IKEA Magic: Now You See Her, Now You Don’t

 IKEA Magic: Now You See Her, Now You Dont

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for IKEA.

Furniture retailer IKEA was caught off guard this week when a Swedish newspaper published pages from the Saudi Arabian edition of IKEA’s catalog.  What a surprise! Women in the Saudi edition had been Photoshopped out by local Saudi management.  Cue embarrassment for IKEA, a retailer that prides itself on liberal values.

The global catalogue is distributed to approximately 200 million households, but for the Saudis it contained unacceptable images that needed removing. What caused offense? A woman in her pajamas beside a bathroom sink. In Saudi Arabia, a Muslim country, women must conceal their bodies and hair. IKEA said in a statement that its does “not accept any kind of discrimination… We regret the current situation.” Management was keen to explain that the changes “do not align with IKEA Group’s values.”

IKEA Saudi Arabia is run by a franchisee outside the IKEA Group. Nevertheless, the company said it is “reviewing routines to safeguard correct content presentation from a values point of view.” Sensible and sensitive handling of this issue but, there could be trouble ahead.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for IKEA and a brand remaining true to its liberal streak, but beware of starting something that could become a cultural flashpoint.

The PR Takeaway: Marketing and discussions on broader cultural values rarely mix. What is puzzling about this news story is why IKEA hasn’t had this trouble before. Was a woman featured in the 2011 catalogue? What happened in the Saudi version then? It might have been easier to characterize this latest fuss as a breakdown in established procedures between a franchisee and a head office. IKEA has now stuck its neck out and committed publicly to a conversation about values. In a country as seemingly inflexible as Saudi Arabia, some things are best left unsaid. Better to have described this as a one-off business dispute between two partners and done the rest of the negotiations behind closed doors.

To read more, click here.

What’s your opinion of how IKEA handled this situation? Give us your PR Verdict!


How Do You Get To Be President And Be Yourself?

Breakthrough with Tony Robbins1 300x300 How Do You Get To Be President And Be Yourself?

The PR Verdict: “C” for disappointingly average advice.

Tony Robbins, America’s most impressive self help guru told CNN yesterday that Mitt Romney needs to be more himself and stop worrying what other people think.  According to Robbins, Romney is a passionate person whose authenticity and energy is not shining through. Be more real!  Less robotic!  Show you don’t give a damn!

PR and presentation advice of this type is now very much in vogue.  While hard to disagree with on a personal level it is however of little practical help when seeking high office.

Being yourself is sometimes less important than the right environment.  The venue/crowd where the candidate feels most comfortable is the key to unlocking authenticity.  Seek out those occasions and the rest will follow.

The PR Verdict: “C” for disappointingly average advice from the country’s leading self help guru.  Sensible advice to be elected to the Student Council but running for high office requires more planning and strategy.

Sarah Palin came alive when talking to convention centres packed with her tea party constituency.  Hilary Clinton is most energized when talking at international forums.  What is Romney’s favorite venue? Romney’s minders would be better advised to identify forums in which he demonstrates qualities that appeal most to the electorate.  And what are those qualities?  What qualites does he want to be known for?   Just “being yourself”  is rarely enough and an insufficient  strategy when running for high office.  Just ask Sarah Palin.

To see Tony Robbins giving advice click here.

What is your verdict on Tony Robbin’s PR advice?

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Why I Am STAYING With Goldman Sachs

quit Why I Am STAYING With Goldman Sachs

The PR Verdict: “B” for Goldman for a sensible response.

There was no basket of muffins, let alone an apple waiting on the desk for the newly appointed head of PR at Goldman Sachs, Jake Siewert on his first day yesterday.  Instead he was greeted with a big fat op-ed in the New York Times, written by resigning employee, Greg Smith, provocatively called Why I Am leaving Goldman Sachs.

The article was remarkable for its candor.  Citing an ongoing malaise and dysfunction within the firm, Smith described Goldman as “toxic” with a cultural bias that has Goldman routinely prioritising profits over  clients.   The article has created a huge amount of noise in both mainstream and social media.

Goldman’s defence was simple;  without putting clients first, the business would not exist.  Rather than take him on publicly, an internal staff memo was issued and leaked to the media.  The memo referred to the latest statistics on Goldman employee satisfaction and concluded that it was  aware that it didn’t get everything always right.  In so doing, it took some of the force out of Smith’s more generalised complaints.

The PR Verdict: “B” for Goldman for a sensible reply designed to defuse the situation on day one.  But what might be the best PR answer to counter Smith and show employees and clients that he got it wrong over the next week or so?

If the heat continues and internally there is a perception that the firm has not taken a tough enough stand, how about asking the NYTimes for a right of reply?  Submit an op-ed by a client  or employee called Why I have STAYED with Goldman Sachs answering directly some of the issues raised by Smith.  Even better, make it from someone connected to Smith’s ex-business, equity derivatives.  The power of the cuttings archive is undisputed and without a response, Smith’s op-ed will have the last say.  Goldman’s might want to call on friends for an alternative view.

To read the op-ed click here and to read more about the Goldman memo click here

What’s your verdict on how Goldman have handled this issue:

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