Friday, August 28, 2009

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - PRIVACY COMMISSIONER COMES OUT ON TOP IN FACEBOOK FRACAS


Guest item compiled by Sean McDonald
Facebook has announced that it will comply with requests made by Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, to better safeguard the privacy of Facebook users. Facebook has committed to reviewing and better articulating its privacy policy over the next month and to ‘retrofit’ its platform over the next year, giving Facebook users the ability to pick and choose what information they want to share with both the Facebook platform and applications operating on it. Score a huge win for the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa who submitted the original complaint instigating the review. Changes made to Facebook will benefit all 200+ million users of Facebook around the world, not just Canadians. Both the Privacy Commissioner and Facebook positioned the changes as a collaborative effort to better serve Facebook users. Savvy Facebook users have long complained about privacy breaches and have questioned why it took a review by the Canadian Privacy Commissioner to make these changes, when they had been frequently requested. Despite the apparent collaborative exercise, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner is the people’s choice winner in all of this. Consumers have long questioned the safety of their personal information and why Facebook should have the right to retain it as they have. Infrequently acknowledged by Facebook before, user concerns have been heard and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is being thanked by Facebook users around the world.

VERITAS: PUNT - HARPER APPOINTS CRONIES TO SENATE


“Harpocracy” was how the Liberals cleverly dubbed it yesterday, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a raft of party faithful as the newest members of the senate. Howls of outrage from political opponents and pundits was as swift as it was predictable, given that prior to coming to power Harper was a consistent critic of patronage appointments to the upper chamber and a staunch advocate of elected senators. But despite all that, I resist calling this a Fumble. Harper’s comment to the media (prior to the official announcements being made) was: “I’m willing to appoint elected senators ... so far only one province has held an election and that’s Alberta. Until senators are elected, this government will ensure that we have in the Senate people who will work hard and will support the elected government of this country.” I take that as Harper saying hey, if you want to make senate reform an issue as a result of this, I’m all for it – but in the meantime, I’m going to work within the existing rules. “I don’t think people care,” was what one party insider told the Toronto Star. If that’s true, it won’t be a big issue which will dog Harper (although the opposition will continue to thump that tub) – and if it’s not, it’s an issue that he will be more than happy to have as a focal point in the next election, whenever it comes – so perhaps there’s method in the madness after all.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - OSHAWA GETS KISSED OFF


Memo to Mr. Simmons: Don’t mess with the ‘Shwa! I had been sure that it was a Touchdown in the making when the good citizens of Motor City North were working themselves into a froth at the beginning of the week, after their fair burgh was nowhere to be seen on the list of cities announced for the upcoming tour by fire-breathing rockers KISS. The band – usually masters of marketing and hype – had been running an online contest to let fans decide which stops would be included on the “KISS Alive 35” tour. Oshawa was the hands-down winner, with more ‘Shwa residents than anywhere else signing on to say they want the Kabuki-clad Psycho Circus to come to town. Too bad, was the initial, official word out of the KISS camp. “The size of the production turned out to require a larger venue," KISS spokesman Erik Stein told the Toronto Star on Monday. "In this case, that turned out to be the Air Canada Centre." Oshawa KISS fans – and members of city council who had been championing the effort – went nuts. And rather than it turning out to be yet another brilliant publicity stunt, with some kind of el supremo bonus surprise being kept cleverly behind the curtain, word came that it was, in fact, a communications Fumble. Guitarist Paul Stanley later revealed that the plan was to hit Oshawa on the second leg of the tour – but the story fueled by Stein’s comment was that they weren’t coming at all. An extra stop was hastily added on to leg one in response to the uproar. Then Gene Simmons dropped the ball again, blaming the media for whipping the whole thing up – and, while he was at it, the fans for being just plain stupid: “Respectfully, the fans aren't qualified to understand how things are done ... (they) don't know how things work," he sniffed. Stanley, for his part, was smart enough to part ways with his band-mate’s comments, saying "The media was carrying the dissent and upset feeling of the fans. They weren't creating anything, they were reporting it. Don't blame the messenger." All in all, it was a mess – and an especially surprising one, given KISS’ usual talent for deftly managing its marketing communications, as witnessed by the band’s incredibly consistent moneymaking ability.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - EXPLODING iPHONES


