Thursday, March 17, 2005

ChoicePoint

Everybody in the communications business is talking about Choicepoint, and the company's reaction--or lack of reaction--to their business crisis. In Atlanta, were we reside, the buzz is even greater. It's obvious the AJC is out to get the company, and I can't really I blame them. ChoicePoint has made a lot of textbook mistakes in mishandling this crisis. Everything from responding late, to failing to apologize, to downplaying the significance of the issue. But what I find most interesting are the little things. The little nuances that are raising the hairs on the back of journalists' necks and raising their ire in the meantime. There is an old saying among PR pros: it not only has to be right, it has to appear right. A few examples from the ChoicePoint situation:

1. Don't claim you were duped by a sophisticated ring of criminals while the wire services are flashing a picture of a grungy Nigerian who was operating out of a Kinkos in California. We've all gotten the Nigerian internet letters asking us to wire money to a foreign account. Sophisticated is not the word I would use for that approach.

2. Don't put out photos of your chief executive dresed in a faux varsity letter jacket sporting a full frontal shit eatin grin. Put the guy in a suit for god's sake. Make him look serious and inspire some confidence. He's dealing with people's private information. He may not think it's important, but they do.

3. For the first several weeks of the crisis, ChoicePoint's spokesperson was a guy with "marketing" in his title. That's a no-no. Marketing is about selling and spinning. Call him a corporate spokesperson or quickly make him VP of Corporate Communications.

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