Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Let 'Em Have Drugs

Meijer follows other big retailers in announcing they are giving away generic drugs to customers. The story on TV 8 shows how this may be more a sign of the big retailers' competitive struggle than it is an expansion of Meijer's corporate social responsibility agenda.

The Meijer press release never really says why the company is being so generous. President Mark Murray does say it is "all about higher standards," staying on message with the company's latest brand efforts.

So, we are left to wonder if this is really a "loss leader" program, an effort of slick marketing, or genuine public relations in the sense that the company is being a caring corporate citizen and trying to address a real problem. It could very well be the latter. If Meijjer is successful in getting reimbursement from health care providers, and even some assistance from generic drug makers--is Perrigo listening down in Allegan--it could be a model in corporate philanthropy.

But the bottom line is this--it can't be about the bottom line directly. It has to be a genuine desire to help people. In so doing, it will improve relationships Meijer has with multiple publics. That will yield trust, extend the brand, and may in time influence the bottom line positively. That's PR.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Covering Debate Coverage

Kudos to Grand Haven Tribune reporter Beth Heinen Bell for an inside look at gubernatorial debate coverage at the recent WOOD TV event. Her piece is on page one of the Tribune, next to the AP story about the debate itself.

She gives the inside scoop about how WOOD TV 8 managed the other journalists--herding them into the employee break room to watch the debate on monitors. Could have been the demands of the DeVos and Granholm campaigns, but isn't it sweet irony to see journalists "handling" reporters!

Meanwhile, she makes a few good digs at both spin machines for distributing reaction--i.e. declared victories--from both campaigns within minutes of the final bell. In the big leagues, they actually call this the "spin room" up front. The digs were legitimate, but I fear that the average reader won't separate politics from our noble profession of public relations.

As many of you good West Michigan PR professionals know, spin is a dirty word. PR is not about image and deception, but ethical advocacy and mutual relationship building. Unfortunately for us, PR gets painted with a political brush. I wish more reporters who cover coverage like this would think to ask a certain PR professor for an informed opinion about the field, versus coming to quick conclusions and perpetuating myths about PR.

The best we can do is take the call from the 6th provision of the PRSA Code of Ethics--practice PR responsibly to "enhance the profession."