The Myth of Controlling Your Communications

TargetBillboard.jpgIt’s never been harder to protect a company’s reputation. Just ask the folks at Target.

The typically squeaky-clean retailer has found itself in the crosshairs of a controversy for blowing off, a blog that criticized this billboard as “sexualized ad slop.”

The billboard was clearly a misjudgment. But Target’s response, via e-mail, was a flat-out mistake:  

“Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets.This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.”

A blogosphere brouhaha ensued and the whole thing ended up in The New York Times yesterday. (A highly traditional media source, last time I looked.)

Lesson learned: Companies need to face the fact that they can no longer manage their reputations by simply “focusing” on the media they choose. The problem will only get more complex as new channels of communications and social networks emerge.

As a persuasive white paper published last fall by the PR gurus of the Arthur W. Page Society concluded: “We are no longer in control.” It’s a must-read report for anyone working in communications today.

Photo by ATIS547 on, (cc) some rights reserved.