Tuesday, March 11, 2014
What would you do as the PR leader of Herbalife? An activist hedge fund manager has bet a billion dollars that you will fail then launched lobbying campaigns to make sure that happens. There isn't much precedent for such an overwhelming assault on the reputation of a company. The New York Times article yesterday might alleviate the pressure on the business, and it might break the stranglehold William Ackman has used to get his way. Even so, Herbalife can't rest. The company's mission has been compromised. It will have to work its way back to the graces of consumers if it can. And, who knows but Ackman might be right that the company is a pyramid scheme. However, his heavy-handed way of attacking Herbalife solely for the purpose of making money has made him look worse than the company. I'm sure the PR department already has reprints of yesterday's article and is sending them out to influentials. It must seem like cool water after days in the desert.
This is an example of why negative PR is a bad idea. Even if you're attacking a company that is demonstrably breaking the law, direct attacks, especially "all-out" attacks like Ackman is doing, will blow up in your face. Public relations should always strive to stay as positive as possible as it will always reflect positively on the brand you work for, and/or your personal brand.