Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Rumor Control: If you work in public relations, you’ve probably heard the one about Procter & Gamble donating a portion of its profits to Satanist groups, or the one about 7-11 store managers celebrating after the 9-11 attacks, or the one about Mexican brewery workers urinating in Corona beer, but this one might be new to you: an e-mail doing the rounds suggesting that CVS pharmacies only place anti-theft devices on black hair care products.

This put me in mind of a story in The Wall Street Journal more than a decade ago involving a Brooklyn-based soft drinks company that had been making major inroads in the black community with a sugary soft drink. (I don’t remember all the details, and couldn’t find the article via either Google or Factiva.)

Posters started appearing claiming that an ingredient in the drink was designed to make black men sterile. “Did you see last week’s 60 Minutes,” they asked, giving implied credibility to the rumor, even though there had been no such report on the CBS show. The company suffered substantial losses before it was eventually revealed that the posters had been put up by a rival drinks company.

The Wall Street Journal story painted the company as a victim, which is true as far as it goes. But a company that had built good relationships with the black community—its largest demographic—would have been a lot better placed to fend them off.


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