Relating to the public is key to public relations

At its very core, public relations means relating to the public. But some companies just don't get it.

At its very core, public relations means relating to the public. But some companies just don't get it.

As every sports fan in Manhattan knows, New York Mets cable telecasts on MSG Network and Fox Sports New York were held hostage for 36 days by - and this depends on whom you believe - Time Warner Cable (TWC) or Cablevision. The two sides couldn't agree on how much TWC had to pay Cablevision for the rights to air the games. The impasse came to an end last Monday, but Big Apple sports fans won't soon forget the PR errors made.

We acknowledge TWC's "generous" offer to refund $2 per month to each of the 2.4 million subscribers who were blacked out. But 200 cents is a lame trade-off for not watching a beloved team.

The two cable giants failed to score PR points while the imbroglio persisted. Opportunities to placate suffering customers by allowing Met games broadcast on other networks to be seen by TWC customers - even if only once or twice - were seemingly ignored. Sure, legal red tape may have been an obstacle to that solution, but from this fan's perspective no effort was made to see if it could be done. C'mon guys, was that too much to ask?

What truly crystallized this is my mind was a letter I received in the mail last week from Genworth Financial, my dental-insurance company. Apparently, they sent me a $206 check last April for overpayments, but I didn't cash it. Genworth could have left it at that, but instead asked me if I'd misplaced the check and offered to send another one. Granted, it was a very simple gesture, but one I won't forget.

The power of PR, and of the simple gesture, is amazing. Did you ever think an insurance company would be more popular in a sports fan's eyes than his favorite team's cable carrier? I never did. Until now.

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