Gawker on PR Week's PR disaster

‘Sfunny how we’re all just seconds away from a PR disaster; Yesterday, for eg, I part-sent a media release only to discover the client wanted to make a material change to the info. Lucky for me it was a relatively small story, and not big noos on Super Tuesday or the Reserve Bank announcement on Aussie interest rates. And now, PR industry mag PR Week has gotten a little techno-egg on its face – there but for the grace of God go I!
From Gawker:
“PRWeek spends a lot of time telling publicists how to do their jobs. Embarrassing, then, that last week the magazine bombarded thousands in their database with unwanted emails. Bonus feature: the message included the names and passwords of other people! All that time the staff spends writing features about crisis communications is coming in handy now. After the jump, PRWeek editor Julia Hood’s apology to readers who are, in the words of a tipster, “piiiissed.”
From the desk of Julia Hood, Editor-in-Chief of PRWeek
Date: February 4, 2008
I am writing to personally apologize for the error that caused your PRWeekjobs.com user name and password information to be distributed externally. I am also sorry if you received our job site email multiple times and that your email address was cc’d to other respondents.
I want to provide you with background on how this happened; what we have been doing to fix the situation; and what action you may be able to take to limit the extent of this inconvenience. The error originated with our vendor, Adicio, via a technical error, during their work on our behalf with an automated software migration package. When this problem was discovered, just minutes after the project began, Adicio immediately took mitigating action ceasing the transmission and disabling all user names and passwords. This problem impacted a limited portion of registrants to a PRWeek service. Adicio’s explanation and apology is currently on our website:
http://www.prweekus.com/Adicio -issues-formal-apology-regardi ng-PRWeek-e-mail-problem /article/104713/

Unfortunately, I know that some of you may still be receiving emails. If that is the case, it is likely that these emails are being bottlenecked at your ISP. Please refer to the list below for obtaining advice on how to stop this from happening in your individual system.

– Contact your ISP and request they remove the spam emails
awaiting delivery from you (the top ISP contact details
are included below). PRWeek is also alerting ISPs of this
problem
– If your company owns an email server, contact your Systems
Administrator and request that they block the specific
email address in its Spam filter
– Block the senders email address on your system
– For peace of mind, change the passwords for other online
services you use for which you have been using the same
password

I know you have been inconvenienced and, even more importantly, are concerned about the privacy of your information. This error may have also shaken your confidence in working and engaging with PRWeek. Again, I offer my sincere apology, as well as my promise to you that we will do everything possible to ensure that this never happens again. I realize it will take time for us to earn your trust again, but we value our dialogue with you and hope it will continue and that we can move past this very unfortunate occurrence.

Please feel free to contact me directly with further questions and concerns. My information is at the bottom of this email.

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4 thoughts on “Gawker on PR Week's PR disaster

  1. As a Toronto based PR student, I really enjoyed reading this post. It’s interesting to see how PRweek reacted to their mistake. Not only did they apologize repeatedly and explain what they were doing to fix the issue, they provided tips on what those affected could do on their end. I also thought the last comment on trust was very effective. It would be interesting to compare a similar privacy breach in a company without any PR expertise.

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  2. Agree Sandra – I think ‘julia’s’ response was clear and unequivocal – textbook issues facing stuff. Dismaying, tho, even in the face of this, some blog comments to gawker lampooned her explanation. For soem people, even when you’re right, you’re wrong; guess that’s evidence of the emotional vitriol of the online arena eh? (PS Good luck with the PR studies).

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  3. I’d love to be able to support Sandra and Gerry in their rose tinted view of crisis management, but I’m afraid I have to trample on your flowerbeds.

    There has been quite a lot of work done on ‘crisis incubation’ – Professor Dennis Smith at the University of Liverpool for example – which links management culture to the incubation of crises. One of the biggest elements is blame culture. Sure, Julia Hood was quick to apologise, and equally quick to blame their vendor and your ISP. Strange how little was said about PR Weeks’ own preparations for the migration or their handling of risk management.

    Apologising and showing concern is a great part of crisis management – just make sure it’s not everyone else that is getting covered in your own management issues.

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