Part of protecting your company’s brand is ferreting out which public relations opportunities are being presented by questionable companies. Recently, I turned down the opportunity for one of our company analysts to give an interview to MN1.com, an online video company that covers the stock market. By weighing, and rejecting, this opportunity for seemingly easy publicity, I saved our company from a public relations nightmare.
“We got a call from a representative of MN1.com,” I wrote in an in-house email. “They wanted someone from our organization to come on their show and talk about teen clothing retailers (per our press release). I passed on the opportunity. I did a little digging into [MN1.com] and found that it was just some [guys] in Dallas hyping stocks under the guise of daily stock market commentary. One of their businesses is getting paid to write, distribute, and promote research reports for micro cap companies.
“We want to avoid having our brands attached to names like this, even if the exposure could possibly bring in traffic/subscriptions,” I continued. “Feel free, of course, to speak to members of the mainstream media and trade media about whatever topics you feel comfortable. If, however, you get requests from media outlets that you’re unfamiliar with or you feel may not be on the up-and-up, please let me know before saying ‘yes’ to an interview.”
I had forgotten about MN1.com until a friend in Dallas forwarded me two articles from Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News:
“MN1’s 33-year-old founder and top executive, self-made millionaire Joshua Lankford, was recently barred from the securities industry. His companies have also been major shareholders in several of the stocks the site has spotlighted over the years. Some featured stocks have been tied to his friends and business partners. In one instance, a stock rated a ‘strong buy’ on MN1 was the focus of a lawsuit in which investors accused [MN1’s founder] of manipulating the share price.”
Looks like my concerns were warranted.
Recently, a friend called seeking some advice. He is on the board of directors of a public company and his company’s shares were plunging because a Wall Street analyst had downgraded the stock. After reading the analyst’s report, I understood the stock’s plummet.
The analyst was correct in his assessment. The company, however, did nothing to get its side of the story out. There was no press release regarding the matter, and the company refused to answer the media’s questions. A simple press release explaining the issue may not have stopped the stock’s decline — it would have at least slowed it, in my opinion — but it would have at least appeased unhappy shareholders who wanted to get information directly from the company, not from a third party.
I pointed out the comments that shareholders were making about the company on some internet message boards. Even when you ignored the typical weirdos who frequent internet message boards, it was clear that there were some unhappy shareholders who were questioning the actions of the company, its management, and its board.
My friend agreed that the company handled the issue poorly, and said he would raise the issue at the next board meeting and make sure that the public relations department worked more closely with the investor relations department. The company could have saved itself some grief had it done so beforehand.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.