Tag Archives: PR

Now Available At The Bay: Middle East Conflict or Visit The Bay’s PR Department For Some Great Deals

Now Available At The Bay: Middle East Conflict
Visit The Bay’s PR Department For Some Great Deals

Earlier this week, what’s been alliteratively referred to as “The Bay/Bonnie Brooks Brouhaha” erupted as Middle East politics descended upon the venerable Canadian department store.

Palestinian and Anti-Israel organizations and supporters flooded the Internet and The Bay’s head offices, demanding a popular Israeli beauty product line be pulled from store shelves. Their argument:

Ahava’s products are manufactured in the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. Ahava is co-owned by two illegal settlements, Mitzpe Shalem and Kahlia, which are subsidized by the company’s profits. Ahava cosmetics are labeled ‘Products of Israel’ when in fact they are made in the West Bank.

At the same time, Israeli and Pro-Jewish organizations and supporters flooded the Internet and The Bay’s head offices, demanding the popular Ahava products be kept in stock, and with a call-to-action to buy up all of The Bay’s Ahava products, thanking them for carrying the line. Many supporters did just that, while many others expressed anger toward The Bay, vowing to never shop there again.

A close acquaintance (and fellow blogger at inctruth.blogspot.com) sent such a letter to Bonnie Brooks, CEO of The Bay. Below is his text, reprinted with his permission:

Mrs. Brooks,
I am totally shocked by the actions of your organisation in complying with the wishes of an Anti-Israel organisation.
My life has been dedicated to fighting racism and bigotry. This case is an example of the worst form of anti-semitsm making its rounds in the so-called civilized world. Only 70 years ago we witnessed a holocaust that defies words. Today the State of Israel is the only buffer the Jewish People have against a repeat of this inhuman catastrophe.
I respectfully request that you reconsider your decision to withdraw Ahava products from your shelves. Until this matter is cleared up, it is my intention to take my business elsewhere. When we vowed “Never Again” we meant every word.

It wasn’t long before he received a reply from Ms. Brooks herself, also reprinted below with permission:

The brand in question, Ahava, has been discontinued globally by the brand owner, not by The Bay. One of our largest shareholders of the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company is one of North America’s most significant Israel supporters, and our Governor along with our Chief Beauty Merchant responsible for this product range, are both Jewish. We do not discontinue products due to pressure from any source other than our own decision based on either sales performance or product quality. We are very concerned that we have received hundreds of emails and negative customer reaction inside our stores, all due to the spreading of incorrect information, which has upset our many customers, employees, their families and the fashion industry who are supportive of Israel. We would appreciate the parties involved in the protest, being set straight as soon as possible.

Thank you.
Bonnie Brooks
Chief Adventurer
(aka President and CEO)The Bay,
Hudson’s Bay Company. 

There are some first-rate PR lessons to be learned here:

  • Don’t Ignore Your Clients: Not only did Harry hear back from The Bay, but he heard directly from Ms. Brooks, their CEO. Taking the time to reply to him (and presumably, dozens more people) lends credibility to Ms. Brooks and The Bay, as well as their explanation for the situation at hand. How you engage your clients is the genesis of your company’s PR – remember that, in no uncertain terms, your organization owes its existence to your clients.
  • Be Proactive! There’s an argument to be made that had The Bay disseminated the information on why Ahava had been pulled from store shelves into the proper channels, it could have avoided much negative online and media buzz. While this appears not to have been done (and please correct me if I’m wrong), they are doing the right thing by speaking out now and having their message delivered from the top. No one can see into the future, but we’re smart enough to make some educated guesses. Anticipate all possible scenarios and plan accordingly.
  • Know Your Competition: In no way am I advocating being sleazy or sneaky in PR practices. However, it occurred to me that perhaps some Palestinian and Anti-Israeli organizations and supporters were aware of the Ahava’s plans to pull its products, and used the opportunity to create a stir by provocatively appealing to people’s political and religious views on the Middle-East. If that’s the case, I cannot condone that sort of behaviour. However, it is an example of knowing your competition, and knowing what your organization can do to position itself relative to them. Always keep an eye on other in your industry… You should know what they’re up to, and whether or not you can actually be of help to one another.

Add your rational and reasonable thoughts and opinions below, and let me know what you think!

The Highlands and Lowlands of Macallan Scotch Tasting

Solo Scotch
7:43 Arrive at Macallan scotch tasting at 99 Sudbury. Free parking is nice, though a central location and not having to drive to an event celebrating alcohol would have been even nicer.

