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MSG to Employees Stranded by Sandy: Come in or Lose Vacation Days

We’ve read plenty of reports about companies using Hurricane Sandy as a promotional tool; but how are managers behaving? We assume that they’ve all been understanding and respectful of their employees during this extremely trying time, right? According to Gawker, the answer is a resounding no.

Managers at the Madison Square Garden company, a massive conglomerate including the New York venue itself as well as the Knicks, the Rangers, the MSG TV network, and several other venues, sent each of its thousands of employees an email message that will not earn the company any PR plaudits.

(When reading this message, remember that the island of Manhattan essentially still has no power below 34th street, which happens to be the very spot where Madison Square Garden is located–and that all traditional forms of transit have yet to return to operational status in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.)

A quick summary: The company understands that travel to and from the city is extremely difficult and time-consuming right now, and managers know that many employees are currently without power–especially those that live in New Jersey. But (and it’s a big but)…

“We recognize that many employees are impacted by the transportation issues as well as a lack of power, and that some are even dealing with personal damage and health issues. In the event that you need to make the personal decision that you are unable to come to work, you will need to notify your supervisor and take a personal or vacation day to cover the time off.”

In other words: Suck it up and get the hell out here or you’ll lose your days. How will you do it? Surprise us!

Will this be a big PR issue for MSG?

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Progressive Responds to Controversy, Still Looks Very Bad

We aren’t privy to all the sad details of the growing Progressive Insurance PR scandal, but we can give you the basics as reported so far:

  • Progressive customer Kaitlyn Fisher died in a tragic 2010 collision
  • The other driver was ruled responsible; his insurance provider immediately settled for a very small sum in keeping with his policy
  • Because the other driver was “underinsured,” a special clause in Kaitlyn’s policy required that Progressive also pay the difference between his total and hers
  • Progressive refused to pay the full total due to Kaitlyn’s estate, forcing her family to take legal action (recent graduate Kaitlyn had considerable student loans due at the time of her death)
  • Under Maryland law, the Fisher family could not sue Progressive directly; their only option was to sue the responsible driver and then use the judgment as leverage against the company
  • The driver was deemed negligent; during the trial, he was represented by Progressive’s own lawyer.

Sounds like a big headache, huh? It gets worse: Read more

Worst. PR Stunt. Ever. (Back Pain Edition)

Definitely a murdererCourtesy of Gawker, we bring you what will undoubtedly be the worst PR move of this or, arguably, any other week: a Minnesota chiropractor’s office sent out a press release implying that both the Aurora Dark Knight Rises tragedy AND the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 could have been prevented by…you guessed it, a trip to your friendly local back specialist.

According to the words of an unnamed PR genius writing under the headline “Don’t Let Anyone Go All Batman on YOUR Kids,” the perpetrators of these horrific crimes were almost certainly motivated by an inability to “feel pain, feel happiness, feel anything” stemming from screwed up or “WAY haywire!!” nervous systems that all lead back to “subluxated” spinal columns and other chiropractic discomforts. Like, duh.

If only those mass murderers had gone in for a glorified back massage. We have no words.

(In the most obvious follow-up ever, an apology was issued the next day.)

Gawker Media Seeks Freelance Flack


Gawker Media’s Nick Denton is not only looking for less inside baseball and better headlines, he’s looking for an old fashioned flack too.

According to a post this afternoon, the network of blogs is looking for a “freelance publicist/booker to handle incoming media requests as well as proactively book our editors for interviews/appearances on television and in print.”

We wonder how Denton can balance his traffic payment model (which keeps writers and editors at their desks) with the time consuming process of preparing for interviews, and traveling to and from TV studios.

Four Corners Comm’s Drew Kerr–who has himself been ensnared in Gawker’s hook-and-don’t-release M.O.–noted the irony in a Tweet today.

Gawker Pitches a Tent Over Mark Penn, Again


Gawker obtained an internal Burson-Marsteller email that plainly asks senior management to use CEO Mark Penn’s latest Wall Street Journal “Microtrends” column as a marketing tool to pitch potential clients.

This particular column was about “Glamping,” i.e. glamorous camping. BM EVP and former Bill Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer sent an email to the very top people suggesting they use the column as an excuse to call the national campground association, Coleman, “or emi ll beam etc.” and set up meetings for “mjp.” I assume he meant L.L. Bean, and either REI or EMS.

