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Damage Control

OKCupid Co-Founder on Emotional Experiments: In 20 Years, No One Will Care

OKCUPIDWe’ve all heard about Facebook‘s ill-conceived “emotional experiment” and OKCupid‘s even better follow-up. While Facebook’s research only concerned slight tweaks in the algorithm that determines which stories show up in users’ news feeds, OKCupid experimented on total strangers who would later meet each other and go on what we call “dates.”

We’re interested in the story primarily because Facebook’s response was simply a blog post that didn’t serve as a very effective piece of self-defense. OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, on the other hand, has gone all out to defend his company’s practices as the kind of thing we deal with every day as connected individuals — whether we know it or not.

Last week, to follow up on his “yes, we experimented on people, now get over it” blog post, he gave an interview to TLDR, a podcast associated with the excellent NPR show On the Media (which we encountered via the also-excellent Press Think blog).

The fourteen-minute segment is well worth a listen–especially for anyone with clients in social media.

Some key quotes and takeaways after the jump in case you can’t listen or don’t have time.

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PR Lessons From Robin Thicke’s Swift Fall from the Top


At one time, Robin Thicke was riding a tidal wave of success. “Blurred Lines” was everywhere. He was performing on all the awards stages. It was Robin Thicke wherever you turned.  Then he broke up with Paula Patton and tried to get her back with a record,”Paula,” that he wrote on his own in three weeks. It belly flopped onto the charts, selling a fraction of what his previous album sold in the US and only 530 copies its first week in the UK.

First off, the album has some weird lyrics, so yeah, maybe he shouldn’t be allowed to put pen to paper without consulting with Pharrell first. But his problems run deeper than that and point to some basic PR mistakes.

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News Producers to PR Professionals: ‘Live Up to That Name Please!’

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Some of us aren’t crazy about the moniker “flacks.” Even more are adverse to being called “spin doctors.” The term many embrace in this profession is “PR professional.”

The reason? Public relations people want to be considered pros at their jobs. They do much more than pitch and play. They want to convey expertise in a title and hope our colleagues in the media will see that professional ability every time. One catch: being professional in the process. 

That’s fine but if you are going to use that title, I have a request on behalf of many assignment desk editors and news producers: “Act like it!” Apparently, there have been issues.

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Johnson’s Baby Sort-of Apologizes to Concerned Moms

You may have heard at some point over the past few years that Johnson & Johnson’s massive baby products line encountered something of a credibility problem.

A quick recap: in 2009, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics called upon the company to remove certain proven carcinogenic ingredients from its baby shampoos. J&J promised to remove the elements and earned a spot atop the Forbes “America’s most trusted brands” list for 2011. However, a subsequent report claimed that, despite the company’s promise to make safer products, one would have to buy its “natural” shampoo (which was twice as expensive) to ensure the absence of those carcinogens.

In January, the company announced that it had reached its goal of removing certain potentially toxic chemicals but continued walking a PR tightrope by both claiming that its current products are safe and promising to remove more such ingredients by 2015. This announcement only came after a series of embarrassing recalls led to the resignation of J&J’s CEO.

That long, winding damage control road leads us to this clip, released this week and produced by RF|Binder.

The message: we hear you and send you good vibes…even though your fears are completely unfounded. Here’s the corporate statement to go along with the campaign.

Will it work? Adweek notes that it’s part of a campaign that will “see 40 more videos released throughout the rest of the year”…but will the message resonate when the company has yet to complete its ongoing chemical purge?

ESPN Decided It Needed to Take a Stronger Stance Against Stephen A. Smith

stephen a smithESPN, taking things a step further than Stephen A. Smith‘s long apology, has suspended the commentator for one week after he made gross and misguided comments about domestic abuse against women. The comments followed the NFL’s weak two-game suspension of Ray Rice after footage showed him dragging his unconscious wife out of a casino hotel after he allegedly hit her.

Smith made a lengthy broadcast speech after first trying to tweet-splain what he meant by his warning that women shouldn’t “provoke” men to violence. During the apology he was much more contrite, bringing up the women in his family and his outspoken stance against domestic violence.

To really bring the point home, ESPN also had a female commentator, Cari Champion, say many words after Smith was done. Most of those words were in support of her colleague, who wore his special purple tie for the occasion.

Clearly, the PR team was working overtime on this spectacle. Wisely, the network felt the need to do more, hence the suspension.

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When Foreign Dictators Look for Good PR, They Look to London

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If you wanted to, there’s a lot you could say right now about PR’s influence in the world of foreign affairs: Gaza, Putin, who is winning, who is losing, etc…but the most interesting question may be who is profiting?

“… [I]ncreasingly, governments look to PRs and lobbyists to give their image a scrub. What it is, is reputation laundering. What they are buying is a good image in political centres like Brussels and Washington, in the international and financial media and with investors. Governments and dictators will look overseas for this type of expertise, and London has become the place to go for it.”

London is profiting (to the tune of roughly £7.5 billion per year), and VICE UK’s Jack Gilbert is naming names: Bell Pottinger, Portland Communications, and more.

In a must-read article published today on VICE, Gilbert puts the hard questions to Tamasin Cave, director of Spinwatch (a PR watchdog organization) for an excellent expose.

Highlights after the jump.

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Tried and True Moves from the Clinton PR Machine

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In the essay “My Battle With the Clintons“, completely objective reporter Daniel Halper (who just happens to edit the conservative Weekly Standard) gives Politico some dirt regarding his “It Happened to Me” moment going toe-to-toe with the Clinton PR team over his critical book.

“When I started to write Clinton, Inc: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, I knew the reaction to expect… But even if I hadn’t known it, many, many people in Washington, on the left and right, popped up to warn me of what to expect from the Clinton PR team. Other authors—legitimate ones with serious pedigrees—who’d written about the Clintons said they were threatened and verbally attacked. Of course, nearly everyone in Washington has seen the much-vaunted Clinton PR machine in action. It’s very predictable.”

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Clintons know a thing or two about this PR biz. According to Halper, here’s how it works:

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AP #MH17 Tweet Traumatizes English Teachers, the World

AP Tweet Crash LandsThe humble comma — its inclusion can mean life or death for panda bears (and pilots alike), as well as the difference between respectable reporting and an horrific #PRFail.

Case in point: the single tweet posted by the Associated Press late this morning suggesting that the Dutch military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 had crash landed in Eindhoven, when all it really did was land. Read more

San Diego Purging the Homeless to Spruce up the City for Comic-Con

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KGTV-10 (ABC) in San Diego recently let us know that downtown San Diego is ready for Comic-Con. 

More than 100,000 heroically adorned dorks lovely people will soon take up shop in “America’s Finest City.” Banners are being hung on street poles, hotels are getting ready for the influx of visitors, restaurants are developing exclusive menus…and are police are kicking the homeless out of the area.

So nice when an entire city holds hands, chips in and works together, right?

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Damage Control, Sports Edition: Homophobic Vikings Coach Is Not Homophobic

Vikings

In case you missed it, now-former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe dragged the NFL into the 21st century kicking and screaming faster than you can say “Michael Sam” earlier this year by claiming that the team fired him not for his performance on the field but for his outspoken gay rights advocacy.

Kluwe hired a lawyer to help him make that point way back in January, and now the proverbial stuff is finally starting to hit the fan within the Vikings organization.

In short, Kluwe’s former special teams coach did indeed say that ““We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.”

But his opinion doesn’t represent that of the larger organization. And he’s totes not homophobic in the first place.

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