Posted by Tom Gable
The head of a large information technology company forwarded a link to a CNN Money story on “Millions of SOPA lobbying bucks gone to waste” and provided a pithy editorial comment:
“The power of PR!”
Definitely. Smart PR strategists can mobilize public opinion through social and traditional media to make statements, move public opinion and change behaviors. In the case of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), CNN reported that “The controversial anti-piracy bills that attracted tens of millions of dollars of lobbying for and against the proposed laws ironically were killed by free publicity.”
The story noted:
“Old media companies spent huge sums of money in support of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). Those opposed — Internet and “new media” companies — lobbied hard and spent gobs too, though far less than their more organized rivals. But Silicon Valley had a trick up its sleeve that trumped the millions of dollars more in lobbying muscle and the more established Washington presence of the old media guard: They reached out directly to their users for free.”
The story goes on to cover how Wikipedia shut down for 24 hours and Google blacked out its logo in protest of the bill. The public upheaval forced Congress to drop the bills, at least for now.
On the flip, side, corporations can be overwhelmed by a lack of PR strategic thinking when they launch a new business initiative with properly considering the consequences of their actions. Two recent examples: Bank of America and its $5 ATM charge and Netflix changing its business model.
NPR nailed the issue the day BofA made its announcement:
“JEFFREY BROWN: Big banks and the question of their profits have been the source of plenty of public anger since the beginning of the financial crisis. Now new fees for consumers are putting them in the spotlight again.”
The Los Angeles Times covered local protests, including the occupation of a branch by protesters. Its story offered a keen observation:
“This frankly is just an incredible marketing and PR debacle,” said Bert Ely, an independent banking analyst. “They roll this thing out with no testing, make it nationwide, it’s higher than anybody else. What kind of reaction do they expect?”
Huffington Post and others covered BofA rolling back the fees, with recalcitrant quotes.
For Netflix, as covered by Gable PR earlier, it started by raising prices by 60 percent and came back two months later to apologize while announcing the split of the company into two. They failed from a strategic planning and PR perspective to think about image as a part of corporate strategy, especially when one has built such a strong brand. They need to do things right and also do the right things.
Bottom line: The power of PR and its flip side – lack of strategic PR thinking – are essential for consideration in any action that can impact brand image and reputation.