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Gini Dietrich

How “No Comment” Has Edelman In Trouble

By: Gini Dietrich | January 25, 2011 | 
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Uh oh. Edelman is in trouble again…this time over a media request from Ragan about Best Buy On. Mark Ragan, who most of you know if you’re in the PR industry, asked one of his reporters to contact Best Buy to interview them about their new On, the new “magazine” they’ve created for customers. Mark, like a lot of us, see the trend of companies becoming publishers and wanted to know more about what Best Buy is doing in order to provide a case study to his readers.

A seemingly simple request that Best Buy (and Edelman) should jump all over because a) it’s an unsolicited request for an interview that will make them look good and b) it provides the opportunity to take a leadership position in content marketing. Mark, according to his words, admits Ragan isn’t the New York Times, but they do have more than a quarter of a million readers. Pretty darn good exposure, if you ask me!

Here is, according to Mark, what transpired earlier in the month:

Wednesday, Jan. 5: Reporter Matt Wilson sends an e-mail to address on Best Buy’s media contact page. He receives an auto reply stating that someone would reply within “one business day.” So far, so good.

Friday, Jan. 7: Matt calls phone number listed on contact page to follow up. No one answers, so he leaves a message on voicemail.

Monday, Jan. 10: The PR agency Edelman responds, but sends information on Best Buy’s new buyback program—not the video network.

Matt responds to clarify that he’s preparing a piece on Best Buy On. The agency responds by sending Matt a link to an Advertising Age story. Matt replies that he’s read the AdAge piece but still would like to interview someone.

Tuesday, Jan 11: Edelman rep tells us in a one-line e-mail, “Unfortunately we do not have anyone to comment on this.”

Come on! And we wonder why the PR industry has such a bad perception? Two steps forward; four steps back, it seems. My guess is this was a junior-level employee who didn’t know the right way to respond and was busy so didn’t take the time to think. But then the employee’s VP, Ryan Richert, had to step in and write an apologetic email to Ragan (which he published and you can find at the end of the story).

Coming from the big agency world and then starting my own company, one of the biggest complaints I often hear from clients and prospects is that people running their accounts on the agency side are too young and too inexperienced.

We have an intern program, but those young professionals don’t have contact with the media and they don’t have contact with clients. They first learn the basics of their jobs and, after three promotions (account coordinator and assistant account executive) to account executive, they begin to interact externally. I believe this is one of our biggest key differentiators, when it comes to competing with the big agencies (and one of the reasons they love to hire someone who has worked for Arment Dietrich). And, everyone here, no matter their level of expertise are taught clients first, then media (which includes bloggers), then everything else.

It’s not that hard. A reporter wants information and comes to you for it, you help them. It’s your job. And, like Ryan says in his apology email, if you can’t provide the information, you explain why, not leave it with “Unfortunately we do not have anyone to comment on this.” Where I come from, “no comment” is not allowed.

Thanks to Shelly Kramer for sending me the original story yesterday morning.

Thanks to Kerou for the image.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

53 comments
RichardMeyer
RichardMeyer

From their obvious insights to hiring an ego centric social media expert I have never been a big fan of Edelman and this is more proof that they can talk a lot more than actually do what they preach.

PabloEdwards
PabloEdwards

When did we become people who are so above others. I agree, help the reporter in some regard.

C_Pappas
C_Pappas

Why do companies list employees on media pages and press releases and then advise them not to speak if anyone calls? This happened to me in a past company. Here I was trying to do everything in my power to get some exposure and internally they were saying 'if anyone calls, dont you dare comment'. It was a very strange situation and I have no idea why we work so hard to get attention but then we pick and choose what type of attention we want. Its all or nothing and if you are going to get picky like this, its going to be nothing next time. If I was Matt Wilson, I wouldn't be calling on Best Buy again. Not a PR pro but that's my POV from the marketing side of the bizz.

Griddy
Griddy

Hi. Umm..nice post.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

There is a french word I can not use here that describes when more than one organization and more than one person together don't have their act together and bumble around like what Bugs Bunny liked to say and I can say here a bunch of Ultra Maroons. Operations is my specialty. Yes and Mobile =P LOL

First off shame on Best Buy. They claimed 24 hours for a press inquiry and there was none. I don't care who the person is that is contacting you for Best Buy to claim they don't have peoplepower resources would ring massive bells of Notre Dame to short their stock immediately. Secondly dear Best Buy this is something you are supposed to be proud of doing....UNLESS...its being forced on you by Edelman where a higher up was sold and the down stream didn't think it was worth the effort and had no Buy In at Best Buy. Obviously not an ISO9001 company like all their Brands and component suppliers to those Brands are!

