Lots of brands released tweets of questionable taste accompanied by the #NeverForget tag and 9/11 references yesterday, but no one received as much flack as AT&T, which posted an image of the “Tribute in Light” as seen through the camera on its smartphone. The brand obviously takes its reputation seriously, because today Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson issued a statement of apology:
Posts Tagged ‘PR damage control’
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It was every sports journalist’s dream story: Promising college senior, Heisman trophy runner-up and near-certain first round NFL draft pick Manti Te’o suffers the deaths of his grandmother and his beautiful, supportive girlfriend within 24 hours–just before dominating the field in his team’s upset victory and continuing his streak as one of the nation’s most promising college football players. His heartbreaking tale of grief and victory quickly spreads beyond the world of sports.
One problem, though: it wasn’t true.
Deadspin broke the astonishing story yesterday as a web of complex lies promoted by some of our most respected publications began to unravel and the damage control campaign began.
A summary for those who haven’t been following: Manti Te’o is a gifted football player and devout Mormon from Hawaii who claimed, via his Twitter feed and various public statements, to have developed a relationship with a woman known as Lennay Kekua who he supp0sedly met after a 2009 game between Stanford and his team, Notre Dame. She had a Twitter account with which Te’o frequently interacted, expressing his love and encouraging his fans to follow her sister (both fake accounts were later deleted).
Then came the news that, right after the (real) death of Manti’s beloved grandmother last September, Kekua passed away from leukemia approximately a month after suffering a serious car accident. Manti doesn’t attend her funeral because she had insisted that he not miss a game. South Bend Tribune fleshed out the story through interviews with Te’o before Sports Illustrated, ESPN, CBS, the New York Post, The Associated Press and pretty much everybody else in the media world reported on it. Someone set up a charity in Kekua’s name. Manti Te’o was an American classic: the tragic hero.
And then things began to fall apart.
The biggest story in the global branding game over the past few months was the innovative partnership between Pepsi and Beyoncé–a deal that gives an unprecedented degree of creative power to the world’s biggest pop star. Mark Bittman may not think it’s OK for celebrities to sell soda, but that won’t stop Pepsi’s new frontwoman from dominating America’s biggest PR stunt, The Super Bowl.*
One thing you almost certainly won’t hear Beyoncé discussing in 2013: the relationship between soft drinks and obesity. A certain other soda, on the other hand, just announced plans to address the issue directly.
This surprises us as much as anybody, but Pepsico‘s mortal enemy Coca-Cola just took a first step into the public health fray by creating a campaign designed to address America’s obesity epidemic–all in the company’s own best interests, of course.
We’re going to go ahead and make a wild over-generalization here: Ticketmaster is not the public’s favorite company.
Another totally unsupported assumption: President Obama‘s inauguration won’t inspire quite as big a party in 2013 as it did in 2009. But there will be an event and a parade–and fans were supposed to be able to buy tickets through Ticketmaster yesterday. Unfortunately, the company screwed the whole thing up big time.
Tix were supposed to go on sale on Monday the 8th, but somebody within the Ticketmaster organization (whose name happens to be “Technical Error”) accidentally sent an email on Sunday announcing the availability of the tickets–which promptly sold out. So the mistake was twofold, really: Not only did the message go out early, but the tickets were available early as well. Oh, and the seller’s site was predictably “overwhelmed” by traffic, “slowing the purchasing process.’’
Ticketmaster’s response? Yeah, that kinda sucks–but get over it, people.
AllState insurance just released an ad touting the company’s Hurricane Sandy relief efforts and focusing on the supposed selflessness of its agents. The spot, titled “1,000 Thank You’s”, isn’t particularly subtle in its messaging—it’s called a “tribute to the 1,000 employees who put customers first” during the hurricane even when their own homes had been damaged.
Turns out the story is a little more complicated than that.
The problem? A Staten Island family whose home features prominently in the ad has some major gripes with AllState—and they’re not afraid to voice their issues in public. Customer Dominic Traina says he “got disgusted” after seeing the ad during Thanksgiving dinner because AllState only offered his family $10,000 for the damage depicted in the video after the jump.
In a tale of tragedy and PR disaster that almost certainly could have been avoided, a grieving Bronx husband just announced plans to sue Delta, KLM and Lufthansa airlines for millions.
Earlier this year, the three carriers each claimed to be unable to provide seating to his wife Vilma, who died in Europe while awaiting a return flight to New York. The couple planned to go home to the States after a European vacation so Vilma could resume treatment for diabetes and kidney disease; she weighed approximately 425 pounds at the time of her death.
The couple flew to their native Hungary via Delta and KLM “without incident” in September after Vilma apparently boarded two planes “with the help of an airlift…and a seatbelt extender”. Husband Janos now claims that airline reps in Europe “asked about return flights so [they] could make proper arrangements” and that he purchased two separate seats on the way back to accommodate his wife.
And yet, the couple’s lawyer says that the very same KLM Airlines forced the pair to de-plane in Budapest “due to an issue with a seat back” and urged them to drive to Prague, where a second pilot ordered Vilma from his plane after “they put her on the seat and they couldn’t belt her in”. The two then drove to Frankfurt only to be denied service by Lufthansa reps, who voiced concerns over passenger safety when Vilma “didn’t fit in a three-seat gap”; she died of kidney failure in Hungary two days later.
A Delta rep told ABC News that the airline simply couldn’t seat Vilma “Despite a determined good-faith effort”; the husband’s attorney claims that his client “wants to know why his wife had to die because the airlines simply didn’t want to be inconvenienced.”
We’re not sure the story is so simple.
Quite a bit of the recent Hurricane Sandy news coverage focused on the dramatic damage inflicted on lower Manhattan and areas of New Jersey–specifically Atlantic City. As we reported yesterday, the footage was bad enough to inspire a certain “Boardwalk Empire” fan in Philadelphia to start an advocacy campaign in the hopes of repairing the city’s iconic boardwalk as soon as possible.
Beyond the boardwalk, we’ve also heard reports about damage done to Atlantic City’s most important industry–gambling. When the casinos shut down, so does AC.
But the city and its tourism bureau have begun an understandable effort to push back against these reports of certain doom for a town that’s made a fortune on light-hearted fun. For example, Thomas Gilbert, district commander of AC tourism and employee of the state’s Attorney General, released this statement yesterday:
“The entire oceanfront Boardwalk in front of the Atlantic City casinos is undamaged with all dunes and lights intact. There is minimal-to no-visible damage to casinos and other businesses fronting the Boardwalk along the ocean.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk that was washed out by Hurricane Sandy is an area limited to the Boardwalk fronting the Absecon Inlet only. That small section of the Boardwalk is located in South Inlet, a prominent residential section of Atlantic City. It is a small stretch of Boardwalk that is being shown in video footage and photos.”