Nostradamus on PR

Nos on Politics
Nostradamus on PR
Nos on Music
Nos on Closets?


  1. Was the beauty salon story a PR stunt?
  2. What should a non-profit organization do when faced with a scandal or crisis?

Was the beauty salon story a PR stunt?

On Thursday, June 17, 1999 4:15 PM, Nos wrote:

I’ve been reading in the papers about this beauty salon where the owner doesn’t want to cut the hair of anyone over 40. Later stories reported that his limit was about 30 years old. The last story that I saw said he really wanted to cut the hair of women in their teens and early twenties. That his cuts were too stylish for anyone older than that. Then it occurred to me--he’s gotten in all the papers, and on all the TV news shows. In each case he said what a stylish and exclusive salon he has.

Value of earned media: gazillions

Cost: a few thousands in Consumer Affairs fines

So waddaya think? Was it a PR stunt?

Martin Mosbacher responded on Thursday, June 17, 1999 6:05 PM:

Don’t think the genesis of the story was a stunt but do think the owner figured out how to make the best of a somewhat difficult situation.

Deven Black wrote Thursday, June 17, 1999 9:58 PM:

If it wasn’t it should have been. Next time it will be.

Vicki (Free) Presser wrote Thursday, June 17, 1999 8:43 PM:

I vote yes—and a damn good one, at that.


Amy Helfman wrote Monday, June 28, 1999 2:23 PM:

Maybe. But the young girls in his salon all seemed to come out with the exact same haircut, so IMHO he got gazillions of free publicity that showed him to be a mediocre hairstylist as well as an obnoxious one.

Disclaimer: I don’t have cable; I hardly ever watch TV news; if this guy got a deluge of exposure, I was not aware of it until you mentioned it! Also I was out of town 6/19-23, so I may have missed it altogether.

What should a non-profit organization do when faced with a scandal or crisis?

From: Barry N. Sher  
Sent: Saturday, November 27, 1999 9:37 PM 
To: ‘Martin B. Mosbacher’; ‘Deven Black’; ‘Vicki Free'; John Hicks
Subject: NPO PR

I read in last Wednesday’s _Times_ about the crisis at Operation Smile, a charity that sends doctors around the world to fix kids’ cleft palettes. I couldn’t tell from the article whether Operation Smile is being smeared by competing charities or needs a thorough housecleaning.

We all know what a business is supposed to do when faced with a monumental crisis. [Good example: Johnson & Johnson’s quick response to the Tylenol crisis; bad example: Exxon response to the Valdez oil spill.]

But what about a non-profit?

Two non-profit scandals I came up with were those at United Way and Covenant House.

So my question is: How should an NPO respond to a scandal or crisis?

[A note about the recipients of this query: Martin, Deven and Vicki are old friends of mine. Martin and Vicki are both PR professionals. John Hicks is a client of mine who advises NPOs on fund-raising.]

. . . looking forward to hearing your thoughts . . .


Vicki Free, 11/28/99: 

Off the top of my head, a good npo response would resemble a good corporate response—head-on, honest appraisal, minimum of whining. If things ARE bad, public housecleaning. Regaining consumer confidence no less important in the public sector than in the private sector.

If I were handling this charity, my message would be along the lines of—

"we were so intent on doing good work, and so grateful fo the professional time donated to that work, and had so much trust in those who volunteered, that a vigorous monitoring system was not thought necessary. We were wrong. With the best will in the world, professional oversight is imperative. We know this now. We are aghast at the transgressions, small in number though they are, when taken in the context of the entire operation. We will put in place vigorous oversight structures, and advisory committees in each country in which we serve, to be sensitive to cultural differences and improve communications. We will report to the world in six months time what we have done."

Deven 11/28/99:

I agree with Vicke that the first order of business has to be to clearly identify and assess the extent of the problem. This must be done quickly, honestly, and as much as possible, publicly so that contributors can see that the house is being put in order. Being forthright and public

can help solve the public perception problem even before the internal or other external problems are fully identified.

The single worst possible response would be to become defensive and blame everything on competing charities.


Martin 11/28/99:

I agree with Vicki and Deven. Denying the allegations, even if they are unfounded, without an open review of your activities would be viewed as an insufficient response.