Target PR Disaster and the Blind Still Want to Shop at Target?

Target Corporation (TGT) continues to get negative
press regarding their fight with the National Federation of the Blind.
In my opinion this looks like a case study in poor public relations and
bad corporate decisions making. The results are predictable. Read on…


A quick recap. The Target site is pretty. But not accessible to a
screen reader. They are asked to make it accessible. Target says
effectively "no we don’t have blind shoppers online". Blind people, who
shop online, sue Target. The request is "fix it." Target fights the
lawsuit against blind people trying to use their web site. Their
argument is "the law doesn’t require we make it accessible." And now
the voice of target has been transferred to the lawyers.

Oh ya, that is going to work. And the USA Today is running negative stories about the company and the brand.

Given my interest in public relations I posted on Target Picking on the Little Guy in September. And then followed up with a technical explanation of Target’s lack of blind accessibility
a few days later. I have also included several slides on Target in my
last four talks with IABC and PRSA chapters. It will be the highlight
of my keynote with PRSA Tulsa in three hours.

The image above is from page A2 of the USA Today Newspaper from today (Oct 26, 2006). They were kinder than most bloggers.

What should target do from a crisis communications perspective?

A few crisis communications and response steps for Target to consider. The negative publicity is happening now so how should they respond?

  1. Take this seriously. I have not shopped at Target since my first post on the subject.
  2. Yes, AND…. formulate a "yes, and…" response as suggested in
    the book Naked Conversations. Yes we were wrong, and here is where we
    are going from here…
  3. Get a C level executive talking about accessibility publicly. The
    USA today article had emailed comments from Carolyn Brookter, a Target
    spokeswoman. This is bigger than a spokesperson at this point y’all.
  4. Settle the lawsuit immediately.
  5. Apologize with your actions.
  6. If your PR team didn’t see this coming, replace the agency of record.
  7. Turn this into a positive by sponsoring the blind camp or
    similar. Tie this into your overall PR strategy for two reasons – it is
    the right thing to do and secondarily it is the profitable thing for
    you to do.
  8. Someone within creative specified the fonts had to be kerned.
    They think web is print which is what caused the developers to create
    imagemaps in place of text with style sheets. Find that person. Let them go. Regardless
    of the level. Brand image is important, unless people hate your brand.
  9. Hire someone like Knowbility as a consultant (disclaimer I know Sharron through Netsquared) to get an impartial third party involved. Someone who already has credibility in the accessibility field.

I’ll try to add some links after the talk today. For now I gotta run.