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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Public relations fails

Yesterday I received a strident email from Restoration Hardware's "Senior Public Relations Leader" who had her chonies in a twist about my recent sofa satire post. She demanded to know the source of my information and told me to take down the post immediately. It seems she hadn't read the entire post or she would have noticed the disclaimer at the bottom linking the sofa to its true manufacturer. When I pointed out it was clearly all in jest, her response had me laughing out loud:

We've worked so hard on our spring introductions. We certainly do not want readers to have the wrong idea about our brand.

Why, yes, the spring collection is fecund in its design brilliance:

Resto's "Deconstructed 19th C. English Wing Chair."

If Resto can release half-upholstered furniture with a straight face, then it's not a leap for my readers to assume it has a special edition sofa based on a Roman sarcophagus:

"Versailles" sofa from Boca do Lobo.

A few days ago, I was contacted by Tiffany & Co.'s social media P/R team. They wanted to give me a $495 tote bag. Their only request was I zhush it up with an outfit and post about it (I couldn't use it as a blog giveaway):

Tiffany & Co. "Jitney" tote.

At first I was crazy excited that anyone wanted to give me a $500 handbag, but then I realized I would never carry it because it looks like an Estee Lauder gift-with-purchase. Guilt got the better of me and I declined the offer. I'm still not sure why they picked me - I'm a snarky interior design blogger who spends the better part of her day in Old Navy yoga pants.

Last week I received a nastygram from a manufacturer's P/R firm demanding I remove a comment I made on another blog doubting the veracity of a certain designer's contribution to a project. The other blogger was a doll about the whole thing and promptly deleted my comment.

So in the space of one week I had three rather bizarre encounters with public relations firms. Instead of spending their time picking on and drawing the ire of bloggers, P/R peeps should reach out with praise and the occasional "Thank you!". Companies who do a great job of this are Jonathan Adler and Jayson Home. Adler's P/R goddess Starrett Zenko contacted me a little over a year ago letting me know Monsieur Jonathan was a fan of La Lamp Shade and inquiring if I would like to chat with him. Every so often I receive a lovely email from Abbe MacLise, Jayson Home's Director of Marketing, telling me how much she likes a certain post. That is how you curry blogger favor. And appropriate interior design-related largesse is always welcome.

UPDATE: I just received another request from Resto to remove the Bronson Pinchot post. I did them one better and inserted an enormous disclaimer at the top.


Mr. Goodwill Hunting said...


You know you are my heart!

Mr. Goodwill Hunting said...

Restoration Hardware needs to get a sense of humor. You can tell they take themselves way way to seriously by gargantuan catalog they mailed out. I guess all their time and money went into the phone book - I mean, catalog - which is why they couldn't finish that chair.

My Notting Hill said...

Guessing your post/satire hit a little too close to home or something like this was in the product line for 2013...

Leith said...

I remember the comment about the "veracity of certain designer's contribution" - which was exactly what I was thinking.

I know so many PR people that are still in command and control mode. They see blogs and any social media in general as their own distribution vehicle, and genuinely don't understand how transparent that is.

Cote de Texas said...

ok, my feelers are hurt. RH never contacted me after my post about the deconstructed furniture! what am i? chopped liver? yuumm sounds good.

you are too funny. and trust me, tiffany's never offered me a purse either.

I'm in the wrong business.

Raina Cox said...

Everyone needs to head on over to Joni's blog to read her great take on Resto's "Deconstructed" collection:

Tara Dillard said...

After your Resto post a new Landscape Design client had a stack of pictures to show me.

One from Resto, outdoor furniture on a fabulous gravel terrace, client said, "love this terrace & furniture arrangement but don't like this style of furniture at all."

Loved the timing, and now this post from you. Rich.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

xoxo said...

The thing about Resto is that they have jumped the shark so far that the crazy sofa post could have been true. The deconstructed furniture had me thinking they were sniffing glue. Who, I says, WHO (THE F***) would buy such a thing?!!!

And I'm with you on the Tiffany tote. Ick.

Squeak said...

Regarding Restoration Hardware's response, "We've worked so hard on our spring introductions. We certainly do not want readers to have the wrong idea about our brand": Sorry, honey, it's too late - we already have the wrong idea. Or is it the right idea ....

Regarding the Tiffany tote: Before I read your comment, I looked at the picture and thought, "Hmmm, that looks an awful lot like an Estee Lauder gift-with-purchase tote bag." Then I read your comment and laughed. Jeez, didn't Tiffany do any consumer testing before they released that dud? I thought they were a "luxury brand", not a "buy one, get one free" brand.

David said...