The European Union is investigating, the government of France is investigating, there are now reports of incidents in Asia and even a TV reporter in Seattle has uncovered American cases of Apple iPhones allegedly overheating and exploding. In one case a French teenager suffered an eye injury when his iPhone’s glass screen burst into tiny shards of glass. Apple says it is looking into it, and has a European company official set to meet with France’s consumer ministry. But it just doesn’t seem like Apple is really on top of this from a crisis communications perspective. For example, an Apple spokesperson told wire service Reuters that the company was aware of the reports but would not comment until it received more information. In other cases, Apple officials have said they will not comment until consumers with complaints send in their devices. Really? Leave worldwide reports like this unanswered? Either you believe these smart phones are safe or you are aware of some sort of problem emerging (allegedly caused by lithium ion batteries overheating), but which is it? For a company as web-savvy as Apple, this is just astonishing. The Internet is rife with news stories and social media sites buzzing about this issue. Apple’s lack of communications leadership on this makes it ripe for a Fumble.

VERITAS: FUMBLE- PITINO BLAMES MEDIA


Never go to war with people who buy ink by the barrel. Particularly in defense of your own extra-marital affair. Well, that last part may not be part of the cardinal rule, but you get the picture when it comes to Louisville basketball coach and God-like figure Rick Pitino. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Pitino is like royalty in Kentucky, where college hoops is a religion. At least until recently, when a nasty scandal broke after Louisville police released audio and video recordings of phone calls and an interview with Karen Sypher, a woman the long-married and deeply religious Pitino has admitted to police that he had sex with six years ago. She claims in the police interview that Pitino sexually assaulted her. Not only didn’t prosecutors charge Pitino, Sypher is now accused of trying to extort millions of dollars from the famed coach. She has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of extortion and lying to the FBI. We’re well beyond the first blush of this scandal. And yet Pitino decided he just had to hold a press conference this week in which he declared the whole thing has been “pure hell” for his family. “Everything that's been printed, everything that’s been reported, everything that’s been breaking in the news is 100 per cent a lie, a lie,” Pitino said. Sounding a bit like former Senator Gary Hart challenging media to follow him (so they did) to dig up proof of his alleged affairs (which they also did), Pitino defied his lawyer’s advice to keep quiet and instead attacked the media and challenged them to prove allegations against him. That’s dangerous ground. He should have taken his lawyer’s advice. You don’t win that kind of war coach Pitino, not against the media and not in the court of public opinion. This is no time for a full-court press.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - HUMANE SOCIETY FLIP FLOP


A brutal fumble this week slipped through the fingers of the Toronto Humane Society (THS), when the Toronto Star broke news that a former employee who signed an online petition calling for the firing of THS president Tim Trow was threatened by a lawyer for Trow and THS that if he didn’t stop repeating negative comments online (such as “Tim Trow must go!”) the former employee would be slapped with a lawsuit. When the Star contacted a THS spokesperson about the legal threat against former employee Anthony De Melo, the response from THS’ Ian McConachie was a firm denial: “Tim doesn’t care that it says ‘Tim Trow must go.’ That’s not defamatory. We don't care. We’d never file a lawsuit or send a letter over that. You know? We don’t care.” It was a pretty emphatic denial. And since Trow’s lawyer’s letter threatening the lawsuit was in the Star’s hands, the THS response was that the lawyer must have been “confused” about his instructions. All of this is fair enough, although arguably weak. But the real Fumble came when McConachie got back to the Star later to reverse field completely and argue that not only was the THS lawyer and Trow behind the threat, but that De Melo deserved to be threatened and that his online posting (the one he said “We don’t care” about) was a serious issue. It was just bizarre. Folks, you need to ensure you’ve gathered all the facts before making sweeping declarations. Ask for time to collect all the information you need, then reply.

Friday, August 21, 2009

VERITAS: FUMBLE - KANE'S APOLOGY LACKS SINCERITY

Veritas Team Huddle compiled by Libby Stunt

Twenty year old Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane was arrested alongside his 21 year-old cousin for allegedly roughing up a 62 year-old cab driver - over a 20-cent fare dispute. The pair has pleaded not guilty to robbery and other charges. On Monday, Kane issued a public statement to apologize for his actions from the previous week. He “sincerely apologized” for the pain he caused his family and the Blackhawks community, saying he put himself "in the wrong position at the wrong time.” While we give Kane a nod for acknowledging the situation and issuing a public statement, we think the way he apologized puts Kane back in the penalty box. Through his ‘quiet’ apology, he seems more ashamed and embarrassed for his family and teammates than remorseful. We note that, legally, he can’t apologize for something he is claiming he didn’t do, but just the same, he did not even reference the cab driver or his family. The statement was all about Kane and HIS family - which just adds to the arrogant “hot shot” label he has been slapped with by several hockey fans. The best power play he can make now is to behave. Kane will have to keep his stick on the ice for a while to prove that this was indeed an isolated (and offside) incident.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - FACEBOOKING YOURSELF OUT OF A JOB