Illustrating what I call the “Denton Model” of blogging, former PRWeek reporter Hamilton Nolan weaves solid reporting with a full-dredge of all negative news Penn has been involved in, most notably his being spun out of the Hillary Clinton campaign for conflicts of interest. Once you’re in Gawker’s crosshairs, you can’t get out.

Business development is a bare knuckle game so we can’t really fault Gottheimer’s tactic. Nolan also takes a shot at Dow Jones and their Code of Ethics, and makes a stronger a point about the business of these softer trend op-eds.

What never fails to surprise me about these emails though, is the needless typos and errors for the sake of looking really, really busy. It’s better to be clear.

Private Eyes Snoop on Gawker Blogger


Apparently Crockett, Tubbs, and not even Spencer were for hire in the case of pesky blogger Hamilton Nolan from Gawker. Two private investigators have been snooping around his home town in Florida seeking information, saying it’s a background check for a potential job.

The former PRWeek reporter joined Gawker in January of this year to cover advertising, media, and PR.

I checked with Nolan and he said “I have no idea who it is,” but did confirm that about 10% of his posts are about the public relations industry.

What is clear though, is the PIs, or “dicks” involved, Steven Brown and Rachel Singleton don’t investigate many people who have the ability to publish their email addresses and cell phone numbers for the entire Manhattan media scene to see.

Feel free to send information on this incident to us here, or use the Anonymous Tips window on the main page. Discretion guaranteed.

PR Lessons from the Emily Gould Cover Story Saga


Being the last of the blogs to write about the NY Times magazine cover story penned by former Gawker, and current Galleycat blogger Emily Gould, we’re taking a different tack.

Are you in PR? You have something in common with the tat-clad blogstress. If you have ever emailed a blogger, put your name on a press release, or blogged under your own name you are in a sense, a public figure. It’s an important change (and not all that new) in our industry and it’s critical to understand it.

The new rules of engagement are there are no rules. A blogger or even a mainstream journalist can paste your name in a story whether you like it or not. This is a good thing as long as you know when and where to respond. The best thing to do now is to read the classic Fast Company story “The Brand Called You” and start gently steering your own brand toward the type of PR you want to do.

To illustrate the spectrum of personal exposure online, Gould relates a story illustrated by cutlery on a table, where people without Google traces are the fork on one end, and the ubiquitous Julia Allison are the spoon at the other extreme. It’s getting harder for PR people to be the fork. The full excerpt of the example is pasted after the jump:

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Ronn Torossian, Gawker Stalking on a Summer’s Eve


(Guerrilla domain squatting begets very douchey counter-squatting; image found on at press time)

Leaks, lawsuits and cyber-squatting continues in the saga of the Fastest Growing PR Agency ever, 5WPR.

CEO Ronn [sic] Torossian as he’s known on Gawker, is threatening another enemy with a lawsuit. This time it’s his own recently departed head of HR over help she may have given to a colleague’s job search.

The scoop belongs to former PRWeek reporter Hamilton Nolan, of course.

Hamilton can forget launching a website using his own name as the URL. Guess who bought the domain? Yes, 5WPR!

We’re looking in to the merry prankster behind which at press time conveyed quite a clean and refreshing message.

How To Get on Gawker

Get good interviews and the hits will come. That sentence could describe PR video maven Doug Simon’s strategy to bring traffic to his D S Simon Vlog Views video blog.

Simon’s interview with Associated Press entertainment editor Jesse Washington, now well known for having Britney Spear’s obituary written and ready to go, landed on today.

Disclosure: This PRNewser counts Doug Simon among his former bosses.

Orange Flacks Can’t Vote; No, Yes They Can!


(yup, still available on WireImage)

After dutifully (some areas of the PR beat are just, dutiful) reading Gawker’s items about flackstress/felloness Lizzie Grubman’s inability to vote, or not, we logged in to and briefly became excited by not seeing that sun-scorched images of her from last summer. We thought maybe she had them removed. Alas, you’ll find three if you scroll.

Sigh. She’s taught the business two things about the persistent nature of media. One, don’t do anything to get on the Smoking Gun. Two, don’t walk the line if you’re orange.

Then, an epiphany upon reading the deliciously baked poetry of commenter BettyCrocker: Is Gawker’s traffic mostly from addicted supercommenters? Betty commented 19 times yesterday, and 19 times the day before. Damn, we really need comments back on PRNewser.

BettyCrocker’s delightful poem about Ms. Grubman is after the jump:

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