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.”

Yes, seriously.

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.


Previous articleTarget Explanation Misses the Mark
Next article5 Tips for Scintillating Social Media PR
Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.