Target CMO’s Response to Gawker: #PRWin?


In case you missed it, this week Target‘s CMO Jeff Jones took the (relatively) bold step of responding directly to an anonymous employee’s complaint that scored coverage on Gawker, that bastion of objective reporting on the business world.

He did it in a LinkedIn “influencer” post with the blunt title “The Truth Hurts“, and it got a lot of attention: a quarter of a million views and several thousand likes/shares.

In an interview with AdAge that went live last night, he explained why he decided to address the problem in this way–which gives us an opportunity ask whether the strategy worked.

Regarding the Gawker post, he said:

“I truly had a moment with myself where I just said I can’t be mad about this. This is exactly the opportunity we need. And a chance for me to set an example that candor is essential.”

The piece aimed for transparency:

“…while it was difficult for me to read this account for many reasons, the reality is that our team members speaking with honesty is a gift. Because much of what they are saying is true.

The culture of Target is an enormous strength and might be our current Achilles heel.”

But still struck a defensive tone:

“We are taking bold risks and innovating like never before…The work ahead will unite us like never before because our guest is our bullseye, and our common enemy is apathy and indifference.

Our job now is to create a new truth and that is exactly what we are doing.”

Some commentors weren’t buying it. Of course a CMO will turn a frown upside down, they wrote. Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan himself was, unsurprisingly, less than impressed. Regarding the Ad Age piece, he writes today:

“Take a moment to contemplate how low the bar for heroism in corporate communications must be.”

Of course, Nolan isn’t part of Jones’s target audience. Neither, one could argue, are Target shoppers. It would seem that he wrote it primarily for fellow CMOs, Target employees and other influencers on LinkedIn.

The question: what difference does it really make? What will it take to convince the people who need to be convinced?