Procter & Gamble Tightlipped About PR Surrounding Coupons Controversy

If you're an executive at Procter & Gamble, the media spotlight probably isn't the place you'd like to be right now. Ever since the company announced in January 1996 that it would halt coupons in Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester as part of a test, it's been a PR rollercoaster ride that's included threatened customer boycotts, a slew of articles and now an antitrust investigation by the New York Attorney General's Office into possible market manipulation. P&G, whose products include Crest, Tide and Ivory, is just one among many companies who have historically relied on coupons to cozy up to customers. For PR practitioners industry-wide, the P&G fiasco may be one of the most poignant lessons they'll learn from this year: Never - despite how well meaning your intentions are - underestimate the power of the press and the public. "Their problem isn't about the business decision they made," said Barry McLoughlin, president of Barry McLoughlin Associates Inc.

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