Guest item compiled by Ed Lee

As a public relations agency, Veritas Communications staff spend almost all of our time managing our clients’ reputations both offline and, increasingly with the com.motion practice group, online. While doing this important work, we must always be mindful of not just the corporate reputation of an organization but the reputations of the people within it. With this in mind, I am awarding a Fumble to Jane Doe (name redacted) for posting an inappropriate comment about her boss on her Facebook page … seemingly without remembering she had added said boss to her Facebook friends. Predictably, her boss also awarded her a Fumble and asked her not to report to work the next day. Sadly, this news comes on the back of a report that eight per cent of organizations have dismissed someone for inappropriate behaviour on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. The lesson here is that whatever you put into the online space is permanently archived – almost forever. As communicators, we need to be as mindful of our personal online reputations as we do those of our clients’ and employers’. Please, don’t think of networks like Facebook as comfy walled gardens where you can say whatever you like, but as large cocktail parties where everything you say could be heard by anyone else. In this case, the consequences are far worse. Should Jane Doe apply for another job and should the Human Resources manager be savvy enough to do some online digging, she has really scuppered her chances of employment.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - VIA RAIL SPEAKS IN TWO VOICES, ONE LANGUAGE

Sunday’s evacuation aboard a Via Rail train bound for Ottawa has sparked a war of words, so to speak. By all accounts, the emergency response to a fire that broke out in the train’s engine was quick and effective (if a bit trying for those passengers who had to walk along the tracks in the dark to reach the waiting buses). It’s the communication effort that has brought the company under fire, however, in the days following the incident. From passenger reports of a lack of clear communication on board the train, to complaints from worried family members waiting, uninformed, at the Ottawa station as hours passed without updates from Via staff, all tracks seem to lead to a communication Fumble. To make matters worse for Via Rail, the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages has received a complaint that francophone passengers were unable to understand emergency instructions they claim were delivered in English only. Responding to the complaint, Via Rail spokesperson Claude Arsenault defended the English-only instructions, saying one needed to take into account that the emergency took place between Toronto and Ottawa. The next day, however, Via spokeswoman Julie Durocher backpedalled – saying that in fact, the company's policy is to offer service in both languages at all times. Now, anyone who has employed our TAKE Command crisis communications service knows that there are some communications fundamentals when it comes to managing a crisis: communicate early and often, and speak in one clear, consistent voice. And, in this case, in both official languages.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - TENNIS CANADA STOPS TRAFFIC...LITERALLY


Gotta love a good stunt, and Tennis Canada pulled off a great one at the start of the week to promote the Rogers Cup, on now at the Rexall tennis centre at York University. We communications types are often tasked with sitting in a room and cooking up the “big idea” that will generate buzz and drive media coverage. So blocking off the city’s premier intersection for the purpose of setting up an instant tennis court so that two of the game’s top players could square off is a very big idea indeed, and it worked. Front-page photos and live noon news cut-ins abounded as this guerilla PR stunt unfolded like clockwork – even documented in a tidy YouTube video for those that missed it the first time. Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki professed to have a ball, and put on a great show for the passersby – and more importantly, for the assembled media throng.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - TORONTO HYDRO REPORTS BACK

