JC Penney’s “Secret” Apology

 JC Penneys Secret Apology

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for JC Penney’s embarrassingly sentimental but effective ad.

How to make up after a row? That’s the question the management of JC Penney had to ask itself following its repositioning of the venerable retail chain. The storied brand was put through some radical changes under new management, and the changes, designed to attract a younger clientele, proved disastrous. Holiday sales in 2012 dropped over 30 percent, and the retail brand lost a third of its customers and over $4 billion in revenue.

JC Penney’s first step to recovery is to apologize. The retailer is kicking off with a commercial called “It’s no secret,” backed with an extensive social media and broadcast program that lets customers past and present know that they got things wrong. “What matters with mistakes is what we learn,” says the commercial’s voice over. “We learned a very simple thing: to listen to you. To hear what you need to make your life more beautiful.” The spot ends asking consumers to “come back.”

The commercial has provoked varied reactions, including some who said they were reduced to tears (really), while naysayers counter that the ad promises nothing and sounds like empty air. But just like part of a couple making up after a row, JC Penney understands that for an apology to count, it needs to be devoid of justifications and imprudent promises. First base is to let the mea culpa stand and be heard so that a new page can be turned. Then, and only then, proceed.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for JC Penney and its embarrassingly sentimental but effective ad campaign.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Apologies don’t count when padded with reasons and justifications. This ad hits the right chord and targets the family consumer who was most alienated by highhanded, wanna-be hipster management overhauls. This is a clever first step, modest and deferential while simply asking for a second chance. Hollywood couldn’t have written it better. Now let’s see if this relationship can move on.

To see the JC Penney ad, click here.





Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift is one of the biggest pop sensations ever, so that should translate to huge sales for the magazines that put her on their covers, right? The swift answer: no. Or, in the parlance of Swift’s teenaged fans: Like, totally nuh-uh.

Swift released a new album, Red, last fall and magazine bookers were working overtime. Swift, who is 23, has a fan base in their teens, but that didn’t mean she’d only rate the cover of Teen Vogue. No, her bookings included Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Elle, all in the space of one year, while her cover for Vanity Fair – whose demographic generally skews older than the parents of Swift’s fans – is out this month.

Swift Glamour1 150x150 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for MagazinesSo how did this multi-platinum selling artist perform for magazine sales? She sold reasonably well for Glamour (at left), okay for Vogue (above) and Bazaar, and, perhaps most surprisingly, made a terrible showing for Cosmo: the worst-selling cover for 2012 (below). Possible explanation? Swift is mightily overexposed in all media. It’s a knee-jerk reaction for PRs to book as many covers as possible.


 Taylor Not a Swift Seller for Magazines

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Taylor Swift’s PR machine. Mainstream covers are good for both star and publication…except when the mag numbers turn out to be poor.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: The all-you-can-eat buffet does have its price. It’s great to have a star that every magazine wants on its cover, but should PRs say yes to every offer? While Swift’s PRs presumably enjoyed credit for booking “mainstream” covers, they now have to contend with the negative press that comes with the revelations that she was a worst-seller. Plum bookings in the future may be harder to come by. Next time, all parties should consider a celebrity’s fan base, and act accordingly – or face Swift retribution.

Tired of Working in Porn? Why Not Become a Realtor?

realtor2 Tired of Working in Porn? Why Not Become a Realtor?

The PR Verdict “F” for Prudential and Corcoran and the other firms whose brokers were quoted.

Tired of working in porn? Didn’t make it as a prima ballerina?  Best days as a famous hand model over? Then why not become a New York realtor?  As a Managing Director at Prudential Douglas Elliman told the NYTimes yesterday, people come to NYC  “with a dream ….often times those dreams don’t pan out….and then you start looking at alternative careers.”

Yesterday’s front-page article on the city’s realtor business featured a diverse range of brokers.  All had previously worked in an initial career (usually more colorful) and then migrated to real estate sales, as their favoured career stalled.  Being a realtor, intimated the article, is the default safety-net for the career lost.

Prudential, one of Manhattan’s leading realtors, had a number of  its brokers quoted, including a fashion designer and former porn star (above) but oddly no comment from the firm itself.  Where was the corporate PR to provide some balance to the personal tales of those interviewed?

The PR Verdict: “F” for Prudential and Corcoran and the other firms whose brokers were quoted.   Fine to have the narcissist broker grab a headline but what does it say about the rest of the firm and those who work there?

While this was always going be a lighter hearted article, a comment from a corporate PR talking about how diverse employees bring in diverse listings and clients would have made a better business case.  Instead one couldn’t help wondering if the porn studio, or ballet troupe came knocking again, the ranks of these firms would be quickly deserted.  Given that clients pay average fees of 6 percent of the sale price,  management might want to take a more visible role in how articles like this position their firm.

To read the NYTimes article click here.

What’s you PR Verdict on the coverage?

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