Monday, May 07, 2007

Spin doctor, heal thyself

I keep scanning the offbeat sections of the big news sites, but all I find is the same old stuff about Ted Williams’ head escaping from the cryogenics center and Kermit’s ill-advised visit to the kitchen of a French restaurant. There’s not a word about whatever death ray, killer fungus or genetically modified kudzu is eating the brains of some restaurant public relations people. And yet I see the terrifying damage every day.

Today, for instance, we were pursuing a story about a possible major setback for a chain that seemed to be going out of its way to push past a major setback without any public disclosure. Our queries appeared to upset the plan, so we played what amounts to a media version of Space Invaders, trying to hit a contact with a question as our deadline marched inexorably toward us. And yet we kept missing. Putting a bowtie on a yeti would have been an easier bull’s eye.

Finally, though we never linked up, information was provided about the brand in question. I kept thinking that I’d mistakenly intercepted some application for sainthood, because the effusive account of the concept’s situation and recent performance would have made Eddie Haskell blush. The PR person all but credited it with the decline in childhood tooth decay. Strangely, though, he made no mention of the very matter we’d called to probe, which was damning. Nor did he mention the Tooth Fairy or Tinker Bell, though either would have fit the Candy Land he described.

I don’t understand how he could believe that splash of whitewash would work. Once upon a time, companies might’ve controlled the information circulating about them. They, of course, were the major source of it. But with the blog- and media-studded web, that’s just not going to happen any more. I could probably learn about a bruise on one of the strawberries sold at Ed’s Grocery in Myrtle Hills within three Google searches.

To be sure, I don’t intend to use a broad brush here. There are many, many fine and capable chain communications contacts with whom we deal day in and day out. But the best among them understand that smoke screens just don’t work anymore. The web turns every one of your employees—hell, each of your customers, too—into a prospective source for us. They know that the media abhors a vacuum, and if they don’t fill it with accurate, complete information, will fill the void.

But I gotta run. Fox just reported that Ted Kennedy’s hair is actually an endangered seal pup that works for less than the minimum wage.


  1. So is darden shedding smoky bones and pairing down Bahama breeze as a pre-cursor to purchasing applebees or wendys.....hum maybe - why now otherwise????


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