This morning, TechCrunch innocently poked fun at a press release from an iPhone retailer announcing that iPhones make men more attractive according to a survey of 1500 women. Neither the retailer nor their PR agency knew anything about the somewhat embarrassing release, which led to an email exchange with blogger Robin Wauters. Wauters, predicatbly, has made the whole thing public. (As Wauters reveals, the retailer and the PR agency eventually determined that the release was sent by another consultant, which through some mix-up in communication thought it was cleared to send the release.)
That second post detailing the back-and-forth calls parallels the story of former U.S. Senator William Scott of Virginia, who was named “The Dumbest Congressman of Them All” by New Times Magazine in 1974. New Times only lasted for a few years, and was best known for investigating conspiracies and left-leaning social commentary. Polling data from the era is sketchy at best, but it’s a safe bet that if Sen. Scott had constituents that subscribed to New Times, they weren’t people who were going to vote for him. Still, Sen. Scott held a press conference to denounce the magazine article – a move which only served to give the story legs and make sure more of his constituents knew someone had called him an idiot.
Sometimes, if you shut your mouth, the bad news just goes away.
TechCrunch is a great, widely read blog; but if the retailer and their PR consultants had said nothing, would this morning’s tongue-in-cheek post have resulted in fewer iPhone sales? It’s doubtful. Much more likely to hurt sales is the perception that the retailer is disorganized and has the fingerprints of professional public relations operatives all over their brand.
When negative information gets out there, the objective is to put out the fire. Sometimes, if you throw a blanket over it, the blanket bursts into flames.