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Smart public relations move? Or not.

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Maria Heim, account executive for Red Shoes PR, shares a few thoughts on making a bad PR move for a short term gain.

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I was in St. Paul, Minn. for a funeral last weekend during the blizzard that hit the Midwest. On Saturday I was shocked to see a TV news story about the Mall of America not only staying open during the blizzard, but having a 40 percent off sale to encourage shoppers to venture out. The reporter had the mall president on the phone and it was fascinating to hear the president justifying the sale.

The interview made me cringe and made the others watching the news talk about how irresponsible the mall was. As a PR person, I know it’s imperative for businesses to put public safety (and the list goes on and on…employee satisfaction, etc.) above the bottom line. Everything else on Saturday was canceled or postponed, including the funeral I was to attend (the funeral director said it’s the first time in 34 years he’s had to postpone a funeral).

How could a company justify encouraging people to venture out and risk their lives to get a good deal? Yes, we’re in a recession and yes it’s good for everyone that retail stores have a successful Christmas season, but it’s not worth putting lives in danger. I’m guessing the Mall of America’s PR person was stranded and unable to give his/her advice, hopefully it would have been to keep the mall closed.

When I finally made it home, I was pleased to see that the Fox River Mall in Appleton, Wis. made the right decision and closed the mall…and it seems everyone agrees.

Photo by Rachel Souza

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