When Coke isn’t the Real Thing

COKENZ2 150x150 When Coke isnt the Real Thing

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Coca-Cola.

Death by Coca-Cola? The Coca-Cola Company is waging a PR battle in New Zealand after a coroner found that its signature Coke product likely contributed to the heart attack and subsequent death of a young woman, Natasha Harris. The coroner said this week  that the amount of Coke drunk by Harris likely created a metabolic imbalance resulting in an irregular heartbeat. He called for Coca-Cola to put warning labels on its products that make clear the dangers of excessive consumption and to consider lowering the caffeine content.

By all accounts, Harris’s Coke addiction was uncommon. She is estimated to have drunk between 6-10 litres (2-2.5 gallons) per day, the equivalent of more than 2 pounds of sugar and nearly 1000 milligrams of caffeine.  Routinely vomiting and having no remaining teeth of her own, one or more of her eight children was reportedly born with no tooth enamel. Even the coroner conceded that Coca-Cola could not be held responsible for Harris’ irresponsible use of its beverage.

When Harris died three years ago, Coca-Cola resisted the implication that its soda could be linked to her demise. This time around, Coca-Cola is saying it is “disappointed” in the coroner’s findings because there is no conclusive proof that Coke was a substantial factor in Harris’ death. Media outlets around the world are unmoved and sceptical.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Coca-Cola. When the coroner says your product contributed to someone’s death – and common sense supports that view – saying “Did not!” is guaranteed to create new problems and additional coverage.

THE PR TAKEAWAY:  Aim at the perception not the reality. While the coroner’s report may well have legal holes to be later fought in a court, the real battle here is the reputational risk of Coke being seen as inherently dangerous. Coke is not a nutritionist’s best friend but then again, neither does it kill people on a regular basis. A more persuasive statement would have been to point to the coroner’s own acknowledgement and stress that anything, including water, can be damaging when it’s taken in such dramatic excess. With a response like that, Cocoa Cola may only have had to deal with one day of troubling press coverage and not the multiple it is now facing.

What Did Mike Wallace Tell Us About Journalism?

mikewallace What Did Mike Wallace Tell Us About Journalism?

The PR Verdict: “A” for a career that helped define broadcast journalism.

What does the death of veteran 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace at 93 tell us about the way we like our news?  The justifiable tributes have been flowing in thick and fast.  What’s noteworthy is what he is being remembered for.

CBS in its own tribute to Wallace said he “took to heart the old reporter’s pledge to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  He (Wallace) characterized himself as “nosey and insistent.”  CBS then lists proudly the 20th century icons that “…submitted to a Mike Wallace interview. He lectured Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, on corruption.  He lectured Yassir Arafat on violence and asked the Ayatollah Khoumeini if he were crazy.”

The complaint du jour of journalism, particularly broadcast journalism is that that it has lost the art of professional objectivity.  Journalists nowadays always have an angle, so goes the refrain from both the media establishment and opinion formers, and crusading journalism that starts with a point of view isn’t that way we want our news.  CBS and Wallace however proved that that isn’t always true.

The PR Verdict: “A” for an impressive career that helped define broadcast journalism.  In looking back over interview footage it’s clear that ‘nosey and insistent journalism” was always in vogue.

The material CBS chose in compiling Wallace’s interview highlights makes for fascinating viewing.  Confronting, insistent questioning and getting a rise out of the interviewee seem to be the hallmark of success for both Wallace and his producers at CBS.  The truth may be that we don’t mind opinionated and righteous journalism after all.

To see the compilation of Mike Wallace’s greatest interviews from CBS click here.

What’s your PR Verdict on the interviews?

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The Truth About Whitney By People Who Didn’t Know Her.

DAILYXPRESS2 300x161 The Truth About Whitney By People Who Didnt Know Her.

The PR Verdict : "F" for Shelley Ross and Daily Xpress

Blanket media coverage over the death of Whitney Houston continues. The airwaves are saturated with experts talking about the singer’s final moments, proffering unsolicited advice to bereaved fans and Houston’s family.

Enter Shelley Ross from the website Daily Xpress who in sincere and emphatic tones told CNN that “ultimately Whitney Houston gets the responsibility for what happened to her…Whitney was a junkie”…She adds with conviction, that the singer was “suffering the ravages of cocaine abuse.”

Commenting emphatically on the cause of death before the finding, let alone burial, is not only in questionable taste but also risks being wrong. This interviewee was unable to confirm anything substantive directly. When that is the case, being less emphatic and more circumspect is always the preferred route.

The PR Verdict: “F” for Shelley Ross and the  ‘expert” opinion of Xpress. There was nothing expert about it. That was the problem.

Ross shoots herself in the foot in this interview by stating “ I am not saying I knew her but I knew people who worked with her and other well meaning people.” Nice try. But without direct first hand knowledge, commenting on Houston’s death seems nothing more than a craven search for publicity. This would have been a better interview to decline.

To see the interview click below.

Daily Xpress calls Whitney Houston a “junkie”.

If you were Shelley Ross would you have done this interview?   [polldaddy poll=5948403]