With its stock scraping bottom at just over $6.00 a share, its image reeling from a failed attempt to to stick its customers with a $5.00 per month debit card fee, and accusations of thousands of fraudulent foreclosures, Bank of America is undertaking another effort to improve its image. Heading up the makeover attempt is Anne M. Finucane, BofA's Global Strategy and Marketing Officer. Ms. Finucane knows better than most the depths of the trouble BofA is in. The New York Times dubs her the bank's chief "image officer" and says she and the bank stumbled badly with their failed attempt to impose a $5 monthly debit card fee -- a policy that failed after a massive uprising against the fee by BofA's customers. To her credit, Ms. Finucane says that BofA's damaged reputation "cannot be fixed with just a few new slogans. ... In order to repair reputation, you have to repair the issues that underlie" the problems, she says. But how this behemoth bank is going to improve its image when almost every week there is another story of a wrongful or needlessly cruel foreclosure, such as last week's news that a man was losing his home over an $.80 cent error, is anyones guess. BofA spends $1.55 billion/year on marketing in the U.S. alone. Fincucane has reportedly initiated a review of the company's advertising agencies, and selected agencies will be invited to pitch ideas for new marketing strategies to help improve the company's image.
Corporate spinmeisters may take note of a new study out this month by University of Missouri and University of Singapore researchers. They studied readers' reaction to various news articles and found that the subtle way in which journalists report on crises -- like oil spills, plane crashes or product recalls -- can affect the public's attitude towards the corporation involved in the crisis. Not surprisingly, the public tends to respond more favorably towards a corporation if the story is given a "sadness-frame," meaning if it centers around the plight of the victims and how relief is being delivered. By contrast, if a story focuses on the corporation's contribution to the crisis, including laws that were potentially broken and possible punishment, it elicits a more negative attitudes towards the corporation. The research may prove useful to corporate criminals as well as accident-prone industries. "It is important for corporations to put on a human face during crises," Cameron said. "If a corporation can focus on the well-being of the victims and how the corporation will improve following the crisis, they have a better chance of influencing 'sadness-frame' news coverage as opposed to 'anger-frame' coverage. If the news coverage remains 'sadness-framed,' public perception will stay more positive." Watch for this spin in your local news and keep us informed at PRWatch.org.
Confronted with a report by ProgressVA stating that through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate lobbyists get access to legislators "behind closed doors," ALEC politician Bill Howell dismissed the claim and told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that all ALEC meetings were open to the public.
That would be breaking news to both traditional press and the online media that have been blocked from ALEC meetings and are increasingly being threatened with arrest.
Tucson-based civil rights attorney Stacy Scheff believes that Westin Kierland may have violated federal constitutional law when they threw a journalist (and paid guest) out into the dead of night--due to the simple fact that the journalist evicted had written critically of (and was not liked by) the organization hosting a conference at the hotel. (A new story about these events is available here).
Anheuser-Busch's United Kingdom division, InBev, employed a lobbying firm to edit the Wikipedia entry about its Stella Artois brand of lager to delete a negative reference to the brand. Portland Communications, a lobbying firm run by a former adviser to Tony Blair, deleted the term "wife-beater" from the Wikipedia article about Stella Artois, reportedly to "challenge any connections between the brand and domestic violence." Stella Artois, one of the biggest brands of lager in the UK, in recent years has earned the nickname "wife beater" because of its high alcohol content and apparent popularity among rowdy soccer players. The changes on Wikipedia were made by a user named Portlander10, who had an IP address traceable to Portland Communications. Portland maintains that the changes were made openly and within Wikipedia's rules. In the wake of this revelation, though, a meeting has been scheduled between the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Wikipedia to give PR professionals guidance for working on Wikipedia, and to develop a code of conduct for PR professionals to help minimize attempts to mask the true identity of PR pros seeking to edit the site.
Contrary to most press accounts, there was a decisive winner in the Iowa caucuses last night, and it was neither Rick Santorum nor Mitt Romney. The "winner" was the so-called "Super" PACs (political action committees), the mutant front groups for political candidates that were "created" in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that unleashed corporations and billionaires to spend unlimited money influencing elections.
This report exposing the deceptive tactics of the American Petroleum Institute was originally posted at Greenpeace.
Recently, Greenpeace got a rare look behind the curtain at how Big Oil stages citizen support for huge oil companies, when activists got inside a TV commercial shoot in Washington DC. The American Petroleum Institute(API), and their PR firm Edelman, were filming a new series of TV commercials that we learned API plans to air nationally on CNN starting in January. The ads, aimed at the 2012 elections, will aim to demonstrate authentic citizen support for the oil industry's agenda.
As Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's new policies restricting protest in the Wisconsin capitol take effect in advance of the anniversary of 2011's historic labor uprisings, the controversial governor has enlisted a new spokesperson to sell the rules, a 28-year old protégé of Karl Rove and new political appointee of the governor.
The Water Environment Federation (WEF), the sewage sludge industry trade group that invented the Orwellian PR euphemism "biosolids" for toxic sludge in 1991, is now "rebranding" sewage treatment plants as "water resource recovery facilities." The PR spin conveniently glosses over the toxic sewage sludge removed from the water and then heated and dumped on land for crops and grazing as "fertilizer" or misleadingly called "compost." The toxins in sludge can then bioaccumulate in the meat and dairy we eat and be taken up by the food plants that feed us.
The Public Relations Society of America, the trade group for the American public relations industry, and Jack O'Dwyer, who has specialized in reporting on the PR industry for over 40 years, are at war, and the battle is getting heated -- and harmful for PRSA.
Why should people care about this obscure fight? Because the conflict is a microcosm of the battle against the unethical and harmful PR trends that are hurting this country.