PR News apologizes to Wichita State University and the Shockers

WICHITA — It was a day late, but PR News has apologized for suggesting through an e-mail to PR executives nationally that they can “score big” in the industry if they “Don’t be like Wichita State.”

“On behalf of PR News, I wish to apologize to Wichita State University and its many basketball fans and supporters across the country for the reference to the university in our March 26 email solicitation,” wrote Diane Schwartz, senior vice president and group publisher for PR News in what appears to be an e-mail blast to the same people who received the initial e-mail on Wednesday.

“The subject line was inappropriate and reflected poor judgment on our part. We have taken steps to ensure such statements made in our email solicitations will not happen again,” Schwartz wrote. “Thank you for understanding that mistakes happen, even to those who serve the PR trade. We are humbled by the incident and appreciate your continued support.”

Late Wednesday evening, Schwartz also sent a note to Barth Hague, WSU’s associate vice president for university relations and chief marketing officer. She said, in part, “I and my team have the utmost respect for your university — and the Shockers –and please understand that we own up to this mistake in judgment.”

The mass apology was sent Thursday morning.

“I find it acceptable,” Hague says. “I know that others who have been talking to me from outside of the organization thought it was weak.”

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PR News takes ‘cheap shot’ at the Shockers

scoreUPDATED — In a bid for more subscribers through a national e-mail blast on Wednesday, PR News touted its “expert opinions” on communications and crisis management, among other things, through what a Wichita State University spokesman calls a “cheap shot” at the Shockers.

The PR group now needs a little crisis management help of its own.

The e-mail, which was about how to “score big” in the business, has a subject line that says “Don’t be like Wichita State.”

“Really, that’s the approach you’re going to take to generate business?” asks WSU spokesman Joe Kleinsasser. “It’s just a marketing attempt gone awry. Is it the end of the world? No. But it’s unfortunate.”

His day began with a couple of e-mails from his counterparts at Wake Forest University and Princeton University alerting him to the slam against the school and its beloved Shockers.

“And, yes, I am unsubscribing from their distribution list,” one said after saying how much the slam annoyed him.

It’s a sentiment others locally and nationally are echoing.

“We think this approach is mean-spirited and beneath contempt,” wrote Barth Hague, WSU’s associate vice president for university relations and chief marketing officer, in an e-mail to PR News about playing on the Shockers’ “heartbreaking loss.”

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WSU to play by the rules

wsuWhen someone approaches Wichita State University’s Barth Hague about using the school’s logo in conjunction with something they’re producing, like a T-shirt, the associate vice president for university relations has a hard time responding.

“Well, I don’t know,” he’s been known to say. “We don’t really have any rules.”

But the university recognizes the need to establish some guidelines and rules for using the school’s name and logo. Wichita’s Gardner Design was selected to create a comprehensive visual identity system after a request for proposals. The firm will be paid $50,000.

There were 27 responses to the RFP nationally, and Hague says a lot of the proposals were great. He says WSU wanted to hire a firm that best fit its needs, so it wasn’t necessarily intent on hiring a local firm.

“But that’s what we ended up doing,” Hague says. “The fact that they’re local is great.”

WSU’s branding won’t change, but how other organizations use it will.

“Most organizations have fairly comprehensive rules that corporate communications can follow,” Hague says. “These are the rules of the road.”

He expects the new guidelines to be in place by the end of the summer.