a public relations surprise

As has been noted in this space, I am a fan of Arby’s (though not of their new, hideous logo). So it was there last Friday I found myself having a pleasant lunch alone watching ESPN and reading the Buffalo News. I don’t get time to read the paper very often (yes I am old school, I do read the paper) so when I do get to read it, it’s a nice treat.

It was during this lunch and my reading that I came upon this little article…

As I noted in a Facebook post during that same lunch,

It is the STRANGEST experience to be reading the newspaper and completely unexpectedly come across one’s own name. I sent out a release some weeks ago and forgot about it. Then while scanning the paper just now…bam!

Well, at least it was good news.

I had completely forgot about the release I had written, I didn’t even follow up with the various editors to make sure they received it (breaking one of my own rules). So it was a bit like Christmas morning and the nice little gift was there before my eyes.

The joy lasted about a second until I read the article closely, after the fog of excitement had passed.

You may never have heard of an international spirits company called ‘Bicardi’; you may not know how well they are known for their rums. And that’s because there isn’t and they aren’t.

If you had said ‘did he mean Bacardi?’ the answer would be yes, not only did he mean Bacardi (as in the rum), he actually wrote Bacardi in this press release, same being offered up below in a scanned version of the very document sent to the newspaper (oh yes, I had that awful “what did I do?!” moment until I could call up the press release to see that I hadn’t made a typo):

So now what?!!

Well first, some perspective. It’s a big deal to me that they got this wrong. It deflates the media impact to potential clients who would read such a press announcement and might be impressed enough to hire me. That’s a real issue.

Worse for my fragile ego, my Jeffersonian-like wordsmithing of this release had the legs knocked out from underneath it because of a single typo. (To be clear, it’s probably closer to George than Thomas).

Now more perspective. It’s a newspaper with thousands of words and millions of letters…mistakes happen. Today it was my turn be sitting under the bird at the most inopportune and fairly public moment.

So I sent an email to the business editor, thanking him for publishing but pointing out the mistake and asking him if he would please re-publish the correct version in a future edition of the paper (it truly didn’t matter to me whether it was next week or next year).

The response I got was a polite no.

So what’s the point? Was there still any value to this press release or did the typo result in a wasted opportunity? What can be learned here?

The short answer is – it was out of my hands. Even if I had called to follow up on the release after I sent it (which I should have) that would not have precluded whomever typed in the story from making the typo and being too sloppy to fix it. I cannot control human error and having my own Master’s Degree in it, I suppose I cannot throw stones.

The value of the release was certainly muted to a large degree because of the branding typo by the newspaper but it was probably not all lost. For one thing, there are two other very prominent brands featured in the release and they spelled my name and the company name correctly.

Further, the editor noted that he fixed the error in the online version. This was kind of him to be sure but the down side is their web version newspaper is now paid only and I don’t think paid web subscriptions are lighting up the phone lines.

In the scheme of business, it is more disappointing and embarrassing to my brand than anything else. Not major harm was done but it does feel like a missed opportunity. But I take heart that this release is but a small part of my marketing efforts and those same efforts go alot further than the Nickel City. Onward and upward.

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