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The Venn diagram of law and PR

Posted by: Laurence Simons 31/07/12

If Carreon's 'sue everyone, sue everything' hysteria serves to teach us anything, it is that a bungled legal threat can prove to be more of a hindrance than a help for you or your client's brand - especially online. And that's a point that's been amplified in recent weeks by exemplary takedowns on behalf of both Jack Daniels and Shell.

Firstly, iconic whiskey brand Jack Daniels issued a cease and desist against author Patrick Wensink for the cover of his book, Broken Piano for President. The cover - black, white furls, artfully distressed - is deliberately similar to the Jack Daniels label, but instead of issuing a fire-and-brimstone-and-kneecap-threatening C&D, Jack Daniels' trademark attorney Christy Susman was much more measured - she was even polite. "In order to resolve this matter," she wrote, "and because you are both a Louisville 'neighbor' and fan of the brand, we simply request that you change the cover design when the book is re-printed." JD even went so far as to offer to pay for the cost of a reprint should Wenlock choose to cash in his cover chips a little sooner.

Meanwhile, Shell operatives were sopping up the fall-out from a prank campaign run by pressure group Yes Men that made the internet rounds earlier this month. In an elaborate satire through bungled press conferences and eerily convincing corporate websites Shell was painted as an environment-hating group mining Alaska for everything it's worth, all adorned with the famous Shell shell. "Just in case there is any remaining doubt, Shell did not host, nor participate in an event at the Space Needle," read the pitch-perfect response. "The advertising contest is not associated with Shell, and neither is the site it's on." PR gold, as well as smoothing over a legal crisis? Nice work.