Crisis communications is a long-haul operation. It doesn’t cease once the fire’s out. So it caught my eye when the big issue Toronto Hydro had to grapple with last winter – that of “stray voltage,” electrified cover-plates, a couple of dogs (fatally) and one child (mildly) shocked – returned to the news this week. What prompted the story was the routine release of financial information by the company, but it underscored just how costly - $14.3 million, to be precise – the stray voltage problem was in financial terms, let alone public relations-wise. But the disclosure actually provided the utility with a fresh platform to lay out the extensive amount of work it has done since then, to address one of the fundamental questions of crisis communications: what have you done to make sure it doesn’t happen again? The answer: 600 staff re-assigned full-time to inspecting each and every one of its 13,000 handwells across the city (plus 40,000 lamp-posts) in the immediate aftermath; permanent mobile detection units going forward; ongoing inspections and plans to replace the metal cover-plates with non-conductive fiberglass. Equally impressive were the definitive – and empathetic – comments made by vice-president Blair Peberdy. “Torontonians should be able to walk down the street without worrying about getting shocked by our equipment,” he said. Noting that actual stray voltage incidents involved less than half of one percent of Toronto Hydro’s total equipment (an excellent perspective stat), he added “Even 228 (individual cases) is too high. We’re glad it wasn’t more and it’s a serious concern to us. It was worth it and we would do it again. We had a tragic situation with two pets killed and report of a child being shocked, so it’s not something we hesitated about.” In sum, it was a Touchdown-worthy case of taking an occasion which revived a bad news story and turning it into a chance to document progress, effort and leadership.

VERITAS: FIRST DOWN - MICHAEL VICK STARTS OVER

OK, look, I have two dogs myself and am therefore naturally predisposed to despise Michael Vick for what he did. But with the formerly high-flying NFL star now having done his prison time for running a dog-fighting ring, and being newly welcomed back to the game, I need to set that aside and do what we do here at TD&F – which is to analyze his communications efforts. So let’s just say that I think he is being very well advised. Many dumped all over his 60 Minutes interview from last Sunday as being too pat, too scripted, too insincere. It’s easily accessed online, so watch for yourself and decide. Personally, I don’t think you can ‘script’ a guy like Vick enough to withstand the pressure of a 60 Minutes grilling. Yes, sometimes his first response was about himself and his career, but so much of it was about remorse, regret and understanding of his crime – and a commitment to work personally to reconcile – that I call it a solid First Down in the rehabilitation of Michael Vick’s image. What really solidifies it are the comments of the head of the U.S. Humane Society (their involvement with Vick itself the subject of recent TD&F comment), who endorses Vick’s involvement in their awareness efforts, and who also says he won’t hesitate to hang Vick if he fails to live up to his promises. That’s not only a third-party endorsement but a third-party threat – both of which – along with walking his own talk - offer Vick the renewed credibility that he now so desperately needs. We’ll be watching.

Monday, August 17, 2009

VERITAS: FUMBLE - NET FIRM EXITS UNGRACEFULLY

Guest Item compiled by Ed Lee.
There’s nothing worse than a sore loser. No matter whether it is in business, in sport or at home with the family playing Trivial Pursuit we need to be able to lose gracefully, to thank our supporters and to congratulate the winners. Over the weekend, the Canadian URL shortening service tr.im, which had been created to allow users to easily share and track their links on Twitter, declared it was shutting down. Unfortunately, in the online world, start-ups can emerge and disappear at the speed of light so this is not a new development. I was a huge supporter and frequent user of tr.im as I share a lot of links through my Twitter account (find me as @edlee) but the tone of the announcement left a bad taste in my mouth. Instead of thanking their (frequently passionate) users for their support and exiting gracefully, tr.im’s team went down blaming everyone. From their users, who wouldn’t pay for their service, to the ecosystem that they joined in providing services for the Twitter platform and to Twitter itself, the very service tr.im was born to complement. Their post read, in part “Twitter has all but sapped us of any last energy to double-down and develop tr.im further. What is the point? With bit.ly the Twitter default, and with us having no inside connection to Twitter, tr.im will lose over the long-run no matter how good it may or may not be at this moment, or in the future.” As much as I really enjoyed the service, I must give tr.im a fumble – however painful – for the way they handled this communication. Clearly the team was frustrated at the prospect of failure but this sort of mudslinging in communications wins you very few friends. This story does have a happy ending however. Based on feedback from their supporters, tr.im is back in business.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - HEALTH MINISTER REINFORCES CRITICS’ ATTACK

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has been under fire from critics who say the government’s plan for dealing with a potential H1N1 pandemic doesn’t measure up. They have already gotten lots of play with negative comments on the matter, so it’s a Fumble for sure when the minister herself re-stated those attacks, telling a committee meeting “I know there are critics out there who don’t think we’ve done enough, fast enough, for enough people.” You’re right, minister, they don’t … and for anyone who missed those comments the first time, you re-heated them so effectively that the National Post pulled that exact quote and blew it up across the top of the page. Fumble.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - TIMMY'S DOES RIGHT THING, JUST TAKES TOO LONG

