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Ethics

MWW Campaign Plays Starring Role in New Christie Controversy

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A new week brings a new scandal for New Jersey governor Chris Christie just as his epic and (arguably) successful apology marathon fades from the headlines.

At the center of said controversy lies a campaign created by Jersey agency MWW, which will now play a role in an ongoing audit by the federal government. Why? Because the money that paid for the “Stronger than the Storm” campaign came from the feds, and its purpose was to help the state recover from Superstorm Sandy by encouraging tourists to visit the damaged shore.

Back in August, Democratic Jersey rep Frank Pallone argued that the money actually served, in part, to promote Christie himself in an election year. Surprise surprise: the governor’s moment of weakness turned out to be the perfect time for HUD to begin investigating whether the campaign amounted to an improper use of taxpayer funds.

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USA Today and the Art of Citing Sources

The great Romensko writes about a small kerfuffle involving Scott Bateman (known as @Disalmanacarian), the esteemed USA Today and a little known act of plagiarism. But wait, we have pictures:

A tale of two weather maps, and evidently, USA Today’s graphics team were snowed in by the dreaded Polar Vortex, so they “borrowed” this map. These meteorological twinkies caused quite the fracas via social media, which caused David Callaway, USA Today’s editor-in-chief to chime in. After the jump, read that and a few other notes…

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So, It Seems ‘Black PR’ Is a Thing

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So yesterday I’m trolling my typical bajillion news sources looking for PR stories and one from the South China Morning Post catches my attention in the way that wandering onto a nude beach and seeing someone’s grandma would catch anyone’s attention. In other words, I wanted to grab a spork and attack my eyes.

Why? I love this profession and I demand much from it (and the people who make a living doing it). So, when I read the term “Black PR” in the headline, I cringed because the phrase does NOT refer to African-American organizations across this country.

No, this is “Bad PR” (which, MEMO to the complete dolts who came up with smear term: ‘Black’ does NOT equal ‘Bad’. I’ll call my brothers in Alpha Phi Alpha, Incorporated to give you a holler. Okay, thanks.)

Let me explain why:

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SeaWorld’s Apparent Attempt to Rig Opinion Poll Backfires

shutterstock_68472997What’s a surefire way to inspire people to seek out an opinion poll just to cast their negative votes against your organization? Get caught trying to rig said poll in your favor.

On December 31, the Orlando Business Journal posted a reader poll that asked, “Has CNN’s Blackfish documentary changed your perception of SeaWorld?” By Thursday, two days into the poll, the paper reported that a surprisingly overwhelming 99% of respondents said “no,” their opinion of the park had not been tarnished.

Sure, it makes sense that locals might look more favorably upon their own park than the wider public might, but 99% seems just a little too good to be true, doesn’t it? That’s because it was.

After the paper did a little digging, it found that more than half of the votes had been cast from a single IP address: SeaWorld.com. Read more

Urban Outfitters Stops Selling ‘Depression’ T-Shirt After Backlash

ht_urban_outfitters_depression_tee_2_sr_140116_16x9_608To Urban Outfitters, it was a t-shirt with a logo on it, but to many livid customers, it was an offensive piece of clothing boasting the name of an oft-misunderstood and stigmatized illness.

The article of attire in question, a white cutoff t-shirt with the word “Depression” plastered all over it, has been pulled from the retailer’s website after numerous outraged people took to social media to complain. Here are a few tweets that were lobbed in Urban Outfitters’ direction:

The company responded to the uproar over the weekend by halting sales of the shirt and taking to social media to both apologize and explain the origin and intention of the top. Some key phrases in the retailer’s tweets were the following: Read more

How, Exactly, Does One ‘Disparage’ a Former Employer?

shutterstock_104307521Here’s an interesting debate via The New York Times today: how important are the legal particulars of those termination notices that every employee dreads? You know, the ones in which you promise not to “disparage” the folks who just fired you?

Writer Will Blythe lost his job at Byliner but refused to sign the subsequent agreement and claim his severance package.

Why? He is not insane. It’s more about the principle of the thing, because what does “You agree that you will never make any negative or disparaging statements (orally or in writing) about the Company or its stockholders, directors, officers, employees, products, services or business practices, except as required by law” even mean?

This is kind of a big deal for PR, because we’re all familiar with the word “disgruntled.”

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Politico Defends Its Own Pay-to-Play Publicity Game as ‘Transparent’

Carousel_MP_POLITICO_sign_v6_960_481_40In the year’s most “Inside Baseball” story, Erik Wemple of The Washington Post claimed that the popular D.C. “Playbook” email newsletter published by Mike Allen of Politico basically amounts to a bunch of reprinted press releases.

Want your business to earn positive press in a thread read by thousands of political insiders? No problem—just fork up $35,000 to spend a week sponsoring the newsletter and Allen will make sure to mention you in a completely uncritical way. He might even bring your name up later in order to highlight your own publicity campaigns and link to your PSA-style videos because he’s such a nice guy.

This isn’t a completely new story, BTW: back in 2010 this blog reported on the ease with which one may be featured in the site’s fluffier “Click” section.

When Wemple’s report surfaced, Politico CEO John VandeHei called it “nonsense”—and Howard Kurtz gave editor-in-chief John Harris an opportunity to elaborate on that statement on his Fox News show this week.

Harris’ defense was a bit…garbled.

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Hackers Teach Snapchat a Lesson in Security: Millions of Usernames and Partial Phone Numbers Published

acura-sent-100-followers-a-snapchatPicture and video-sharing startup Snapchat has just been made a public example of how not to handle a potential security issue.

About a month ago, a group of white-hat hackers called Gibson Security (white-hat meaning they do not exploit security flaws, only find them) privately contacted Snapchat to warn the company about two security weaknesses that could be easily exploited to gain access to users’ real names, usernames and phone numbers, through Snapchat’s Android and iOS API.

Rather than taking immediate action, Snapchat reportedly ignored the warning. Finally, after receiving no response from the company and seeing little improvement in security, Gibson Security published its findings publicly on Christmas Eve.

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Western Clothing Brands Escape Blame in Deadly Factory Collapse

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(Pic via Associated Press/A.M. Ahad)

It was one of 2013′s most tragic stories—and it should have been one of the year’s biggest PR disasters as well.

Unfortunately, as we enter 2014 it looks like the Western clothing companies involved in April’s Bangladeshi factory collapse have washed their hands of it in every possible way.

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McDonald’s Shuts Down ‘McResources’ Site Advising Employees to Avoid Fast Food

mcdonalds-Quarter-Pounder-with-Cheese-Extra-Value-MealsMany companies’ human resources departments provide healthy lifestyle advice to their employees; suggestions like quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, and avoiding unhealthy foods are commonplace. But when your company sells fast food, warning your employees away from it, though probably responsible, makes for an undeniable conflict of interest and a bit of a PR kerfuffle.

Last week, CNBC reported that on the McDonald’s McResources Line website, the company had posted an illustration of two meals. The first, which reportedly pictured a double cheeseburger, a soft drink and fries (sound familiar??), was labeled “Unhealthy choice.” The second meal featured a submarine sandwich, salad and a glass of water and was labeled “Healthier choice.”

The accompanying text read:

“Although not impossible it is more of a challenge to eat healthy when going to a fast food place. In general, avoiding items that are deep fried are your best bet.”

So, basically, the unspoken message being sent by McDonald’s to its own employees seemed to be: “If you value your health, don’t eat here — eat at Subway!” Read more

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