In his post Holy Crap! Dennis Howlett writes about the mistakes made by GlaxoSmithKline in a PR campaign for alli. You may not be familiar with the company name, but I am sure you are familiar with the name ‘alli’ made infamous by a blog post on Angry 365 Days a Year, alli: Miracle diet pill with teeny-tiny side effect. The comedic post on A365DAY mentions in plain terms the side effects of alli, that the manufacturer tries to soft peddle.
To combat the bad press, GSK hired Debbie Weil to help GSK bloggers turn the bad press around. Debbie Weil wrote the book The Corporate Blogging Book: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know to Get It Right, so she seemed like the perfect expert to GSK.
This is when things start to go awry. Dennis outlines the mistakes made by Debbie during the campaign:
- The negative effects are pretty serious, including a serious case of diarrhea, and not the fun kind from the the children’s song.
- She publicly solicited comments during the campaign, emailing a bunch of friends asking to leave comments, but not disclosing the friendship.
When building a brand it is important to be – Transparent. Easily understood or seen through. It would appear that GSK and Debbie Weil attempted to manipulate the system and got caught.
Building a brand is about working on a relationship with the customer / consumer. The parties need to be open and honest with each other. When untruths are discovered it really damages the trust that has been built so far. It will be interesting to see what the repercussions of this incidence are, and how PR will use this lesson in the future.