Tim Horton’s this week became the latest mega-brand to get smacked upside the head by the internet, and by social media in particular. Things brewed up into a cyber-storm when it was revealed that a Timmy’s franchise owner in Rhode Island had agreed to supply the joe for an event in town called “Marriage and Family Day.” Turns out, the event was organized by a staunch anti-same-sex marriage organization called the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). This touched off a fast-moving social media tsunami (on Twitter, especially) of anti-Tim’s postings, rants and calls for boycotts, led by those who interpreted it as an official corporate position on the controversial issue. Comments and re-Tweets were popping up by the dozen every minute, but Tim’s was silent in that sphere. Hours later, the company issued a statement saying the sponsorship had been cancelled and that the franchise owner had stepped outside of the company’s sponsorship guidelines. That was the right move from a mainstream media standpoint, but their lack of presence on the social media side – where the fire started in the first place – warrants a Fumble. Tim Horton’s – like any other brand – should be consistently monitoring what’s being said about it in the blogosphere and on the major social media sites, so that if anything like this blows up, they’ll know about it in real time. And second, they should have at least had a holding line at play on Twitter and everywhere else – even saying only that they’re looking into it – to show their engagement. The internet moves literally at the speed of light, and speed can kill, kids.

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - ALARM SOUNDED OVER SALMON COLLAPSE

Where have all the sockeye salmon gone? That’s the big question playing out on the west coast right now, as tests have confirmed fears that there will be a major shortfall in the numbers of the prized fish this year in the Fraser River area of British Columbia. Up to 13 million of the fish were expected to return to the Fraser this summer, but federal fisheries officials now say fewer than 2 million will turn up, threatening commercial and aboriginal fishing alike. Strong language can heighten interest in any story, and the lead voices on this one are amping up their comments across the board. “It's beyond a crisis with these latest numbers,” said one native spokesperson. “What it means is that a lot of impoverished natives are going to be without salmon... We have families with little or no income that were depending on these fish...It's a catastrophe,” he said. A local fisher described the situation this way: “I remember sockeye would just boil through here in August and September. It was insane...now the river seems dead.” The Globe & Mail gave it black-line front page treatment on Thursday. The story is now taking on a political dimension, with MPs and others calling for an emergency international meeting, as the potential impacts would be felt on both sides of the border.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - OBAMA RHETORIC TAKES FLIGHT

In Mexico for a meeting with that country’s President and our Prime Minister, President Barack Obama was asked about the ugly scenes of shouting, name-calling and even some threats at various Town Hall meetings across the United States to discuss universal health care reform. I personally believe Obama is beginning to damage his brand by failing to understand that he is no longer the “underdog.” He is now in power, someone real underdogs – like American taxpayers, will tend to rally against. Obama replied to the reporter’s question by predicting his health care reform package will pass once people see it, and spoke about the skepticism around it. “Well, look, people didn’t think I would get elected President either,” he said, alluding to how his ‘underdog’ health reforms could also rise up. One small problem, only John McCain’s election as President would have been an upset in the last election campaign, given how heavily favoured Obama was, particularly after McCain’s selection of a vice presidential running mate. Considering recent history of powerful Democratic administrations’ attempts at health care reform (see Clintons), Obama shouldn’t paint himself into a corner on this issue when “cautiously optimistic” and “hearing the concerns” of Americans would do just fine. Nor should he keep dipping into the well of his so-called ‘underdog’ rise to the Presidency. Historic, yes. Unexpected, not really, once he beat Hillary Clinton for the nomination and after eight years of George W. Bush. Dining out on that back story every time there’s a political crisis in Washington hugely devalues it.

