A grieving father made the news recently for a horribly insulting reason. It seems the man’s daughter was killed in a car crash. The teenager’s death was incredibly difficult for her loving dad, but what happened just the other day poured gritty salt into a very fresh wound. The story, Ronn Torossian says, is terrible, and also a strong warning for any PR effort that depends on a third party list company for sales leads.
A local office supply chain sent the man a direct mail advertisement addressed to him, “current resident”, and “daughter killed in car crash.”
Somehow, the information gathered included this piece of personal information and due to an apparent list snafu, that information made it onto a mailing list. As you can imagine, the grieving father was heartbroken, incensed, and later, more than a little curious.
In response to his inquiries, the company placed all the blame for the mistake on a third party vendor.
In the end, though, Torossian says, this is simply not something you can play hot potato with. Someone seriously screwed up here and beyond the pain this family was put through (again), now anyone seeing this story has to be wondering exactly what this particular chain wants to know about them – and more importantly, why they want to know it.
This sort of open-ended question can spell long-term negative PR that goes well beyond a single terrible mistake. In this case, trying to blame a third party vendor only opens up more questions about company information gathering and sales techniques. The company may have been better off not to bring the third party vendor into the messaging at all. On one side, it does nothing to remove the company’s responsibility for this mistake. On the other, it brings far too many questions to the surface.