CorPoRations: good, bad and ugly

taylor swift and apple2Most corporations have recognized that good public relations means acting as good citizens. The often-used phrase “corporate social responsibility,” or CSR, is defined on as “the integration of business operations and values, whereby the interests of all stakeholders including investors, customers, employees, the community and the environment are reflected in the company’s policies and actions.” A company’s success is tied to how it’s perceived in the public’s eye.

Three large companies had public relations/CSR challenges this week; I’m calling them the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good was Apple. The world’s most valuable company faced an angry Taylor Swift, who wrote a letter to CEO Tim Cook in which she complained about the company’s decision not to pay artists during the three month free-trial period of Apple Music. Apple watched the buzz, sensed the public was with her, and change its policy hours later. It was a good PR move for Apple; they understood its interested stakeholders were on the artists’ side and there was no fight.

The bad was Whole Foods. When an investigation by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs uncovered “systematic overcharging for pre-packaged foods,” Whole Foods denied the allegations. “We disagree with the DCA’s overreaching allegations and we are vigorously defending ourselves,” read a company statement. But a few days later, Co-CEO Walter Robb said in a video, “Straight up, we made some mistakes. We want to own that and tell you what we’re doing about it.” It was a decent rebound from a bad first reaction.

The ugly was Fiat Chrysler. The automaker will soon pay huge fines for not recalling more than 11 million vehicles, which it was ordered to do by the federal government. While company leaders now say they’ll comply, their failure to quickly implement the recall may have caused deaths and injuries. This isn’t just poor CSR; some believe Chrysler’s inaction was criminal. Several victims are suing, and the company’s public image will undoubtedly suffer.

In PR, corporate social responsibility always pays dividends. Without it, you just might risk the wrath of Taylor Swift. Your thoughts?



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