VERITAS: FUMBLE - HILLARY LOSES IT

Here’s a communications lesson we don’t talk about often because it’s so rare – someone on stage, wearing a microphone, sitting in front of TV cameras who completely loses their temper. Secretary of State Hillary (not Bill) Clinton did exactly that when a student asked her a question during her visit to the Congo. She heard the interpreter say the student had asked about what her husband, former President Bill Clinton, thought of a recent trade agreement (apparently the student was asking what President Barack Obama thought). “You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?” Hillary said, grimacing and gesturing in frustration, her voice rising, in a video clip replayed thousands of times worldwide on network news channels and viewed by millions on the Internet. “My husband is not Secretary of State, I am. If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.” Followed by an icy glare. As many journalists wrote, the mere suggestion she’d be asked her husband’s opinion seemed to “touch a nerve.” ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper wrote on his blog: “Just a week ago the former President stole his wife’s thunder when he appeared in North Korea to rescue two American journalists detained there. His trip came just as Secretary Clinton embarked on a swing through Africa she hoped would shine light on the plight of the continent.” It’s a tough call, but Hillary should have either asked for the question to be clarified, or simply blocked it by stating she doesn’t speak for her husband. In front of live cameras is no place to teach someone a lesson. Granted, she was on a grueling 10-nation tour of Africa and was no doubt tired. Even more reason to ensure she was properly prepared. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, was celebrating his 63rd birthday in Las Vegas. Go figure.

Friday, August 7, 2009

VERITAS TD&F: TOUCHDOWN- FORD STEERS COMMUNICATIONS SUCCESS

Veritas Team Huddle compiled by Kathy Murphy
Veritas’ Marketing PR team believes that there are many keys to success when it comes to doing PR for a brand or product. One is clearly identifying your USP (unique selling proposition). A second is understanding your target and the relevant media. A third is developing authentic news and delivering it in a way that is relevant to the brand. We also believe strongly in the value of an integrated marketing approach – when all marketing channels sing from the same song sheet, you can’t lose. That’s why this week we are awarding Ford Motor Company with a Touchdown … actually several Touchdowns. Over the last several weeks (and for many weeks prior) there has been a constant flow of positive communications being driven by Ford. From denying the bailout, to the launch of products consumers want (like the Ecoboost announcement), winning safety awards (US Institute for Highway Safety), the release of positive sales results in July and the crowning of the Ford Fiesta as the Car of the Year by magazine Auto Express (after this leading selling car in Europe launched in North America recently) there has been a steady stream of good news stories. Most importantly, they are walking the walk. Ford committed to doing business better and is demonstrating their commitment with action. And they aren’t just communicating with their target audiences via traditional media, they are effectively leveraging social media as well. They are active online and encouraging consumers to use and share content. They’re giving people something to talk about and they’re talking. Just search #Ford on Twitter and you’ll see. As one colleague reminded me, a recession is a great time to up your marketing spend and redefine your brand. Ford is doing exactly that.

VERITAS TD&F: TOUCHDOWN- JK WEDDING DANCE

Guest Piece compiled by Ed Lee
Like millions of people around the world this week, I sat at my computer enthralled as a wedding party surprised and delighted me with their hilarious and unconventional walk down the aisle to Chris Brown’s song, “Forever.” As I watched the video for the umpteenth time, I wondered whether the unfortunate choice of artist, considering Brown’s conviction for domestic violence, would affect the video’s popularity. But then I saw that the makers of the video were asking for donations for the Sheila Wellstone Institute, a charity dedicated to ending domestic violence. Definite Touchdown for thinking through the potential landmines surrounding the song in the video. But as I did some more digging, I saw some blog posts suggesting that this overnight viral sensation may not be as viral as we first thought. Had Sony, Brown’s record label fanned the flames of this amazing video? Digital forensics are inconclusiveat best – while there was not a huge amount of online chatter, this video seems to me to be the sort of content that could well be shared via email as much as openly in the social media space. If we presume Sony was in on the act, I can only give its team a Touchdown – for seeing the opportunity in this video, for not issuing a take-down/cease and desist order, for seemingly promoting the heck out of it online and offline (Today Show anyone?!) and for ensuring that the video, which is up to 17m views as of going to press, was quickly linked to iTunes and Amazon for viewers to purchase. Touchdown indeed – but to who? I would like to retain my wide-eyed naïveté and believe this is a genuine home grown viral hit which Sony managed to capitalize on. I don’t want to be the cynic that cries foul on every Internet meme as being staged or faked. Like this. If it is indeed a fake, propogated and promoted by the record label to boost an ailing stars popularity, I have to give them kudos (and a Touchdown) for being creative, playful and intelligent with their fake.

