Consumers Didn’t “Like” General Mills’ Arbitration Clause

 Consumers Didnt Like General Mills Arbitration Clause

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for General Mills for a bad move quickly righted.

Anyone involved with PR and decision-making at General Mills was busier than the Pope conducting Easter services this weekend. The food company, one of the world’s largest and owner of brands including Pillsbury, Yoplait, Betty Crocker, Nature’s Way, and many more found itself working overtime on the holiday weekend to correct a mistake that bred bad PR like wildfire.

At issue was a change made last week to General Mills’ legal policy regarding consumers’ ability to take legal action against the company or one of its brands. The new terms seemed to state that even “liking” the company’s Facebook page in order to get a coupon meant consumers waived the right to sue.

Public condemnation was, predictably, fast and furious. General Mills tried to say that the policy had been “grossly mischaracterized,” but they quickly apologized and reversed the policy. “We’re sorry we even started down on this path,” wrote General Mills representative Kirstie Foster on the company’s blog. No translation of legalese necessary there.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for General Mills for a bad move quickly righted.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: When consumers go on the warpath, declare peace. Lately PRs have been confronted with company heads who let personal opinion affect brand profiles, as with Brendan Eich and Mozilla. The case with General Mills is more of a classic demonstration of “The customer is always right.” When it became very quickly clear that a business decision angered the people who buy their products, their new policy decision was reversed. That’s the business side. For PRs, the job was striking the right sort of apology: brief explanation for the actions taken, a fast reversal, a human being making a plainly-worded apology. Good ingredients for PR repair after an idea turned out to be half-baked.

Guest Column: Canadian Political Party Smackdown!

598e8a954113bbd41d651c0b7a2f 300x214 Guest Column: Canadian Political Party Smackdown!

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the NDP.

Canadians are used to conservative party political attack ads, even when there isn’t an imminent election. Since 2007, the norm has been for the ad to run and the Liberal Party not to respond. The Liberals lost the last two elections. Apparently, Canada’s new Opposition Party, the ultra-left NDP, has had enough.

Some history: The old ads from the party of the Canadian Prime Minster, Stephen Harper, suggested that the Liberal Leader of the Opposition was “not a leader”; the Liberals sat on their hands, and Leader Stephane Dion was subsequently trounced in the next election. The Liberals then got a new Leader, Michael Ignatieff, a Harvard professor and frequent expat. Harper painted Ignatieff as a crass opportunist who “didn’t come back [to Canada] for you.” Ignatieff also chose not to respond and promptly led his party to the biggest defeat in Liberal history.

Canada got a new Opposition Party with the NDP. Harper started attack ads on the new Leader of the NDP, admonishing the Party with the innuendo, “This is the best you can do?” This time, the NDP shot back with an ad accusing Harper of attacking the most vulnerable Canadians during the recession. Even without an election in the offing, the ads say that current policies aren’t working and that Canadians will have to pay the price. The war is on–but who will win?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for the NDP. While necessary to respond to the attack ads, the NDP policy wonks obviously won the day by attacking policies, not personalities. 

The PR Takeaway: Politics is about popularity, rarely policy. The Prime Minister’s attack ads are directed at the subject’s image and reputation; these attributes take years to build, but only 30 seconds to undermine. The NDP took the moral high ground by talking about policies, which Canadians find tough but pragmatic in a recession. Leading up to the next election, the Prime Minister can backtrack, soften, or amend these policies to diffuse the NDP’s salvos. More likely than not, the NDP will find it harder to fight the PM’s more personal attack campaign. Hitting back with policy is a hard sell. 

Is the NDP attack tactic effective, or should they have stayed out of the muck altogether? What’s your PR Verdict? 


Mr Brand? Will That Be All?

Russellbrand Mr Brand? Will That Be All?

The PR Verdict: “B” for Russell Brand and his well-structured testimony.

There was something surreal about the testimony of comedian Russell Brand to the British Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee yesterday on drug abuse.  Was it is his sleeveless black shirt, the wild man beard, the crazy hair or the multiple rings and chains?  Was this Russell’s Sunday best?

Appearances aside, he made his points clearly.  The dozen-times arrestee said substance abusers should get treatment and not be sent to prison.  He spoke with passion and conviction about a topic he has been public about many times.  His key message?   Drug abuse is a public health issue not a criminal issue.

From a PR point of view he was clear about what he wanted to comment on and what he didn’t.  He batted back various questions including the legalization of drugs and other wider social issues claiming he was not “particularly qualified” to make that call.   But then he didn’t stop talking…Enough Russell !  And please sit still!

The PR Verdict: “B” for Russell Brand and his well-structured testimony.  This might have been an “A” but if only he would STOP talking. Sometimes enough really is more than enough.

PR Takeaway:  Make your points and watch them land.  Wait for a response and say nothing.  Brand’s testimony gave some unintentionally good pointers as to how to handle a media interview.  Style of delivery is just as important as content and Brand fluctuated between skittish and grounded, overexcited and solemn.  In the future stay confined to short bullet point paragraphs and make it clear when finished.  No need to fill in the blanks.  Just wait for the next question.  And why NOT tuck your shirt in?

To see very brief excerpt click here and to see a longer excerpt click here.

What’s your verdict on Russell’s testimony?

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