s weak response after the jump.

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GM Recall Scandal Is Actually Increasing Sales

shutterstock_106216493

Here’s one we had to post quickly in the All News Is Good News category, because we’re still slightly shocked.

From a senior Edmunds analyst discussing GM’s current status in The New York Times this morning:

“You’d think it would damage their brand. But it’s actually helping to drive purchases at the dealership. You come in to have your old car fixed and see the new designs and technology, and wind up thinking ‘Maybe I’ll buy a new car.’”

Also:

“G.M. is also quietly offering additional discounts to owners of the 2.6 million vehicles recalled as part of the original ignition switch problem. The automaker has authorized dealers to offer employee prices to owners who inquire about a new purchase.”

It’s true that this is part of a larger trend as the auto industry finally recovers from the recession…but surely the latest wave of recalls and the generally negative response to CEO Mary Barra’s follow-up has led to a decline in GM’s stock prices, right?

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