An Associated Press followup story on the latest garment factory catastrophe in Bangladesh confuses public relations strategy and tactics, but who would expect AP to be mindful of that distinction? First, it's apparent that the Bangladesh-based garment industry was bereft of anything like enlightened PR in its sweatshops. That would have cost money, and the whole point of being in Bangladesh evidently was to save money.
But now, with the death toll in the latest Bangladesh factory fire above 700, AP reports on two "strategies" that garment companies with production in Bangladesh are using in attempting to shield themselves from the carnage there: Some are acknowledging their presence in the factory lofts and promising disaster compensation. "Others," AP continues, "denied they authorized work at factories in the building even when their labels were found in the rubble."
"Communications professionals say both are public relations strategies and neither may be enough to protect companies from the stain of doing business in Bangladesh." Shame on any "communications professionals" who would confuse arms-length tactics, like the above, with genuinely enlightened strategy. Strategy, of course, is a more encompassing initiative than mere tactics.
A truly responsive PR, humanitarian or corporate strategy, call it what you will, would be the other alternative noted in the AP story: "...possibly the only way retailers and clothing brands can protect their reputations is to visibly and genuinely work to overhaul safety in Bangladesh's garment factories."
How about building a fireproof factory building or series of them? Then holding fire drills in the new facilities. Above all, acting to recognize, for all time to come, that it's fashionable to treat hard-working people anywhere fairly and safely. Those would be public relations strategies worthy of the all-too-available lessons for learning in Bangladesh.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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