7:44 Handed a silver Macallan coin, told to exchange it for a drink. Instead reminded of Super Mario Bros. 3.

7:45 Exchange coin for drink. Apparently tonight, a drink is defined as “a tall, thin glass containing just enough scotch to wonder whether or not there’s actually any scotch in there.”

7:46 Move to charcuterie buffet. Surprisingly well-stocked with four types of cheese, several cured meats, and a selection of bread and olives.

Charcuterie Buffet

7:48 Note to self: cheese with fancy names distracts crowd from lack of alcohol… Must increase cheese budget for next party.

7:50 The line at the buffet is now 30-people deep, compared to the three surrounding it minutes earlier. I’ve still only had one drink.

7:51 Getting frustrated at lack of alcohol at this scotch tasting

Scotch Set

7:52 Noticing a lot of attendees do not look like they are influential bloggers. This suspicion is confirmed after talking with staff… “They wanted to cram in as many people as they could fit…”

7:53 Random cute server surreptitiously offers me another drink, despite my lack of a silver coin. I wholeheartedly accept.

7:54 Starting to feel like a scotch cattle call

7:59 The event is scheduled to start at 8PM, but organizers show no sign of moving people into next room

8:05 Handed a second silver coin from a friend just as drink service stops. I have somehow angered the scotch Gods.

8:08 Ushered into second room; stage and screens in front, as well as Macallan bottles on display; tables and seating all around.

Ice maker

8:10 Sitting with three others. Nothing on the table except bottles of water and a glass full of nuts.

8:14 If walnuts and cheese were scotch, I’d be enjoying this tasting a lot more right now.

8:19 The Macallan rep tells us we were served 10-year old scotch to start, and will be getting into older scotches now. Sounds promising!

8:21 While Macallan rep goes into history of brand, I can’t help notice a lack of scotch on my table and the tables of others

8:24 The first audience question is asked, and the audience member receives a full bottle of scotch as a prize. Dozens of hands shoot up immediately.


8:28 Jealously eyeing plate of cheese the guy across from me brought from the other room. Even more jealously eyeing bottles of scotch in front of room.

8:31 Servers (finally!) appear with trays of 12-year old scotch, while a video montage screens highlights from 1998 (including clips from Titanic and A Bug’s Life) set to a Wallflowers tune. Really, Macallan?

8:37 Macallan rep describes making of 15-year old scotch while audience members tweet frantically.

8:41 Servers appear with trays of 15-year old scotch, while a video montage screens highlights from 1995. Really, Macallan? Really?

8:46 Servers appear with trays of Macallan Sherry Oak Cask Strength and individual Lindt chocolates. I am momentarily appeased.

8:47 Drink finished. Appeasement over.

8:48 Realize that Macallan encourages, facilitates, and condones tweeting under the influence of alcohol.

8:49 Note to self: On drive home tonight after scotch tasting, tweet @MADDOnline to alert them of dangerous drinking/typing epidemic sweeping our youth.

8:50 Looking around the room, I’m reminded of the lyrics to Kanye West’s Runaway:
Let’s have a toast for the douchebags,
Let’s have a toast for the assholes,
Let’s have a toast for the scumbags…

8:51 Macallan rep breaks out the patented (or maybe not) Steel Macallan Ice Ball Maker 2500 SCT (note, I made that name up).

Scotch Ice Ball

8:53 While Macallan rep discusses the merits of Ice Balls vs. Ice Cubes (cubes have larger surface area, therefore melt faster), I prefer to discuss merits of Ice Cube vs. Ice-T vs. Vanilla Ice (Ice Cube wins this round, with an honourable mention going out to Iceberg Slim).

8:54 Servers appear with trays of 18-year old scotch, while a video montage screens highlights from 1992. Seriously?! To be fair, crowd cheers for 1992 Toronto Blue Jays team photo, boos vociferously at following still of Ottawa Senators logo.

8:56 Macallan rep informs us that 18-year old scotch is best drank neat, and that ice is best made with bottled water, not tap. Who has time to make ice with bottled water, you ask? Being a Toronto Elitist… I have the time.

8:57 Crowd is thanked, event over. I search in vain for taxi chits, giftbags or takeaways, to no avail.

8:59 I steal a block of cheese.


Thanks Macallan, Matchstick and Praxis PR for a good time, and a special shout-out to Macallan for your goddamn fine scotch.

