PayPal’s Quick Payback to Ranting Exec

paypal PayPals Quick Payback to Ranting Exec

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) to PayPal.

Another weekend, another tech sector exec behaving badly and embarrassing his employer. This time it’s PayPal, whose now-former global strategist Rakesh Agrawal unleashed a series of Twitter rants that were either his parting shot or cost him his job, depending on what you choose to believe.

Tweeting late night Friday from New Orleans, where he was attending Jazz Fest, Agrawal offered up choice expletives for co-workers he thought should be fired or were “useless,” including PayPal’s communications chief. In the remorseful light of morning, he tweeted that he had been using a new phone to “test experiences” and had intended those messages for a colleague. “Note to self,” he added, “don’t test a new phone when sleep deprived after working your ass off for 20 hours a day while on vacation.”

Within hours, PayPal tweeted that Agrawal, just two months into the job, was on vacation permanently, adding: “Treat everyone with respect. No excuses. PayPal has zero tolerance.” Not one to leave it there, Agrawal answered that he had actually quit Friday to start his own company. He followed that Sunday night with a series of since-deleted F-bomb tweets directed at – well, everyone – and then a promise of a “logical explanation” for the last two days. Please, don’t bother.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for PayPal, for a quick public display of disaffection with a self-destructing employee.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Move fast in matters of reputation. Lasting damage can occur literally at the speed of light. PayPal’s fast, direct response established Agrawal’s separation from the company, then pivoted to stress the firm’s zero tolerance for behavior or opinions like his. Companies have different policies on employee tweeting, but to a tech firm like PayPal, pre-screening tweets would run counter to Silicon Valley’s libertarian ethos and would never fly. The individual empowerment of social networks gives those with an axe to grind an instant platform to air their grievances. Companies need not hold back in responding.

Chipotle’s “Hacked” Tweets the Latest PR “Twend”?

Chipotle Logo 150x150 Chipotles Hacked Tweets the Latest PR Twend?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK ) for Chipotle’s Twitter “twick.”

Time was you were no one without a Twitter feed (Anthony Weiner, take note). But in the attention-challenged world of social media, trends move faster than you can click a Facebook “Like,” and the new mark of the Twitterati arriviste is to have your feed hacked. It’s so trendy, in fact, that some corporate marketeers are faking it.

Burrito franchiser Chipotle is the most recent case. A series of nonsensical non sequiturs crossed its Twitter feed last week before some guy named “Joe” tweeted about a “little problem with our account. But everything is back on track now!” Well whew!

As it turns out, it was all a marketing ploy, and by at least one measure it worked. The hourlong “hack” added 4,000 followers to Chipotle’s Twitter feed that day (compared to an average of 250), and the faux tweets were retweeted thousands of times (against a typical 75). “We thought people would pay attention,” a company rep later said, acknowledging that the “attack” was a tie-in to the company’s 20th anniversary promotion. Reaction, he said, was “overwhelmingly positive.”

Well, maybe. Not everyone thought the stunt was endearingly clever. Like its zesty Mexican fare, Chipotle’s spicy Twitter trick (“Twick,” anyone?) might have seemed a good idea at the time but result in little more than heartburn.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Chipotle, for taking a bite of PR risk that so far hasn’t bitten back.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Be careful with edgy humor, lest you become the punchline. The PR blooper reel is laden with jokes that backfired badly. The same caution goes for jumping on the latest trend or doing anything that potentially makes fun of your intended audience. With the corporate world’s rush into social marketing have come some embarrassing failures (remember #McDStories?). There is a growing backlash against companies that hamfistedly try to be hip or au courant with social media, and this is especially true among teen-to-twentysomethings to whom fast food chains like Chipotle cater. Skinny jeans don’t look good on everyone. Take a careful look from all angles to make sure what you’re doing fits.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners and Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) TO Dr. Phil. The glow of Oprah landing Lance Armstrong wore off after she asked him about doping in the first 30 seconds of her two-night interview. Switch to the next best “get” of the talk-show circuit – Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man who pretended for two years to be the tragic girlfriend of football star Manti Te’o. Dr. Phil knew enough not to open with the “why” but to drag out this fascinating, confounding story to a moment of climax. It was better than both Oprah’s Lance interview and Katie Couric’s sit-down with Te’o and weeping family. In the PR battles to be the nation’s confessor, Dr Phil scored a high point with this bizarre interview leaving the key question, why, to  last.


 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO Tim Mathieson, husband of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Mathieson recently spoke at an event at the PM’s official residence to promote awareness of prostate cancer. Sharing advice with the media, he helpfully opined: “….the digital examination is the only true way to get a correct reading on your prostate. So make sure you go and do that, and perhaps look for a small Asian female doctor… ” Gillard, and presumably small Asian female doctors, were not amused. The PM looked stony faced, and there was a subsequent rushed apology by Mathieson.  Was this the dinner party joke best shared with Joan Rivers and friends only?


