Virtually everyone in the PR world knows the predictable clichés…Ya can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube…Ya can’t un-ring the bell…or the lovely…Ya can’t put the bullet back in the chamber.

These clichés obviously apply to relatively new social media. China is trying desperately to prevent the dissemination of certain kinds of revolutionary information by blocking Twitter www.twitter.com, Facebook www.facebook.com and YouTube www.youtube.com. This heavy-handed censorship is ultimately going to fail. There are simply more than 1 billion Chinese and millions-and-millions of PCs/servers and thousands of miles of fibre optic cable. Do the math.

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You would think the University of Oregon Athletic Department www.goducks.com would understand the folly associated with blocking the viral spread of a downright clever….and entirely appropriate rap video “I Love My Ducks” by three Oregon students, Michael Bishop, Brian McAndrew and Jamie Shade http://blog.oregonlive.com/pac10/2009/11/pac-10_insider_oregon_gets_it.html. But there it is, an easily avoided public relations shiner in black-and-white in the Oregonian with more newspapers, electronic media reports and blogs to quickly follow.

The real issue here is the use of the Oregon Duck mascot, who looks likes Donald Duck. In fact, the University of Oregon was authorized to use Donald as the mascot decades ago by none other than Walt Disney. “At issue here is the mascot, a copyrighted Disney figure, used by the UO athletic department with special permission of Disney Enterprises,” wrote Ken Goe and Mike Tokito of the Oregonian. “It’s unclear why the use of the mascot in this video possibly could offend Disney. The lyrics aren’t objectionable.”

Unfortunately, the unauthorized use of the Duck did not sit well with Angie Sit, Oregon’s assistant athletic director for  Marketing, who demanded that the video be taken down. The net result: the video spread like wildfire.

“This is more like Godzilla deciding to squash Bambi,” the Oregonian bloggers wrote. “And in this case, Godzilla missed. We live in the information age, and bottling up a video that already has entered cyberspace is like trying to bottle sunshine.”

Why didn’t the PR Department at the University of Oregon take the preemptive step of calling the Legal Department at Disney Enterprises and explaining: “We want you to know about this video put together by three of our students without our knowledge. We have reviewed the video and it is not objectionable. It includes footage of the Donald Duck mascot. We did not approve the use of the mascot. We are going to allow this video to run its course and we appreciate your understanding. This was not intentional.”

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As Henry Kissinger would say, the statement above has the added advantage of being the truth.

In addition, the school could spend some quality time with “The Duck” and without being overbearing make that costumed waterfowl clearly understand that the use of the mascot has to be consistent with cheering for the university’s teams. This would be a good thing to tell Disney, reassuring them that steps have been taken to prevent reoccurrence.

There are literally thousands and thousands of PR professionals who claim to be experts in crisis communications, but what happens when the PR experts create the crisis? This is one crisis the University of Oregon Athletic Department easily could have avoided. The result? The “I Love You Ducks” video will get more attention and more play than if it just passed away with the passage of time. http://www.sportsnipe.com/main_sportsnews/1037122/i-smell-roses-video.html

This has been a Dow Jonser of a year for the UO Sports Information Department starting with the continuing saga of YouTube sucker punch star LeGarrette Blount and now the football team is on the doorstep of the Rose Bowl. And yet, another controversy involving three very bright students and one rap video…one that could have been easily avoided. You just can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

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