PR News to Know: Groupon CEO’s Witty Farewell and Martha Stewart’s Latest Legal Kerfuffle

Mar 11, 2013

From Groupon’s recent decision to fire its CEO to the pitched legal battle between J.C. Penney and Macy’s making headlines, here’s a quick look at two stories that got us talking and thinking last week:

A Witty and “Human” Farewell

Groupon CEO FiredI’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today.” This quote marked the last words of Andrew Mason , who tweeted his resignation memo for all to see, as CEO of Groupon. Mason, who founded the now-troubled daily deals company in 2008, got the ax late last month after Groupon reported another poorly-performing quarter, (an $81 million loss followed by a 77% plummet of the company’s share price), a sacking which surprised no one.

So, is this the best ‘just got fired’ letter ever written? It’s probably close, and a PR win for Mason.

Many are praising Mason’s witty and blunt departure letter, which strikes exactly the right note. Numerous followers praised Mason, portraying this as an example of ‘failing upward’ – yes, that’s possible. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

The public is tired of misbehaving or underperforming CEOs who either get a slap on the wrist or walk away from the messes they’ve made with massive golden parachutes. The public is also tired of CEOs who, in these situations, smugly deny responsibility.

By owning up to the mistakes he made and the opportunities he missed as CEO, Mason took a turn and delivered a humble and very human farewell.  And in the process he scored a genuine PR coup – he earned his audience’s sympathy.

Martha Stewart: In Hot Water and on the Defensive 

Can home goods and publishing company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia add more fuel to the fire between longtime rivals J.C. Penney and Macy’s? Apparently, it can.

Ron Johnson, Chief Executive of J.C. Penney, and Terry Lundgren, Chief Executive of Macy’s, have stepped away from their respective corners and are locked in a title bout over rights to the Martha Stewart brand. You see, in 2011, Stewart  struck a “behind closed-doors” deal with Johnson to sell a large share of her company (worth approximately $500 million). The deal also gave Penney’s the right to sell the domestic diva’s housewares.

There’s just one snag: the more up-market Macy’s has been selling those same housewares since 2007, when it inked an exclusive deal with Stewart. Now, the courts must decide if she is in breach of contract.

Martha StewartRegardless of how the court case plays out, this looks like yet another debacle for a woman who is no stranger to bad press. She is once again on the defensive and denying any wrongdoing. This PR blowup also comes just as two of Stewart’s magazines have folded due to poor sales.

So, the real question here is: what was Stewart thinking? Did she think she could sign the J.C. Penney deal behind closed doors and no one – particularly Macy’s – would find out? Let’s face it, she’s thought that before – and ended up a convicted felon. Only through careful PR and brand management did she bring her company back to profitability after serving her time, which speaks to her considerable skills as a businesswoman.

But it seems she just can’t keep herself out of well-publicized hot water. Perhaps she will learn the lesson this time around.

What do you think of Mason’s farewell letter and Martha Stewart’s latest PR foul-up? Did we miss any other stories that got you thinking last week? Let us know in the comments below.

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