Posted by: Ian Ross | February 2, 2008

Poor Crisis Comm Plan For Questionable V-Day Cards

Scholastic Canada stumbled this week explaining why it is selling Valentine’s Day cards in elementary schools with messages like wish you were “floating face down in a river” or “Hate. It’s just a special kind of love we give to people we don’t like.”

The cards were being sold by Scholastic Canada through its Grade 4-8 book sale flyer distributed in thousands of schools across the country.

When a Newfoundland parent complained by email, the company’s immediate response was good – they stopped selling the cards and fixed the flyer. However, the rest of its crisis communication appears flawed.

First, a book club manager responded to the parent saying this: “The Arrow Book Club is for grades 4-8. Though among the most popular items on the club (sic), we recognize that Jim Benton’s irreverent humour is most appropriate for older children and teens, and thus we printed on our flyers that Happy Bunny is suitable for Grades 7 and up. We did not promote this for younger children, and most certainly not for Grade 3.”

Strike one. It sounds like she is blaming the parent and avoiding responsibility. The manager may have a point, but her response only angered the parent more who then forwarded the email to the media.

Strike two. That’s all Scholastic has said about the matter. The manager’s email appears to be the only statement from Scholastic. No one else has been quoted in news reports and there are no media releases on the company’s website. In fact, finding Scholastic’s media contact info is quite difficult – its buried in the investor relations section of the New York parent company’s site.

Strike three. Scholastic didn’t manage the other player in the story – the author. One paper contacted Benton at his home in Detriot. He provided this little nugget to fuel the fire. “Ten-year-olds routinely say things to each other like ‘I’m going to kill you if you don’t get off those swings’ … they don’t actually do it.”

The result of Scholastic’s poor communication planning appears to be a disgruntled parent’s complaint becoming a national news story. Articles have appeared in the Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun and a dozen others. I wonder what Happy Bunny has to say about the issue?



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