 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners and LosersTHE “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” PR AWARD TO Brandi Glanville, who has a new book out called Drinking and Tweeting and Other Brandi Blunders. For the uninitiated, Glanville is a star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and the ex-wife of actor Eddie Cibrian. For the uninterested, Brandi did an interview during which she dropped the v-bomb repeatedly talking about the medical procedure to ‘rejuvenate’ her own birth canal after multiple children. To her credit, the mention of her private parts did pertain to the story she was telling, and she used the proper word, not “va-jay-jay” or some other silly nickname. But Brandi still wins this award for gratuitous use of the word, without which we wouldn’t have even come to our attention. See? She was right. …We can’t believe we fell for it.

Twitter: All the News Unfit to Print

 Twitter: All the News Unfit to Print

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Tommaso De Benedetti (below; pictured, author J.K. Rowling).


British author J.K. Rowling apparently died earlier this week. Fellow writer John Le Carre broke the news on his Twitter feed, saying that her death was the result of an accident. Mysterious indeed, but all the more confusing as J.K. Rowling is still alive and well, and Le Carre doesn’t generally update his followers on matters regarding Ms. Rowling. But the news went viral anyway and was retweeted hundreds of times, even appearing on a Chilean television broadcast. What was going on?


 Twitter: All the News Unfit to Print

Fake Tweeter Tommaso De Benedetti.

The not-so-elaborate hoax was the brainchild of Tommaso De Benedetti, who, when not faking Tweets, teaches literature in Rome. De Benedetti has previously killed off numerous celebrities, including Fidel Castro and the Pope, simply by saying it has happened. His fake Tweets have highlighted the ease with which a rumor can spread. Setting up bogus Tweets such as John Le Carre’s, he then spreads his “news.” His point? Retweets by the media become “fact,” despite never being independently verified.

De Benedetti describes his experiments as “games” that prove the media needs to carry out the necessary checks. He told the media that his “aim is to show that Twitter has become a news agency – the least reliable in the world.” But his efforts also demonstrate other basic learning points.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Tommaso De Benedetti. Anything can be true at any given time, provided the brand is credible and no details are given.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: If you want something to be true, provide crumbs, not a banquet.  Debenedetti makes the valuable but predictable pitch that quality journalism requires independent sourcing. What is more surprising is that  breaking news works best when it is less than the 140 characters required by Twitter. Details are not needed; all that is necessary is a name with brand recognition that has authority, and a grabbing headline. A useful rule for PRs wanting to make an instant splash; anything is now possible.

To read more, click here.


Stella McCartney’s Icy Olympic Tweet

 Stella McCartneys Icy Olympic Tweet

The PR Verdict: ”D” (PR Problematic) for Stella McCartney and her PR.

What was the PR advice given to designer Stella McCartney, creator of Team Great Britain’s podium outfits, as the opening of the Olympics got underway? As the Olympians went down the fashion runway, everyone watching had a point of view about each country’s sartorial expression. The Brits wore white and gold uniforms provided by clothing retailer Next, and not everyone was a fan.

The New York Times pronounced the uniforms “over the top.” Other commenters described the outfits as “somewhere between celestial beings and extras in a Jay-Z and Kanye West video.” Despite the unqualified success of the outstanding opening ceremony, some of the fashion press could’t resist a swipe. Presumably Stella McCartney didn’t want her clothing to be confused with those from Next; she designed the uniforms for the podium, not the opening. What to do?

Team McCartney dove into the world of social media and Tweeted, as the Brits’ uniform was unveiled, that Stella “designed the Team Great Britain performance kit, podium suit & village wear, not the Olympic ceremony suits.” Got that? Nothing to do with us, effectively read the message on Twitter. Her Tweet got more attention than it ever intended.

The PR Verdict: ”D” (PR Problematic) for Stella McCartney and her PR. Why not err on the side of generosity by congratulating Next and setting the record straight at the same time? Clarifying an issue with the word “not” is always open to misinterpretation.

The PR Takeaway: Be nice! Gushy good manners can make the same point as clarifications that may come off as harsh. From a PR point of view, it’s understandable that Stella McCartney wants to set the record straight about what was and wasn’t hers. Congratulating Next, instead of sending them out in the cold, would have been nicer and could have made the same point. How about this PR Appropriate Tweet: “A big fat congratulations to Next. My turn follows with our podium suits when we win our medals. Happy Games!” Exactly the same point, but nothing defensive, and it includes praise for  your Olympic partner. Sometimes good PR really is just about good manners.

To read more bitchy commentary about the Olympic uniforms, click here.

What’s your opinion of Stella McCartney’s clarification? Give us your PR Verdict!