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PR Case Study: Failure to Cooperate Leads to Missed Opportunity

On November 16, 2008 by Allan Woodstrom

SpamAmidst the current economic hard times, the New York Times wrote an article about the increased sale of SPAM, a gelatinous 12-ounce rectangle of spiced ham and pork.Sounds like a great opportunity for SPAM, right?Well as the article points out in the seventh paragraph, SPAM’s parent company, the Hormel Food Corporation “declined to cooperate” with the writing of the article.What could have been an article focused on the proud history of the product, was instead an article focused on the amount of overtime workers were working in order to meet the increased demand for the canned meat.The only individuals from SPAM the New York Times reporter could find to interview were factory workers made available through the workers union. Not that these individual were not capable, but they really only tell one side of the story, which consequently was what the article focused on.Midway through the article, Andrew Martin writes “Even as consumers are cutting back on all sorts of goods, Spam is among a select group of thrifty grocery items that are selling steadily.” This is what I believe the reporter was trying to cover from the beginning. It instead went off in another direction.By “declining to cooperate,” Hormel took what should have been a huge win for their public relations or marketing department and failed terribly at making the most of the opportunity.Lessons Learned Take every opportunity requested by the media to answer their questions. Make sure it is the right person within your organization. If not the CEO or president, it should be the director of communications or public relations. Make sure that person is trained and skilled at talking in front of a camera.Read the ArticleRead the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/15/business/15spam.htmlIf that link doesn’t work, SPAM: PR Case Study.Update: Please see comments below.

2 Responses to “PR Case Study: Failure to Cooperate Leads to Missed Opportunity”

  • Hi Allan,My name is Julie Craven, and I am the Vice President of Corporate Communications at Hormel Foods Corporation. I appreciate your interest in the recent New York Times article about SPAM, and I agree, it would have been an excellent opportunity for us to celebrate our company’s heritage and one of our flagship products. However, we were unable to speak with Andy Martin while he was in Austin at our headquarters because he was in town during our quiet period before earnings. We announced earnings this morning, so we’re able to speak with media again, and we’re certainly looking to build on the momentum of the Times piece. Again, I appreciate your interest in the story, and just wanted to offer our perspective.Thanks,Julie

  • Julie,Thank you for your response. It’s a shame Mr. Martin didn’t explain that SPAM/Hormel was unable to comment because of the black period before announcing earnings. SPAM is a great Minnesota company and we are proud of it. Thanks again for explaining the circumstance.Allan

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