Home Depot's Public Relations Backfire
by Randy Cassingham
A lot of public relations professionals are just that -- professional. Sometimes, though, an inept practititioner -- a "flack" as they're often known -- tries to intervene and ends up doing more harm than good.
In my column This is True, which reports on strange-but-true articles from newspapers (with a usually funny "tagline" added on after the story, as a comment), I wrote this item about a criminal's attempt to steal from Home Depot. It was in the 30 April 2000 issue:
Do It Yourself
Police in Albuquerque, N.M., say Edward Hall, 50, stole a utility trailer from a Home Depot store by hitching it to the back of his pickup truck and driving away. A few miles from the store, it came loose and crashed beside the road, so he went back to the store and stole a second one. The second also came loose and crashed just 75 yards from the first. As a Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputy investigated the crashes, Hall clipped the deputy's parked patrol car with, yes, a third trailer as he drove by. A chase ensued as Hall tried to get away -- at a mere 25 mph, "probably because he knows the trailers, at high speeds, don't stay on very well," a detective said. Hall was charged with possession of burglary tools, three counts of unlawful taking a motor vehicle, and leaving the scene of an accident. (AP) ...However, he's been signed to do a series of Home Depot commercials with their new slogan, "Take it From Us!"
Now any dolt can see where the story ends and the smart-assed comment begins, right?
Well, Home Depot's flack couldn't. A few days after the story went out in True's free online feed, I found the following message on my voice mail:
Yeah, this is Don, Home Depot's public relations manager. Randy, you did a piece about a guy who stole not one, not two, but three trailers from our Albuquerque, New Mexico, store before he got caught. All of that is true. The last line, however, in your story, however, "He's been signed to do a series of Home Depot commercials with the new slogan, 'Take it from us!'", uh, that's very humorous, Randy, but this is FALSE! You lost some credibility with me, big guy! < click >
Notice he didn't leave his phone number for me to call him back. Which just goes to show: when it comes to Home Depot, you can never find anyone who knows anything to help you.