To do an unpopular thing in order to serve the needs of another facet of the business is often called taking a "PR hit."
Industry watchers can easily point to Johnson & Johnson's recent lawsuit against the American Red Cross as a prime example of such an occurrence.
J&J certainly knew suing a nonprofit partner, especially when it involves a dry topic like branding rights, was going to have a negative impact on its reputation. While this type of situation puts any company's PR department in a tough bind, J&J astutely knew that having its PR pros merely issue bland statements regarding the lawsuit and focus on promoting the next great ware would have been near pointless.
In fact, J&J's Ray Jordan, corporate VP of public affairs and corporate communications, and Marc Monseau, director of media relations, have been blogging about the lawsuit quite frequently at JNJBTW.com.
Judging by some misspellings, such as "porpose," the blog could not have been too heavily vetted, if at all, by the legal department. And most of the commentary is refreshing - Jordan self-deprecatingly wonders if he would choose this suit as a "reputation-building opportunity," and Monseau provides links to external commentary, both positive and critical.
But this approach, we're afraid, might delve too steeply into inside baseball. In the new media paradigm, J&J must be diligent to take the fight to the other public - that which knows nothing of RSS feeds and trackbacks. It needs to explain its position, with the same tone of voice, to the public that reads unbalanced, knee-jerk editorials in their local papers.
J&J's home page has no mention of the lawsuit, and the blog, it appears, is completely unmoored from the company's main site. Either an issue is important enough to discuss everywhere, or it's not important at all.