Strange Fruit Founders Release Statement and New Name

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Unfortunately for a couple of PR professionals, the odd name chosen for their firm has driven a large share of conversation within the industry on a slow winter news week.

We’ve been on vacation, so we heard of the Austin-based firm previously known as “Strange Fruit PR” for the first time yesterday. We’re still not clear as to why the story just broke when the firm had been using that name since 2012, but happen it did…and now the company has announced its new name: Perennial Public Relations.

Here’s a statement from founders Mary Mickel & Ali Slutsky to our own Tonya Garcia, who wrote yesterday’s post:

“We sincerely apologize to those offended by the former name of our firm. As of today, we have renamed our firm to Perennial Public Relations. We have always prided ourselves as open-minded individuals and we remain committed to serving our clientele and community. In no way did we ever intend for the name of our firm to offend nor infer any implication of racism.  We are grateful for and appreciate the ongoing support of our clients and community.”

We feel like Perennial will be fine and that this odd story will fade from memory. A lesson remains, though: context is incredibly important, especially when choosing a business’s public name, face, persona and messaging efforts.

Pop culture may seem to belong to everybody, but one person’s obscure reference is a very deep and, in some cases, painful element of another person’s entire cultural experience. At the very least, research can help avoid the poorly planned appropriation of something as unfamiliar to you or your audience as the experience conveyed in the Billie Holiday song was to the firm’s principals.

We have no doubt that mid-20th century race relations in the American South was the last thing on the minds of Mickel and Slutsky when they chose to call their firm Strange Fruit. But, at risk of regurgitating a now-stale question, we still have to wonder: did anyone really listen to the song in question?