"Public relations is essentially about developing and maintaining structured communications with stakeholders important to a business or organisation's operational and financial performance so they continue to support the business in their own ways."
Are big bold ads now the immediate way to address real or perceived injustices thought to have been perpetrated through the columns of newspaper? On July 2, the New Zealand Herald ran a story stating that an investigation found a couple of eco-friendly laundry powders had high pH levels which could pose a health risk. One of these was an Ecostore product. The very next day Ecostore ran a full page ad in the NZ Herald claiming, There’s no Dirt on our Laundry Powder.
Advertising your side of the story in response to editorial coverage is not new, but until now it has normally been used when a publication has refused to run a ‘correction’ or adequately covered your side of the story.
Basically Ecostore ‘s response was: yes we did have some laundry powder that was found in May to register a high pH level, but that "honest mistake” was remedied in four days. It insisted the out-of-spec powder was never unsafe, and for that reason no recall from the market was warranted, although Consumer NZ thought it should have been.
The Newspaper Advertising Bureau thought Ecostore’s response to the Herald article was pretty cool, and awarded it "ad of the month”. The judges commented: "The ad’s got topicality. That’s how a newspaper should be used to make a statement.”
Putting aside the issue of how Ecostore’s agency managed to secure that much advertising space in the NZ Herald the next day (when those of us who’ve tried unsuccessfully to get recall ads placed within a couple of days), was this full page a sound strategy?
Yes and no. Ecostore did address the issues raised in the same paper the previous day, but not in the same medium. And people who read news items do not always read ads, even the full page ones.
From its point of view, Ecostore may have put the record straight. We don’t know what effort Ecostore made to redress the issues raised through the editorial columns and/or whether the NZ Herald lost interest in the issue.
We do know Ecostore did not meet its own expectations – it made a mistake with the product specs – but they did not recall the product because it did not represent the danger alleged by Consumer NZ. When building and protecting a brand, surely product integrity is as important as disputed issues of safety.
I’m not convinced that the ad adequately resolved the issue at hand, i.e. mistakenly high pH levels.
There’s news and there’s views. The ad was a view. I’m sure Ecostore recognises that news can and does shape opinion more sustainably than views. On this basis I would counsel an editorial response, rather than an advertising one.
And there is also the issue of whether a precedent has been set where newspapers might deny a person the right of reply on the basis that they can ‘take out an ad if they want to correct the content or tone of coverage’!
Previous PostsFutile ground for creating spokespeople (12 June 2013)
Is it time to retire the EQC? (21 May 2013)
Too big to communicate (1 May 2013)
CEOs less trusted- why might that be? (4 March 2013)
Talking is not communicating (21 February 2013)
Cats and postal deliveries (31 January 2013)
The creeping disease of our language – hyperbole (6 December 2012)
Some lessons in media relations (29 November 2012)
Get with it, Mr Cunliffe, porkies are fine (21 November 2012)
Our own enquiry time as Sandy creates havoc (1 November 2012)
Communicating the poverty message (12 October 2012)
Politics, a game for the superhuman – or the Nixon solution (5 October 2012)
The potent weapon of bullying claims (29 August 2012)
All for one and one for all (31 July 2012)
Greenpeace a global business with the eye for the bottom line (26 July 2012)
The script for higher prices is written in the weather (20 July 2012)
A crass publicity stunt (12 July 2012)
Communication support for families in need (5 July 2012)
Descending to the depths of meanness (21 June 2012)
No thanks Minister (18 June 2012)
We’ve got a problem – let the shouting begin! Or is there a better way? (8 June 2012)
Speaking in headlines, merely for headlines (30 May 2012)
Exposés and rebuttals – are we any the wiser? (30 May 2012)
“The government should do something about that…” (7 May 2012)
Another Kiwi world champion (2 May 2012)
An abuse of power (27 April 2012)
Watch that, or I’ll get YouTube on to you (17 April 2012)
A perverse form of logic (16 April 2012)
Celebrity endorsements play to our laziness (29 February 2012)
Keeping their own counsel may be best course of action (22 February 2012)
The tatty remnants of Occupy (26 January 2012)
Media relationships - it’s important to make them work (20 January 2012)
The spirit of communicating (21 December 2011)
Lessons from a “private conversation” (22 November 2011)
Never mind policy, what’s on the tape? (18 November 2011)
Good on you, Vector (2 November 2011)
A cardinal rule of crisis management lies in the dirt (9 June 2011)
Some French madness – surely? (7 June 2011)
Something to tweet about (2 May 2011)
Litany of apologies, but no humility (13 April 2011)
The tendency to editiorialise – knock it off (7 April 2011)
A campaign to help the country... (29 March 2011)
A storm in an outhouse (9 March 2011)
Cyclone Yasi – the new reality TV show (25 February 2011)
New chums in a unique cause (23 November 2010)
Shredding your reputation for a headline (29 October 2010)
Communications shouldn't mean altercation (14 October 2010)
Finding fairness for all victims is what will define us (24 September 2010)
Entire towns are falling off their ladders (30 August 2010)
The age of intolerance (17 August 2010)
How you respond is a measure of your mettle (30 July 2010)
The perplexing topic of food pricing (15 July 2010)
Lying as part of your strategy (9 July 2010)
Never mind the lost productivity. It’s a rich educational experience (23 June 2010)
The revenge of the people with red hair (27 May 2010)
No cure, but other miracles (19 May 2010)
Another tragedy and chorus call for the Government (12 May 2010)
The fashion of rebranding (28 April 2010)
The tale of two media interviews (24 March 2010)
Clear messages from the golden age of advertising (4 March 2010)
Plenty for the Commerce Commission in the holiday homes market (18 February 2010)
Food Inc only a point of view (23 June 2009)
A budget for feeding the chooks (4 June 2009)