Archive for April, 2011


On March 31, 2011 Epsilon, a mass-marketing data provider, announced there had been a security breach in their customer database. Epsilon is a company that offers a full range of marketing services.

Epsilon says [the hack] only involves names and e-mail addresses, which even when combined do not represent personally identifiable information. So basically you might receive a lot of spam emails, and that’s about it.

Some of their clients include:

  • Kroger
  • TiVo
  • US Bank
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • Capital One
  • Citi
  • McKinsey & Company
  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards
  • Marriott Rewards
  • New York & Company
  • Brookstone
  • Walgreens
  • The College Board
  • Home Shopping Network (HSN)
  • LL Bean
  • Disney Destinations
  • Barclays Bank of Delaware
  • Target
  • 1800 Flowers
  • Ethan Allen

Most of these clients immediately sent out an apology email starting what happened, what it means for the customer and what they’re doing about it.

Like this started in the TiVO email, “We regret this has taken place and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We take your privacy very seriously, and we will continue to work diligently to protect your personal information.”

The first press release from Epsilon was very short. On March 30th, an incident was detected where a subset of Epsilon clients’ customer data were exposed by an unauthorized entry into Epsilon’s email system. The information that was obtained was limited to email addresses and/or customer names only. A rigorous assessment determined that no other personal identifiable information associated with those names was at risk. A full investigation is currently underway.”

There is not an apology anywhere in that statement.  Epsilon, or its parent company Alliance Data Systems Corporation, failed to apologize until almost a week after the news broke. According to Ed Tagliaferri, executive vice president at DKC Public Relations in New York City, “You’re obviously sorry that a problem occurred and had a negative impact on your customers, so why not say that? It conveys that there is a human side to your company, you appreciate the trouble that has been caused and you’re taking the matter seriously.”

Taking your time to apologize only makes you seem suspicious. It’s like being in public relations and knowing to never saying “No comment,” when you don’t apologize for a mistake it makes you less credible.

Tripp Frohlichstein from PR Daily.com also writes, “An apology is so easy, and it makes a difference to people. Often, a person who has had a bad experience will say, “All I wanted was an apology.” It puts a human face on what can otherwise be perceived as a cold, heartless entity. It shows that you care that you may have had a negative effect on your customers.” Why is it so obvious to people that admitting there is a problem seems like first nature and to others it’s like they’re being tortured to confess they’re wrong or have made a mistake.

I think a quick apology from Epsilon would have been more beneficial to the companies involved in the breach. These well-known businesses have their reputation and trust at risk. Customers won’t remember Epsilon or Alliance Data Systems Corp. in a few months from now, or a even couple years. They’re just going to remember that when they signed up online at Target.com or TiVo that their email addresses starting receiving tons more spam.

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making fun of human tragedy

I thought everyone had heard of Groupon. I can even remember a friend telling her 70 year old grandfather about the discount website and he replied, “Oh yeah, I have an app for that.” Granted, this grandfather is very trendy haha.

Until now, Groupon had just relied on word-of-mouth marketing with limited traditional advertising. According to Groupon’s blog they had given in and decided to do a television advertisement during the Super Bowl XLV. The company explains the reasons for restraining, “More importantly, television ads are such a huge creative statement, and so hard to do well, that we were worried it’d be near impossible to find an ad agency that could make ads we’d be confident in airing.”

The advertisements aired during the most watched television event in history with 162.9 million viewers. The ads feature two washed up celebrities telling us which cause we should care most about, then morph it into a pitch for Groupon.

There was a firestorm of blog posts and news articles written about Groupon in February about people being outraged that the ad highlighted the difficulty in Tibet. Obviously the company is regretting their decision now that Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason is blaming the ad agency and saying he put too much trust in them.

A lot of the negativity could have been avoided if the ad explained Groupon’s charitable donation-matching that is listed on their website. It could have made viewers realize the company isn’t poking fun of the issues; they’re trying to raise money to help.

The CEO’s apology and decision to pull the ads was a chance at saving the company’s image, but I really think Groupon’s PR department from here on out needs to step up and be the center of their decision team. If the company doesn’t come out with the right crisis communication actions then it would really damage their business.

But honestly, if you have to post a lengthy explanation of your advertisements on your blog then you might need to ask yourself before releasing it if people are going to get the “joke.” Is there really a right way to make jokes about human tragedy?

crunch time

Ready, set…

Start freaking out!

There are six weeks left of school and the job search has begun. I should have probably started the hunt awhile back but I just don’t think it would have been humanly possible. I hardly have time to see my boyfriend and we live together. Between building three websites, two communications plans , an internship and working I don’t have time for much else.

So are you wondering how to find a job after graduation? Me too. I’ve done my fair share of networking and asking communicators around me for tips or recommendations on the process. A lot of them had similar answers but I still hear this phrase in my head, “it’s not about what you know or who you know. It’s about who knows you.” Simon Salt gave my class this bit of knowledge a few months ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. After all, that is pretty much exactly how I got my internship with him and myDASHH.

For the past couple of months I’ve been attending a lot of networking events and job shadowing trying to get my name out there. I’ve made a few connections and plan on working those to get my resume in front of the right people. I’m also creating a digital portfolio online to help brand myself and showcase some of my best work.

My next step is to complete this weekend is a list of prominent places to work for in DFW. I need to do a little more research on the companies I haven’t heard of and determine which I think I would fit in best. After that, I’m going to figure out which of my connections have connection at each place, haha.

I’ve already been scanning the PRSSA job bank, as well as dfwcommunicators.com, Monster and UNT Career Center. Now I really need to start sending out my resume.

If you’re a PR student and you’re graduation next semester or next May I highly recommend starting your networking and internships now. Everyone should also read this blog post by MarketingMel,  How to get a job in Public Relations: Eleven tips from a PR pro. I like this post because it has a few unique but pertinent tips.

MarketingMel points out as number eleven on the list you need to brand yourself. I’ve heard this over and over the past semester. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to solidify your social media profiles and make sure you are portraying the brand in person as well. The other tip I like is to follow journalists on Twitter, etc. I’ve heard too many PR students say that they don’t read the news. I have always been a news junkie and it’s important in our field to know news breaking information no matter which part of communications you pursue.

 

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