You Give Love (and PR) A Bad Name

If you haven’t already heard, cheating is not the reason marriages break up. No, the real reason behind many a divorce is a force much more sinister than extramarital sexual urges… that’s right, I’m talking about Rogers Communications.

 Rogers Logos

Yes, it’s not enough that they gouge us on service fees and spray-paint our sidewalks (really? didn’t you learn from MLSE eight months ago?), now they’re coming into our homes and breaking up our marriages. Imagine coming home one night after a long, hard day at work, and you walk into your bedroom only to find your wife in bed with all of Rogers Communications. If that sort of thing turns you on, you’re probably on the wrong website.

If you haven’t already heard, Gabriela Nagy “blames a Rogers cellphone bill for breaking up her marriage… Nagy claims a unilateral decision by Rogers to consolidate her household’s bills allowed her husband to discover she was having an affair. That, she says, led to the “destruction” of her marriage.”

 Gabriela Nagy

Here’s a thought: Maybe the marriage was already destroyed when Nagy decided and proceeded to have an affair, and not when the husband found out about it. I’m pretty sure that the old adage “It’s not illegal unless you’re caught” doesn’t hold up in a court of law.

Now, Nagy “is launching a campaign to improve privacy protection in Ontario… [and] looking for other frustrated customers to join her lawsuit against the telecommunications giant for what she claims was a breach of her privacy.”

Is she? Is she really? Or is there more to this already-ridiculous story? Well, when a story in Toronto transcends being ridiculous and begins bordering on being offensive, there’s always a safe guess as to why: J.P. Pampena.

 JP Pampena

First off, let me say that this entire story stinks. Reeks. It’s a wonder Pampena can come near it, what with his heightened sense of smell. But then again, this is the same publicist who orchestrated the messy soap opera that surrounded Toronto’s baby Kaylee case in 2009 and 2010.

 Jay Sherman

In reading up on Nagy’s case, it seems abundantly clear that Pampena is behind much of this media-attention-grabbing circus:

  • Nagy showing up for interviews dressed all in black, wearing a wig and dark glasses
  • Suing Rogers for $600,000 (is that all your marriage was worth to you?)
  • Launching a Facebook campaign dubbed Citizens Helping Individuals Reform Privacy Policies (CHIRPP)
  • Mentioning she has switched to Bell and is much happier with their privacy protections

 This has sleaze written all over it, and it’s a goddamn shame. It’s a shame that this woman is attempting to profit from her own immorality, while trying to paint a sympathetic picture of herself (though acknowledging herself she won’t win many sympathy points). It’s a shame that Rogers – giant, evil corporation that they are – has to deal with this bullshit, likely meaning that somewhere down the line, us “regular” customers will have to pay some sort of price for all this. And it’s a real shame that J.P. Pampena is giving publicists and public relations practitioners everywhere a terrible name.

It should be noted that Pampena is also the same publicist that infiltrated the Molson Canadian Rocks SARS Toronto Benefit Concert, doing media interviews and taking credit for an event he had little – if nothing – to do with. He’s drawn the ire of well-respected PR practitioners all over Toronto, and with good reason. He was even called out (albeit anonymously) on Inside PR, a leading Canadian podcast on the state and future of public relations, by then-hosts Terry Fallis, Dave Jones, and Martin Waxman.

Interestingly, Inside PR has also been the basis of discussions on why publicists should not be a part of any story, unless extenuating circumstances call for it. Obviously, Pampena missed that episode. Wonder why….

(Another interesting note on Pampena – who, by the way, is also registered to run for Mayor of Toronto in the 2010 election – is that though he claims to be blind (26 years and counting…), his Twitter page has him spotting a celebrity in Pearson Airport.

Five Professional Advantages To Being Unemployed

Three weeks before my wedding, my position in the PR department of a non-profit arts organization was eliminated. The good news was it meant more time for me to help plan a wedding for more people than I’ll ever know. The bad news, of course, was my unemployment.

I have a hard time believing claims that losing a job is “the best thing to happen to me.” However, there are certainly more advantages to being unemployed than one might consider. Here are five:

  • Re-Evaluate Your Resume
    When I lost my job, I realized my resume hadn’t been updated since I was hired. I spent weeks afterward recalling all my accomplishments at work, and putting them down on paper coherently. I wrote and re-wrote, edited and re-edited. But that wasn’t enough.

    The great thing about being unemployed is that you can freely pass your resume around for scrutiny. Sure, you can re-write a resume until the cows come home (farmers have resumes?) but why not share the wealth? Reach out to professionals in your industry or sector, and ask them to read your resume and offer suggestions. Talk to your colleagues and those in higher positions. And don’t be shy! After all, you won’t be hiring yourself.

