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Another Take on Image Management

Posted by: Burth Helm on April 2, 2007

After Wal-Mart’s Lee Scott downplayed the impact of negative press last week by telling us it influenced “less than a tenth of one percent” of his customers, I was interested to read this quote today from Starbucks CEO Jim Donald. He’s way on the other side of the spectrum:

“If we develop a thick skin to these issues, I think we fail. Unfortunately, when we get mischaracterized, it’s not the truth and we really get mad about it. …It’s OK to be sensitive. …If you just said, ‘Who cares what they say? It’s not the truth,’ that doesn’t work, not in a company that’s connected to its partners like we are.”
(Seattle Times via

I’ll be lame and say I think the right answer is somewhere in the middle.

Reader Comments

Peter Himler

April 2, 2007 8:39 PM

I think Mr. Donald may be more in touch with reality than Mr. Scott. Granted, a 24/7 news cycle gives stories shorter legs than ever before. Just read David Carr's column on the Ciruit City layoffs in today's New York Times.

Nevertheless, a negative story -- whether it originates in the blogosphere or in an influential mainstream outlet -- also has the capacity to grow. To simply dismiss negative press as inconsequential (i.e., influencing less than a tenth of 1% of customers) will eventually come back to bite him in the butt. Perhaps he should have a brief chat with Michael Dell?

Finally, it was amusing to see Mr. Scott's exclusive interview with Fox News's Neil Cavuto the other evening. Talk about softball questions. It was like old home week.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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