VERITAS TD&F: TOUCHDOWN- KIMBERLY-CLARK & GREENPEACE UNITE

I can’t set up this item any better than Mitch Potter of the Toronto Star’s Washington bureau wrote it yesterday: “It used to be that when you combined Greenpeace, an industrial giant and food in the same sentence, it would involve high-seas drama, with co-warriors spraying water cannons loaded with pie filling at the towering hull of a perceived corporate enemy. But there was no such mischief in Washington this week, when Greenpeace Canada sat down for a friendly dinner with Kimberly-Clark officials to sanctify a deal both sides vow will do wonders for the world’s vanishing forests.” The maker of such brands as Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle has committed to a range of sustainable sourcing standards, and in exchange, Greenpeace is ending its “Kleercut” campaign which attacked Kimberly-Clark for its previous practices. This is an absolute “Man Bites Dog” story in the environmental realm, in that it is so different from the norm – and, as a result, it breaks through, big-time. You can’t help but want to know how it is that these lambs and lions are laying down together – and, as a result, you take in the mutually-beneficial messages from both sides.

VERITAS TD&F: TOUCHDOWN- OSHAWA MAYOR'S MUSCLE CAR

As a communicator, you’ve got to walk your talk. It’s just that simple. Ergo, a Touchdown to Oshawa Mayor John Gray, for opting to drive – as his official vehicle – a Camaro. The same vehicle which I and every fellow geek I knew in high school dreamed that maybe, one day, we would own. Not a freakin’ chance. But I digress. The real story at play here is that Mayor Gray is coming under some fire for his choice in ride. Critics – well, one guy anyway – say he is setting a bad example by choosing a retro muscle car over a more environmentally-friendly option, but I say pay no mind, Your Worship: for you, sir, are being true to your brand. You are the Mayor of Oshawa, home of General Motors and, more importantly, home of the plant which makes the car you have selected. It’s not complicated: you gotta dance with the girl what brung ya. At a time when so many of its GM workers are being pink-slipped, now more than ever, the perception of the community’s leader will be based on what he does, in addition to what he says. So fire up that 8-track player and let it ride ...

VERITAS TD&F: TOUCHDOWN- ED AND JILLIAN FACE CHEATING RUMORS

Since it’s mid-summer, let’s look at something on the lighter side. ABC’s wildly popular show The Bachelorette ended with Canadian Jillian Harris choosing Ed Swiderski of Chicago as the winner. He proposed marriage to her and the couple seems happy. Then came reports this week in US magazine and on ABC’s Good Morning America that Swiderski was cheating on Jillian with not just one, but two other girlfriends, allegedly even after he proposed. One of the girlfriends said on camera that Ed’s controversial decision to leave the show mid-way through for “work reasons” was actually to leave for her, and she provided photos of the two together during the time he was off the show, prior to his return to profess his undying love for Jillian. Who needs daytime soaps eh? The TD is for both Jillian and Ed who faced the GMA cameras, shooting down the allegations as “completely false.” Swiderski said there was “no truth whatsoever” to it and Harris said “I feel like I am in high school… I don’t have time for this nonsense… it’s just unfortunate.” Harris went one step further and said she won’t make decisions about her personal life “through the tabloids” and won’t make any other comments about the issue to the media. She said the media have “more important things” to talk about. It added to her credibility. The other thing that worked about the GMA interview was how comfortable the two seemed, smiling and laughing and joking. They didn’t seem stressed about the allegations at all – a comfortable body language statement that spoke volumes.

VERITAS TD&F: FUMBLE- WHOLE FOODS: 'WE SELL JUNK'

You knew what Whole Foods boss John Mackey was trying to get at – the need to educate shoppers about healthy options – when he commented to the Wall Street Journal that: “Basically, we used to think it was enough just to sell healthy food, but we know it is not enough. We sell all kinds of candy. We sell a bunch of junk.” Still the headline was too good to resist. “We sell a bunch of junk says Whole Foods boss John Mackey” shouted the Guardian UK’s headline, just one of many examples of the story being picked up. In Britain, media outlets like the Guardian tied the story in to the supermarket chain’s relative lack of success in that market. Lets face it, a comment like that opens you up to so many things your opponents can tie it to. And it can live on and on. The Internet provides a place where such comments can spread virally and remain seemingly forever on search engines. When you have a message track you want to deliver, it’s always best to ‘war game’ out the type of language you want to use to get you there. It’s true that Whole Foods attracted a lot of attention to the need to educate consumers through such tactics as information booths in their stores. But was it worth it? In this case, we think not.