‘Matt, Matt, Matt … you’re glib’ – What do you think?

27 Sep
Posted by Arthur Yann in PRSAY November   2nd 2011

Who could forget Tom Cruise’s notorious response to Today show host Matt Lauer, when Lauer asked Cruise whether nor not he had considered the possibility that the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug Ritalin — the use of which Cruise opposes — might actually work for some people.

Well, Lauer was again at his glib best Tuesday (Nov. 1) in an interview with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. The producers of Today invited Mr. Schultz on air to discuss the launch of a program through which Starbucks, with the Opportunity Finance Network® (OFN), is accepting donations for the Create Jobs for USA Fund in every U.S.-based, company-operated Starbucks.

According to the Starbucks news release, the program works like this: Donations to the Fund, which has been seeded with a $5 million contribution from the Starbucks Foundation, will help create and sustain jobs in underserved communities throughout the United States. The Fund, managed by OFN, will pool donations from Starbucks customers, employees and others. Donors who contribute $5 or more receive a red, white and blue wristband emblazoned with the message “Indivisible.”

First, Lauer (claiming to represent the “cynicism” bred by “tough times”), asked if this wasn’t just some evil scheme to sell more pumpkin-spice lattes. “The guy [Schultz] wants to do good, he wants to create jobs,” Lauer began. “But one of the other reasons behind this is because, if you don’t have a job, you can’t afford a $4 cup of coffee.”

Schultz, to his credit, didn’t take the bait. “I can assure you,” he replied, “this is nothing about marketing. This is our responsibility as a company, and recognizing that we as business leaders should not and cannot wait for Washington … businesses and business leaders have to do more.”

So, if it’s not about selling more coffee, Lauer reasoned, then it must be about generating positive press. “You say it’s not about PR,” Lauer moaned, “but it sounds a little like a PR campaign.”

Schultz again showed himself to be a skilled communicator with the keen ability to stay on message. “Not about PR,” he said, “It’s about Starbucks using its scale for good … about a problem in America and the fact that business and business leaders have to step up. We can’t wait for Washington. This is about leadership.”

The problem with Lauer’s glib characterization of the Starbucks initiative as some sort of public relations “ploy” was elucidated brilliantly by Karen S. Miller in her article, “Public Relations in Film and Fiction,” which originally appeared in the Journal of Public Relations Research.

“The problem with an inadequate discussion of the work of PR is … that the audience is left with two opposing and equally deficient views,” said Miller. “Sometimes, PR is magic, which only a magician with secret knowledge can perform, while audience members wonder how they have been tricked. In other sources, it is almost embarrassingly easy — a phone call or a cocktail with a reporter is all it takes. Neither view explains the PR process, and because strategies and tactics are unexplored, practitioners’ effectiveness seems ominous.”

Beyond that, Lauer’s tone was dismissive and pejorative toward an entire profession, and discourteous toward a guest the producers invited into the homes of millions of viewers. I wonder if Lauer engages his own public relations professionals and, if so, what they would think.

What do you think?


Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


7 responses to “‘Matt, Matt, Matt … you’re glib’ – What do you think?

  1. bananas320

    September 30, 2012 at 3:40 am

    I think it is just a PR campaign to be honest. I mean, I don’t see a big company with stockholders like Starbucks has launching anything without something to gain… Maybe I’m just cynical as well…

    • Safona Holcomb

      October 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      I am pretty sceptical as well. It seems that these days….at the end of the day….it’s ALLLLL about the money. I don’t expect a company to not make a profit, but it bothers me if/when they ‘hide’ behibd a great cause…..which may help to shape the customers percieption about the company. And ultimwtaly……brings in more revenue.

  2. mr25straight

    October 2, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Well I agree with Bananas320 in a way, it defiantly is geared toward a PR campaign in the fact to make the general public feel good about Starbucks and want to donate to their foundation and since they are in the store they would buy coffee. I feel as though it’s more of a marketing stand point. Starbucks builds a foundation to give Joe (hypothetical person) a job. After working the job, Joe then spends some of his money at Starbucks in a way to say thanks? Joe would be then returning his earned money to the Starbucks which then they would make a profit off? That sounds like a tactic that could really be in effect with a “foundation.” Also according to this it says, Starbucks set up with the Opportunity Finance Network. Does that mean they help them or do they use the networks actually facilities? If they only helped them, Starbucks could really use the only portion of the money for the creation of jobs and the other funds for other things.

  3. joylanadventurer01

    October 2, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    I would have to agree with bananas here.. Why would a business, such as Starbucks(or any business out to make profits or gains), do something simply for the concern of society? They are obviously trying to sell more products, while at the same time creating more jobs so more people have the means to purchase products as well. Think about it.. How often does anyone do something unless it benefits themselves? Do we see the rich endowing the poor with their wealth? No, because humans, by nature, are greedy and want the best for themselves, and believe if they worked hard for something, why should they have to give it away? Which is understandable.. But i’m veering off topic. No business in it’s right mind is going to do or participate in any activity, UNLESS, it provides brings about gains in one aspect or another. They may have the intentions of helping many people, and they may actually truthfully help many people.. But they still see a means of profits or gains for themselves through what they are doing.. Again, does anyone do something for free? Do we work because we want to and love it? Some of us might have a job that we love and enjoy, but we will never work for free. We look for the better paying jobs, we go to school and college in hopes of getting an even better pay position.. It is all about helping ourselves.. We don’t like to admit it, and big corporations and businesses will not confess. But we all know it is the truth. Never to be changed.. Unfortunately.

  4. countrygirl895

    October 4, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Even though this may be simply a PR stunt to gain good reviews, who cares? Starbucks has been around long enough that it has definitely established itself as the main competitor for high end coffee sales. The prices are expensive and the sizes are not as grande as the company would like their customers to believe. With all of this in mind, they are trying to give back a little by helping to fund jobs in communities where there aren’t many. Please explain to me why this is a problem. Of course Starbucks looks better because of this, but a president looks better when he creates jobs and few people will yell at him that he is just trying to stir up good PR. No company will ever be able to fund a program without challenges of inferior motives being brought up. But as a company, it is expected that their main goal is to make money and sell products. This idea is not a foreign one but because of the influence of public relations in the media and in entertainment, it does bring up issues of concealed motives for doing good.

  5. flapjack92

    October 30, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    I completely agree with countrygirl, yes, Starbucks is using PR campaign to make themselves look better to the public, but in the end they are giving back to the community. They themselves “seeded with a $5 million contribution from the Starbucks Foundation” so they are giving the fund a decent chunk of money to start with. As stated above, they’ve established themselves as a high end coffee retailer, so obviously they’re out to make an extra couple bucks, like every single for profit business out there. There is a bottom line in business is to make a profit off of your product, so it would be just dumb of them to do it any other way. In the end, regardless of who is making a profit and who is or isn’t benifiting from this, they’re giving back to the community who is in desperate NEED of jobs and the likes.

  6. sony112

    December 14, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Seems mot likely like a PR campaign in my opinion. Most major companies are not involved in some thing unless they are gaining from it’s end result.


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