Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Harper's Magazine Details Meijer, Seyferth Story

The October 2012 issue of Harper's Magazine has a lengthy article titled "The Acme Corporation"  (subscription required; article starts on p. 46 in print editions) that recounts the story of Meijer trying to build a new store in Acme, Michigan, near Traverse City. The plans for a store was a local controversial that got statewide attention because of the legal and public relations issues involved. I blogged about the story several times back in 2008 when it happened.

Harper's may have decided to dig up the old story because just this past February the local town board approved the Meijer development. It also was an opportunity to do some old-school anti-corporate blustering.

Of public relations interest in this latest article is the detailed accounts of what Grand Rapids PR firm Seyferth PR billed a local citizens group for services. The group was in favor of a Meijer, and the PR firm helped them with various tactics. The PR firm was paid by Meijer. Some called this a breach of ethics if the firm never disclosed they were helping a "grassroots" group and being paid by a corporation. There was significant and angry discussion of this at a meeting of the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America  (WMPRSA) back at the time.

Ginny Seyferth is quoted in the Harper's piece downplaying what her firm did as being merely "an extra pair of hands." As for any controversy, she says it was Meijer's mistake for not disclosing the billing.

There were a variety of legal suits that came out of this whole ordeal. As for the possible PR improprieties, we once leave it to the court of public opinion.

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