PR Lessons Learned: Circuit City

image courtesy of consumerist.com

image courtesy of consumerist.com

Last week, I wrote a post comparing the Twitter presence of Circuit City and Comcast.  I was highly critical of Circuit City for not using the platform to reach out and connect directly with customers.  The very next day, a story broke about a PR debacle at Circuit City.  The first part of this story is a bit of a tragedy but it does have a happy ending, thanks to some fast thinking by a savvy PR guy.

The August issue of MAD magazine featured a four-page spoof tab for “Sucker City”.  The spoof included advertisements for items like HDTVs and video games, including the Nintendo Wii “Guaranteed In Stock … if you’re friends with an employee who hid it in the back for you. Otherwise, ooh, sorry, all sold out.”

In a panicky overreaction, Circuit City management instructed their stores to remove and destroy all copies of the issue (yes, you can get magazines at some Circuit City stores, but that’s a subject for different post).  Of course, the decision was another great example of how Circuit City doesn’t understand the new reality of operating in the age of social media.  A copy of the remove and destroy message quickly found its way to the Consumerist.com who shared it with the world.

That’s when PR guy Jim Babb stepped in to deal with the damage control.  As many of my readers know, I worked at Circuit City’s corporate headquarters and had the opportunity to know Jim and his extremely dry wit, so I’m not surprised with how he handled the issue.  Here’s an excerpt from Jim’s letter:

“As a gesture of our apology and deep respect for the folks at MAD Magazine, we are creating a cross-departmental task force to study the importance of humor in the corporate workplace and expect the resulting Powerpoint presentation to top out at least 300 pages, chock full of charts, graphs and company action plans.

In addition I have offered to send the MAD Magazine Editor a $20.00 Circuit City Gift Card, toward the purchase of a Nintendo Wii….if he can find one!

4 comments so far

  1. Cam Beck on

    Ha! I love this response. Assuming it gets the message to the audience that would have been upset about the original response in the first place (primarily MAD fans?), this gets them right in their soft spot.🙂

  2. John Makran on

    Nice post
    Thanks🙂

  3. Garland Pollard on

    Doug
    I agree with you about Jim Babb. Sounds like he’s got some sense. In the 80s, his mom, I recall, used to work for the Craft House at Colonial Williamsburg, where they sold reproductions. Everybody loved her, and I think she had the same wit.

    Any company should LOVE a Mad magazine parody. If there is truth in it though, they need to fix it.

  4. PIIA on

    Obviously a man who’s dealt with corporate paranoia before and has come out on the bright side. What a great response


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