    As it stands now, I have had my resume go through most of my friends in PR. I’ve sent my resume to former managers and directors, looking for their feedback. My parents have helped me by sending my resume to their friends, soliciting their feedback as well. I consider every suggestion made, and my resume is richer for having done so.

  • Interview, Informationally
    Ah yes, the wily, elusive, and intimidating informational interview. In reality, none of those three adjectives should apply. Informationals are pretty easy to come by and usually quite relaxed and informal. While I wasn’t completely sold on the concept when I first began making the rounds, I quickly warmed to the idea.

    Whenever an organization I contacted would come back to me saying no positions are available, I’d ask to meet with someone in their Communications department, regardless. It reflects a genuine interest and enthusiasm on my part, but it’s also a strategic way of learning about the inner-workings of a company. There’s only so much you can glean from websites and news releases.

    The informational interview is also a no-pressure chance to ask questions you might not ask in a formal job interview: Curious about the salary expectations for someone with your experience? Ask away. Ever wondered what qualifications are truly needed for the positions you seek? Ask away. Want to know how the VP of Communications for SomeCompany Ltd got the position? Where they went to school? What they suggest you learn to get ahead? ASK!

  • Network Network Network. And then Network some more.
    This goes hand-in-hand with the first two points. When I send out a resume for someone to have a look at, I know they’ll offer some useful suggestions. I also know that it’s one more person who will have read my resume, seen my qualifications, and learned about my professional career to that point. That’s one more person who may be able to throw my name out somewhere.

    The same idea applies to everyone I meet for informationals, even more so. Now there’s someone who is not only aware of who I am and what I’ve accomplished, but they have spent some time talking to me, getting to know me, and learning how I think and act. This is – in fact – even more useful as it’s safe to assume an informational interview takes place with someone within your desired industry. That’s another person who can throw your name out to potential employers, with the added bonus of being able to vouch for your character as well. Furthermore, should a position ever open in that person’s organization, a good impression will keep you at the top of their pile.

    Besides that, I follow fellow PR folk on Twitter and LinkedIn, so I know who is doing what. Attending conferences and talks is a great way to meet people in your industry. Go for drinks with a friend and their coworkers. You never know who or what will lead where.

  • Here, Take My Card.
    Simple and cheap. Make yourself a business card. I found out very quickly after having lost my job that networking is difficult without a business card.

    A business card is a classic reminder of who you are and what you do, and it fits in everyone’s front pocket. If you’re unemployed, all you need is your name and contact info, with a brief line about what you do. For example, on my card there is contact information broken up by a single line reading: Communications. Public Relations. Branding. Writing. Editing. Who I am, what I do, where to reach me.

  • Freelance Is Not A Four-Letter Word
    Stay sharp by offering your skills to others. This is not about the money, but about staying in the loop. Offer your services to a friend’s company, or a non-profit organization, or even your dad’s repair shop. Freelancing between jobs can be fun, keeps you on your toes and allows to dabble in a variety of areas.

While being unemployed is never fun, there are ways to use that time to your professional advantage. I’ve been doing my best to stay busy and stay relevant, and I’m pretty happy with the results so far. While not working full-time at the moment, I have a few things on the go and am always looking at new opportunities. Meanwhile, I’ve met with everyone from coordinators and managers, to VPs and Presidents. I’ve had my resume edited by people whom I’d only ever seen on the news. Now they know my first name, where I went to school and what I’m capable of on the job.

Being unemployed hasn’t been the greatest thing to happen to me, but it’s certainly far from the worst. Best of luck to all!

As of this writing, for #HAPPOTO, I remain unemployed but open to all opportunities.

The TTC’s One-Night Stand With Ashley Madison

The TTC in bed with Ashley Madison? Heavens to murgatroyd! No one ever says that anymore. It’s a shame, really. Snagglepuss must be rolling over in his grave. But I digress.

