Just as the Fox network is the undisputed television home for conservative political ideology, is Verizon Wireless setting itself up to become the right-wing's exclusive phone provider?
Despite all of its attempts to bill itself as a "green" company, in the face of tens of thousands of angry customers so far Verizon Wireless refuses to drop its sponsorship of next week's pro-coal, anti-environment Friends of America Rally in West Virginia. That event, which will be held on a former mountaintop mine site, is being organized by Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy. Massey, one of the nation's biggest coal companies, is infamous for violating pollution laws in its voracious quest to turn Appalachia's mountains into molehills. (I've blogged this story here and here.)
The growing backlash against Verizon is evident on the company's Facebook page. (If you're on Facebook, be sure to post on Verizon's wall how you feel about its actions.) Feeling the heat from customers and concerned citizens, Verizon just posted on FB this lame justification for supporting the mountain-hating, climate-killing rally:
To our Facebook Fans, we have seen the posts expressing your concern. The activity you have referenced was a local decision to support the community and sell our products at the event. It is not a statement of our policy on any public issue.
Nice try, Verizon, but even corporate PR mavens agree that the company has crossed over into dangerous territory. As Advertising Age reported:
Regardless of Verizon's intention, PR executives said if a company underwrites an event that takes a strong view on a combustible issue such as jobs and the environment, it is basically saying it's on board with the organizers' philosophy. "Any level of participation in an event as a sponsor, supporter or even attendee lends the credibility of your corporate brand to that event or cause," said Marc Hausman, president-CEO of Strategic Communications Group.
At this point, no amount of spinning will help Verizon Wireless. But the company can dig itself out of this hole simply by admitting its mistake and immediately withdrawing its support for the rally.
Otherwise, Verizon Wireless should stop "greenwashing" and get honest in its advertising. In that spirit, I hereby suggest a couple of ad concepts that would more accurately reflect what the company apparently represents:
This post originally appeared at NRDC's Switchboard blog.
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