Posted by: Ian Ross | June 11, 2008

CBC PR Goes To The Penalty Box

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation poorly stick handled their public communication around the Hockey Night in Canada theme song.

The fact that they lost the song is tragic, but I don’t want to get into the business or cultural perspectives. Just the PR side of things.

First of all, the CBC failed to get its messages out first. Composer Dolores Claman and her agent framed the issue by distributing a media release on the night the Stanley Cup was awarded to the Detroit Red Wings. They were kind enough not to create a distraction during the playoffs. And smart enough to get their side of the story into the news first.

Second, the CBC appeared unprepared to answer media questions once the story hit. According to the Globe and Mail, CBC Sports executive director Scott Moore “said he was surprised to step off a plane from Pittsburgh, where he had celebrated the end of the playoffs, to be greeted by a firestorm as the story dominated newscasts and call-in radio shows.” He told CBC News, “We have no real idea why the deal fell apart. We’re not sure why because the other side hasn’t communicated with us. You have to ask the other side what happened.” Not the best key messaging.

Third, I still haven’t seen an explanation from the CBC on why a long-standing lawsuit brought by the composer over copyright infringement hasn’t been settled. How did they intend to convince the public that a deal was so close when they hadn’t dealt with that issue? The Toronto Star‘s Chris Zelkovich commented, “it’s hard to win a public relations battle when a 77-year-old woman (now 80) sues you for breach of contract and four years later is still waiting for a settlement.”

Finally, the CBC’s PR team failed to provide its side of the story in any social media forum I’ve visited. There are Facebook groups and hundreds of blog posts – but no one from CBC to comment.

It would appear to me that the CBC didn’t keep their eye on the PR puck. And the result was a heavy hit from thousands of hockey crazy hoosers and one 80-year-old composer.

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Responses

  1. And to add on to all of that, the daughter of composer Dolores Claman has posted a blog called “In response” telling some more of the detail behind the sequence of the events.

    Total mishandle on so many fronts at CBC. Terrible example of communications in practice.

  2. Agree. The relationship communicated is “we don’t care.” As it is often said, public relations is built one relationship at a time.

    That’s why the deal fell apart, the original contract was breached and an octogenarian still waits for her settlement. The lack of communication is in parallel with the core philosophy of action (in this case inaction). That _is_ the key message.

    PR is more than just spin but tied to governance issues and this case is a blaring example.


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