THINKPIECE: FAO Schwarz is "tweaking" its PR program to ensuresensitivity as it gets back to business

"'Stop being afraid' doesn't mean you can get rid of the emotion;

it means over-coming it. It's just going out and doing the things you

normally do." Those poignant words from New York City Mayor Rudolph

Giuliani at a recent memorial service held at Yankee Stadium epitomize

the city and the country's plea to return to normalcy following the

tragic events of September 11. Public relations practitioners - myself

included - have been forced to rethink their strategies behind major PR

initiatives. So what does this mean for an industry that has already

been reeling from a slumping economy?

In these extraordinary times, the key to any public campaign is finding

just the right balance between being sensitive to the news environment

and having appropriate content. It is equally important that we realize

the increased significance of our efforts given the challenging media

environment, as we have an even greater responsibility to our clients,

our corporations, and most importantly, to the general public.

At FAO Schwarz, finding the right balance has been no less of a

challenge, especially with the critical holiday shopping season just

around the corner. A press event to celebrate our company's 140th

holiday season and to unveil a new collection of high-end children's

fashion and lifestyle goods was no longer relevant. The strategy needed

to be rethought, and the messages accompanying it had to be redefined.

The announcement now reflects the broader scope of how people's lives

have been affected by the tragedy, with greater emphasis on celebrating

children and the spirit of play. In addition, the focus has shifted to

our company's vital role as a New York tourist destination. Other

product launches, including that of a widely anticipated new preschool

property, were not shelved, but rather tweaked, with an emphasis on

providing parents with a uniquely entertaining diversion for their


As a major retailer and a prominent New York institution, we have a

responsibility to help encourage families to return to a sense of

normalcy, and our public relations outreach will continue to support

those efforts. Our mission of bringing smiles to the faces of children

of all ages has never been more important.

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