What began with a T-shirt - an improv group creating a logo for its troupe based on the Best Buy logo - has quickly become a headache for the retailer. The company issued cease-and-desist letters to Improv Anywhere and clothing company Neighborhoodies for Improv's logo. Instead of stopping there, however, lawyers reportedly also sent cease-and-desist letters to a blog that reported on the incident.
Whether the blogs covering the story were promoting (rather than reporting) is partly irrelevant. What's important is the apparent disconnect between lawyers at Best Buy and the in-house communications team - a disconnect all too common in today's corporate culture. Missing that crucial link, the lawyers were likely ill-informed on the communications issues surrounding the move: specifically that sending the letters to bloggers would result in negative news coverage for the company, and prove ineffective in protecting the brand anyway.
Repeatedly, companies' legal teams pounce on perceived offending parties without communications advice, a mistake that could prevent a cohesive strategy to weather the trouble.
This isn't the first time something like this has happened. Last year, PRWeek judged Oprah Winfrey's decision to go against her attorneys (saying they "overreacted" after sending a similar letter to a man promoting Winfrey as a presidential candidate) as a wise move.
Best Buy is in a no-win situation. Blogs will continue to rail against it, and what could have been a debate about copyright is now a party to pillory the company.
Of course, Best Buy sent an apology letter to the blogger a few days after the furor began. If it was so easy for Best Buy to retract the cease-and-desist statement in the end, maybe it shouldn't have sent one in the first place.