The TTC has been linked to Ashley Madison, a website whose official slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.”  Specifically, Ashley Madison is crying foul over the TTC’s rejection of a contract that would have wrapped several streetcars in Ashley Madison advertising. Even more specifically, the streetcars would have the company’s slogan plastered along either side. It’s a deal that would put at least $250,000 in the TTC’s pockets, which are presently empty and hanging inside-out with moths flying about. Talk radio (the social barometer by which all issues are measured… what are you going to do about it, social media?) was all a-twitter this morning (see what I did there?) over the issue, with Torontonians evenly divided on whether it’s a good idea. Here are some arguments floating around:

  • Having Ashley Madison advertise on the TTC will encourage deviant behaviour and drive people to cheat on their significant others – First off, if someone in a relationship is debating cheating, that relationship is already in trouble. Second, if someone in a relationship decides to go ahead and cheat, they will do so regardless of what they see on the side of a bus. Life isn’t a movie where epiphanies are had standing on snowy street corners staring at signs on streetcars.There seems to be little uproar over the EYE or NOW magazines available free at most TTC stations, which openly advertise sexual services from prostitutes and escorts, and feature NSA (no-strings attached) ads from ordinary people looking for casual sex. In fact, there is likely a greater probability that you’re safer meeting someone from Ashley Madison for casual yet intimate encounters, rather than from the back pages of a free newspaper.
  • How will parents explain to children viewing the ad the notion of having an affair? – Good parents will think of something. If not, maybe we should look at banning the word “sex” from advertising, though that would probably cut out 50% of all ads. Maybe we should also make sure women in ads all wear ankle-length skirts and cover their shoulders, in case children ask about breasts or shapely legs. Oh, we should also ban ads where it looks like people are driving fast, in case it leads to speed racing. We should also ban the movie Speed Racer. Speaking of movies, don’t they have words in their titles like kill and death and violence and war? Let’s look at banning those as well. I’m pretty sure I once saw an ad that asked people not to smoke, and that may have a reverse-psychology effect on children, so that’s banned as well.The annoying point I’m making here is that you cannot shield your children from everything, and more importantly, your children aren’t as interested in these things as parents believe. They don’t possess the breadth of experience and knowledge to properly process the meaning of and beliefs behind, say, an affair. They learn the surface meaning and move on.
  • If Ashley Madison can advertise, why not cigarette companies? Alcohol? Gaming? – What if Marlboro put up a website, and asked people to join and create profiles. They could interact online with other people interested in Marlboros, and maybe even meet up in person. And when they met in person, they would each bring some cigarettes and smoke up a storm together. It’s a lousy – and copyrighted – idea, but bear with me. Marlboro wouldn’t be pushing cigarettes in that case. Sure, they may be encouraging their use, but they would really just be acting as a facilitator between two parties with mutual interests. If they hadn’t met through Marlboro’s website, they might have met nine feet outside the front doors to their office.If someone is going to cheat, they will cheat. Seeing an ad won’t compel anyone who hasn’t already made that decision. What’s more, Ashley Madison only acts as a third party. If not them, then EYE or NOW or Craigslist or Kijiji or any other number of sources.

By now you should see where I stand on the issue. The TTC is in need of money and Ashley Madison is more than happy to fork some over. But ethics and morals prevent the TTC from accepting. Has it forgotten the fact that in 2007, it was happy to take on the controversy of posting ads promoting atheism and the lack of God? Two years can be a long time when you’re raising fares and failing to meet the evolving infrastructure of the city which you serve.

Even if the TTC ultimately does reject having Ashley Madison’s ads plastered on what probably amounts to less than 1% of their streetcar fleet (for $250,000, did I mention that?), this should open a discussion for more advertising on the TTC to subsidize some of its costs.

Anyone who’s been on the Metro in Paris, the Underground in London, the New York subway, the Hong Kong subway and many other transit systems can attest to a plethora of ads. In New York and Paris, there is an ad every few feet. They are inescapable but not intolerable; rather they are a part of the urban underground landscape. Blending into the walls of the transit system as passers-by scurry by, they also give companies a chance to be edgy, creative and try to grab people’s attention. Volkswagen is a perfect example.

Finally, in a brilliant PR move, Ashley Madison also announced reduced fares on TTC vehicles bearing their ad, should their contract be approved. I don’t know if that’s realistic, but they’ve managed to hit a note that resonates with every citizen of Toronto, regardless of their stance on the morality of the issue: Your wallets are suffering, and we want to help. In effect, they’ve told Toronto that they will subsidize the TTC and they will subsidize TTC riders, but the TTC won’t let them. Touché, Ashley Madison.

Bottom line: The TTC needs financial help. If they don’t accept it from Ashley Madison, let this issue lead to an improved resolution on advertising on the TTC in order to offset operating costs. Higher ad revenues mean lower fares and a better system. Toronto deserves that much.

What do you think? Would you allow this? Details, please…