Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The old public relations trick -- isolate the victim

One public relations trick is to isolate the victim, make him/her feel that they are the problem, that their complaint is unique, and that they should stop bothering us.

1.   Many years ago, I complained to the Public Relations Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission about the terrible smells which then emanated from the Summerhill subway station. He replied he had never heard of the problem, but made a note of it. Two or three years later, a business associate wrote to the TTC about the same matter. The letter she received was from the same person I had spoken to earlier. His reply was that he had never heard of the problem before.

2.   After returning from a package trip to the United Kingdom, I lodged a complaint with British Airways about the hotel they had reserved for me. The building was so decrepit water from the suite above mine leaked into my bathtub. Their reply was that no one had ever complained about that before.

3.   On another occasion, I pointed out to Canada Post the slow delivery of a first-class letter within Canada. Their reply was that they preferred to talk about the vast majority of their mail that does get delivered in due course.

4.  All of which brings to mind the old joke about the "Bug letter," except it's no joke. It's a normal public relations manoeuvre.

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