Can You Spare a Dior and Some Political Correctness?

In last Friday’s Chicago Tribune I saw a story on page three with the headline: Buddy, can you spare a Dior? The reporter wrote in a sarcastic style and poked fun at Barneys Co-Op. Barneys, a clothing store, placed homeless-style cardboard signs in the hands of its mannequins that read: “DIOR-less please help,” “Will work 4 PRORSUM” and “Stranded need RAF to get home.” For those of you who know my middle class fashion sense, it was nice to learn about some other high end fashion such as RAF and PRORSUM.
I shared this media coverage with the staff because it did have something brilliant behind it. After all, it was a page three story (glad to see the Tribune’s new tabloid format is working out great). My point to my team was that about 25 cents of cardboard and a black marker got this store thousands of dollars worth of publicity.

It also make me curious to find out how this publicity came about. What someone at the store told me was that their visual designers came up with the idea and it got out to the media through word of mouth. Ironically when I spoke to someone else at the store’s New York headquarters, I learned that the publicity backfired because Tribune readers thought it was insensitive to the plight of the homeless.

First, I see the negative backlash as political correctness run amuck. Look at how the media is riping apart Sarah Palin’s wardrobe and I’ve not seem an outcry from that coverage. Second, the Tribune added a survey to the story that asked readers, “What do you think of the display?” Not one of the options in the survey said that this was a cleaver and creative way to to get customers’ attention.

The PR laugh for me is that the Tribune gives such a trivial soft news item a prominent position that belongs with the Paris Hilton coverage. To me that should have the outrage from readers.

PR for Tragedy

This is likely to be one of my darkest posts. A story from Crain’s Chicago Business today reported that a futures trader died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound hours after losing several million dollars Wednesday. Please understand, this is not something to joke about. The loss and pain to his wife and family members will go on long after this story is forgotten.
Here’s is what I find simply unthinkable with this tradgic incident. The story that is linked above says that, “Rosenthal Collins CEO Scott Gordon declined to comment. RCG, which backed Mr. Luizzi’s trades, has more than $1 billion in customer funds.”
Amazing. Where does this CEO get his public relations coaching from? With $1 billion in customer funds, you would think that he could find a few words to say out of respect. While Rosenthal Collins is not responsible for this traders personal decision, you would hope that their CEO would use some common sense in saying something polite on behalf of his company.

The “no comment” response has been gone from PR 101 for a long time. And when something as terrible as this happens, you would hope the CEO over so much wealth, would search for some wisdom to better communicate through the media.

Top Searches Go Topless

Many home pages for search engines will have their “top” lists. For example. Yahoo.com has “Today’s Top Searches.” At the bottom of this posting is a listing for their top searches for the week when Wall Street melted down.

First, I look at this list and can’t say that I understand the logic of what made the list. First of all, Holly Madison is a well, how do you say it, a porn star. Perhaps all the men whose financial portfolios are down needed a lift and searched for Holly.
Second, while I’m glad that mortgage rates made the list, it’s at the bottom. Perhaps people believe that mortgages are still possible for the unfortunate souls who were taken advantage of when given mortgages they could not afford once they were adjusted.

My point is that the “top story” or “search” in someones mind is very subjective. Right now my wife and I are looking for a home, so Holly Madison or Christie Brinkley are the names I would be searching for. And besides my wife would not approve.

Over the years, many top lists are made to help sway public opinion on what’s “the best” and what’s “number one.” The bottom line for public relations is what’s most important for the audiences that you are targeting with an important message that will mean something personal to them.

On, I think I know what law schools made this list. With new lawyers in Chicago starting at $160,000 right out of school, it’s a great career to consider for everyone who has lost money in the stock market this week.