I love that you can post something funny and PR pants are instantly pissed across the nation.

Resto, stop now, this will NOT end well for you.

An Urban Cottage said...

You know you're influential when you've got haters that actually make their identities known. I so jealous!

The Down East Dilettante said...

I just saw the Restoration Hardware chair ad this morning---and my first thought was indeed, OMG, so World of Interiors---circa 1997.

A sense of humour, and the ability to turn the other cheek carry one a long way.

As for the chair? Puhfuckinleeze. So very very contrived

The Down East Dilettante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ShopGirl said...

Love this post ! Hahaha

I'm so over the Restoration Hardware Belgian rip-off. Have you noticed how strange and dark the stores are now- did a double take the other day- I thought their power was out !

The fact that this sofa is for real is frightening.

maison21 said...


and the purse is godawful.

ps- send my name to JA's PR peeps. i've done so many posts on them, i at least deserve a candle.

Jeannine @ Small and Chic said...

Restoration Hardware's stores have become a joke...which is kind of ironic since they clearly have no sense of humor.

Their stores make me depressed and feel short. Some of the sofas remind me of a creepy kids show that the little girls I babysat in high school would watch. A grown woman dressed as a clown sat on a gigantic sofa so she looked like a little doll.

renovatingnyc said...

Raina, I think I love you.

Though I guess I will not be sending you one of my own tote designs for fear of the your wrath ( and your reader's)

Alcira Molina-Ali said...

This is all so absurd and rather a shame because most of the time it is plainly obvious that the PR folk have either not taken the time to read a post in its entirety or worse, failed to understand the underlying gist, which is often tongue in cheek.
Any publicity good, bad or indifferent is just that, publicity. And at times controversial publicity that gets tongues wagging or people laughing gets the most attention and the biggest rise out of readers.
Quite frankly, as a blogger, I find this sort of cyber PR policing tiresome. It smacks of Il Duce.
If a company is going to release a product, it should naturally expect mixed reviews.
Alas not everyone is going to "swoon" lemming-like into a stupor.
We all love certain things, and feel genuinely less attracted to others. C'est la vie.
Cheers, Alcira

Interior Design Musings said...

I so needed this post AND the comments on this one! Very rich, my friend. As for the handbag, funny enough, there is a chain of grocery stores in the South called Jitney Jungles which immediately came to mind with the appropriately named handbag! Only difference is their totes are more like a $1.99.

5th and State said...

congrats, you are in a class of your own! i have roundly trashed resto, not one snarky response.

kimbydee said...

Love all the panties in a twist at RH. I laughed at Joni's comment because I thought the same thing, didn't they read Joni's post?
You hit the nail on the head with the Tiffany/Estee Lauder comparison. I think they'll be trying to give away a lot of those bags!

Raina Cox said...

renovatingnyc - RJ, your upcycled suede tote is the bomb! But I see it was a one-off and sold out. You should track down some more pigskin and make more.

Annie Smith said...

And that is why I like your blog! You rebel, you!

Camilla @ Designalogue said...

Firstly - that bag is really ugly. THATS probably why they are giving it away!
Also that chair is the before shot right? right?
if not - why? & the people in charge of yes-ing that range need to be fired.

Jill said...

You've absolutely made my day!

Lausi said...

I admit, I had a good laugh about that one.

So now, they are so scared of you "dissing" some of the most bizarre design failures that they feel the need to contact you, demanding you either take down your post or in that other case, "promote" their stuff.


I love that you declined the "bag bribe" :)

I love it even more that you kept the sofa-post and just stuck a huge disclaimer to it :)

GO YOU, Raina!

(They must be shaking in their boots... LOL)

annedodge said...

Just discovered your blog, and I'm so glad I did! RH grates on my last, cash-strapped nerve. The gall of "deconstructed" furniture! Ugh. Anyway, I love this post. That place is obviously due for a smackdown.

daydream believer said...

Instead of trying to intimidate you, RH should hire you as a consultant. Balky's Roman sarcophagus sofa is actually more visually appealing than RH's ugly line of deconstructed furniture.

Appletree said...

I do love you for turning down the bag

Margaret said...

Urban Cottage said it well=re: good/bad PR..apparently, RH does not watch "Mad Men."

I DO want to work for RH because the muted lighting is flattering.

Bag Hag.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

You're back and I'm barely blogging these days, so glad I took the time to catch up!

I wish I could design crap like this and get paid! Like many others I have written posts on RH's ridiculous rip off of the Belgian style.

A shabby, but not chic chair with a big price tag-it's so laughable!!!

Love that you got under their fabric tattered skin!