Editorial: They call it ’risky,’ we call it good PR

We were slightly amused, though no doubt encouraged, when word hit last week that Procter & Gamble told its ad agencies to focus less on TV spots and instead embrace direct mail, promotions and online marketing.

We were slightly amused, though no doubt encouraged, when word hit last week that Procter & Gamble told its ad agencies to focus less on TV spots and instead embrace direct mail, promotions and online marketing.

We were slightly amused, though no doubt encouraged, when word hit

last week that Procter & Gamble told its ad agencies to focus less on TV

spots and instead embrace direct mail, promotions and online

marketing.



We chuckled when The Wall Street Journal spoke about a planning meeting

for Bounty paper towels, where - hold onto your hats! - the PR team was

brought in from the get-go rather than receiving its marching orders

from the ad team after the fact.



Why were we smiling? Because while the mainstream media is treating this

as a marketing revolution at P&G - the company that invented the soap

opera - we know that it’s more of an evolution by a brand giant that’s

finally getting it. For example, months before it launched its new

hair-care line, Physique, P&G created a Web site that offered a free

bottle of shampoo to users who e-mailed the link to friends. To generate

buzz when the brand hit the shelves, P&G sponsored a study by a Yale

professor that concluded that bad-hair days make people sad.



The Wall Street Journal called the approach ’risky.’ We don’t think it’s

risky. After being hammered by a string of earnings disappointments,

where’s the risk in reining in costly TV ads and spending your marketing

dollar more wisely?



When asked if this approach meant a newfound emphasis on PR for P&G,

spokeswoman Gretchen Briscoe demurred, claiming that it’s impossible to

make generalizations at a company where each brand is treated as a

separate business. But it’s hard to imagine that PR won’t become more of

a focal point across the board.





Keep workin’ on the railroad, please



You’ve heard it all before from Amtrak.



The company wants to be more receptive to its public. It wants to

revitalize its brand. It wants to provide better support for the media

that swoops down, vulture-like, upon its every PR hiccup.



The July 6 announcement of a new logo and consumer-satisfaction

guarantee was supposed to be a key component in the Amtrak PR revival

’We know of no other passenger transportation provider that offers

anything of this kind,’ crowed VP of corporate communications Bill

Schultz.



Alas, in a situation that recalls the supposedly world-altering debut of

the company’s high-speed Acela train - which came out of the gate late

during its much publicized maiden journey - Amtrak has once again found

a way to shoot itself in the foot.



Last Monday, Joseph Vranich, an Amtrak critic who sat on a panel

monitoring financial reforms at the railroad, resigned his post,

charging that the current Amtrak board was concealing its financial

problems ’through bogus accounting methods and other means.’ How did the

newly responsive Amtrak PR department respond? The company’s

spokespeople were unable to be reached for comment, while president

George Warrington was nowhere to be found.



Talk about not getting it. At some point, Amtrak will learn the hard way

that it can babble all it wants about improving its PR. But until the

company backs up its words with something other than after-the-fact mea

culpas, Amtrak will continue to be a PR laughingstock.



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