As for Edelman. This should definitely without a doubt be something they want exposure for. They probably sold it to Best Buy as a way to bill more hours and hopefully if successfully roll out to other clients. This should be a shining star vs that very fallible Trust Barometer. Uhm Edelman start with yourselves before you start analyzing other people and businesses trust! As @Griddy 's Auntie @ginidietrich stated. Someone came soliciting you! Think of how you will be banging your head against the wall to get press exposure and this outlet comes to you?

As for the intern thing. If the intern was put in a situation where they had to handle something using self motivation because they no one was helping, or were blowing this person off, that intern is going to be telling classmates and friends what an inept organization they were at and definitely won't be looking to be hired on after. I give the intern credit for taking initiative to respond even if it was a lame response. I feel bad what do you say in that persons position? Dear Inquirer I work at a crazy jacked up place and they can give a flying thing about you?

Griddy
Griddy

Hey Gin,

This story is rather interesting - but I'm a bit confused as to why a huge company such as Edelman would put a less experienced person on such an account (or any account) or in a position that requires client/media interaction.

But on the other hand - this inexperienced person may have thought that by answering with something could be better than not answering the email at all. That's where your mentor-ship program would have been of great value. So I'm not sure who really deserves the blame here.

I think they have a thing or two to learn about companies such as yours which take the time to properly train their staff before they throw them out there to face other professionals and interact externally.

I have often found that the care and attention that a "smaller" company gives their staff and clients to be more present than with larger ones where you (an employee) can often feel like another "statistic".

Again - I'm not saying that this is true - but I have come across cases as such in the past.

@dannybrow recently wrote a piece about disclaimers for affiliate marketers. And although this doesn't relate - one thing that came to mind from that is: you should share the same principles with the people that you work with or hire (this isn't a quote).

If Best Buy cares enough about their customer service (and I know that they certainly do and in general do a great job of that) then they should make sure that Edelman cares enough as well. The people that represent you often speak for you and in turn may either damage or help improve your image. Those people should represent you the way you would represent yourself.

When someone like Ragan wants to interview you - it could only mean some added exposure for you and your company. They surely deserve the time of day - unless of course - Best Buy was made aware of the initial contact Ragan had made and had asked Edelman to handle it the way they did.

I may be off here - as I'm no expert - but those are my thoughts.

Thanks for this piece Aunt Gini.
Cheers

Whitney Punchak
Whitney Punchak

I have to stand up for this junior PR person. Yes, they definitely made a mistake. But this mistake could have been easily avoided if Edelman had a mentorship scheme or something similar in place. Quite likely this person is only writing, not asked to listen in (let alone participate) in strategy meetings, and is charged with a limited variety of tasks. No wonder they overlooked the opportunity.

TravisMClemens
TravisMClemens

Wow! I can't believe anybody would think that's a proper response. Too often, people are scared of journalists, so they try and avoid them. That only makes the situation worse.

mikecollado
mikecollado

For such an important (and budget-consuming) marketing strategy, it's interesting that companies and their agencies tend to fail on the basic blocking and tackling. Who knows how many chances to influence a discussion or do damage control have been lost because those opportunites fell into a balck hole or were bungled at the point of contact...

Oh, and I can top "no comment" - as a tactic to dodge a journalist who was pursuing an unflattering story, our team was counseled by a junior-level PR account manager to not say "no comment" but rather to promise but never deliver a return call from one of our executives . Needless to say, it didn't turn out very well!

In PR, you need to be available for the good and even more so for the bad.

KenMueller
KenMueller

I don't know why, but I'm still amazed at this. In this day and age, particularly for a company as big as Best Buy, and an agency as big as Edelman, this should never happen. Mindboggling. This is one of those situations I'll be sharing with my college students as I teach a Social Media Marketing course this Spring.

What it comes down to is that you can have the most customer service and social friendly company in the world, but you have to make sure the agencies,and others that you hire, share that same philosophy. They need to be on board!

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

I think it simply comes down to customer service over all - no matter who it is you provide the best answer and customer service you can - if you don't know the answer tell them you will get back with them ASAP & go do your research!!

Needless to say...somebody's in trouble now...wouldn't want to be the person that didn't take the time to figure it out!

BobReed
BobReed

Readership comparisons are simplistic and ignore the value of how complex and interweaved conversations are now. The value of every voice confirms the efficacy of the Long Tail.

bdorman264
bdorman264

No, that would be a 'come on, man'..............

Too corporate, too layered up, no one wants to take responsibility in fear of losing their job. Everything moves so fast you still need to be responsive in a non-negative way. With the advent of social media it doesn't take long for word to spread, good or bad.

Differentiators, that's what it is all about; it is what we strive for in my industry as well. We don't want to look like 'all the rest'.

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela

Here is the issue in my opinion: brands don't see this as value yet. Like I tell people, do you want to be on a site that gets 600-700 unique views a day? No? What if you do the same interview with 30 of those blogs? That's 21,000 views a day and 600,000 a month and 7.2 million views a year. Does that work for you?

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