Before I start this post, I just want to apologize in advance if it gets a little lengthy – it’s my response to a Cease and Desist letter I received last week.
Recently, I wrote about Melrose Jewelers and a press release they had issued. The release discussed actor Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt and said that his Rolex watch had played a major part in the actor being alive today.
At the time, I personally found the release to be crass and in poor taste – it smacked of taking advantage of someone’s personal problems for gain (in this case, to sell more watches by Melrose Jewelers).
The comments in the post seemed to agree, as did numerous other views of the same press release. To get you up to speed, I’ll wait while you read the post, if that’s okay.
Last week, I received a Cease and Desist letter from the Law Offices of Peter D. Cole, who is based in Los Angeles and represents Melrose Jewelers. The letter made a number of claims against my post and requested that I remove it. Failure to do so would result in Melrose Jewelers “pursuing other alternatives to mitigate any damages”.
To save time, I’ve scanned the attorney’s letter and transferred it to a PDF file, which you can read here. Again, I’ll wait until you’ve read it so you can compare it to the post in question, if you like. The letter is “as is” – there is no letterhead or registered business numbers on it (which I had to request from Peter D. Cole for clarification). I’ll let you read the letter before continuing.
The attorney for Melrose Jewelers is ultimately saying that I’m causing his client loss of business; that my post is “inciteful rhetoric”; that I’m associated with another Internet watch sales business; and that I wasn’t stating facts. I find that a slight on my character and transparency. Additionally, the request to Cease and Desist under threat of further legal action is never pleasant.
Therefore, obviously, I felt a need to respond. This is it (taken from my emailed response to Peter D. Cole today, and with Cole’s points in bold).
Hi there Peter,
Thanks for you response, appreciate it.
With regards your client’s “claims”, I would respond with the following:
1. “You had conversations with unnamed Rolex executives, to incite Rolex to take actions and/or make comments about my client’s advertising.” There is nothing in the comments that says this. I mentioned I was, and I quote, “speaking to someone today about Rolex’s awareness. He’s in the jewelry industry and was at a big meeting last night where the CEO of Rolex was also attending.” That’s a big difference from knowing Rolex executives. FYI, the person I was speaking to is a director of a pearl company – quite the different market from your client.
2. “…If you yourself are somehow associated with an Internet watch sales business, as my client is informed and believes”. As I mentioned, my “relationship” is with a pearl company – hardly a competitor. Your client’s statement also seems bizarre. I’m guessing if he knows someone that owns a fast food restaurant, he can’t say that he doesn’t like McDonald’s, as that would be seen as “unfair business practices”?
3. “You describe my client as little more than a second hand watch shop”. By your own words, you say that people who “cannot afford to purchase them new, to obtain them pre-owned at a significant discount in price”. So, they’re not new? Which makes them second-hand.
My whole post was about whether or not the press release was crass (by taking advantage of someone’s personal situation for gain), as well as the editorial process that allowed it to be published. The comments that followed from my readers bore this out. Additionally, there are many more sites and blogs that offer a far more disparaging account of your client’s release than I do.
My post was not to “incite Rolex to take actions” – more, it was to question what passes as acceptable PR and why it’s important for brands to be aware of what’s being said in the name of their company.
I have some questions for your client. Did Rolex authorize this release? Did Owen Wilson authorize this release? Can it be factually proven that Owen Wilson’s watch turned him back from the precipice of despair?
Unless your client can answer “Yes” categorically to these questions, then the release (and the original blog post it stemmed from) are merely opinion, and not fact. Something which separates a news release from an opinion piece. Which is exactly what my blog referred to.
Therefore, I will be leaving the post as is.
There are a lot of things wrong with the PR industry. There are a lot of things good about it as well. Like any industry, there are good people and not-so-good people.
One thing that is apparent is that releases like the ones Melrose Jewelers issued don’t help to repair the view that PR professionals are uncaring and will say anything for a fast buck. If there is no concrete proof that Owen Wilson’s watch helped him during some dark times, then saying that it did suggests sensationalism in order to sell more watches.
In my original post, I shared my view of that, and of using PR in this way. I also asked the question what it would do for a company’s reputation that was happy to use PR in this way.
The Cease and Desist letter from Melrose Jewelers gives me their answer. I feel it’s only fair to offer them mine. Which is why the original post will remain.
Thanks for reading. I’d be interested in your take. Is there more than PR and brand awareness being questioned here?