Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Satan + President + UN = PR Crisis

That noise you hear is a Big Gulp from Citgo.

The next few days and weeks should be interesting for American employees of the Venezuelan-based petroleum giant. News broke today that 7-Eleven has cancelled Citgo's contract to provide gas at 2100 7-Eleven stores across the U.S. This, of course, comes in response to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's recent (and rather unflattering) UN remarks about W in particular and the U.S. in general.

It's a business crisis for Citgo, to be sure. But as business communications professionals, my colleagues and I will be watching closely to see how Citgo's U.S. operatives handle communications with their U.S. customers, retailers and suppliers. 7-Eleven showed the way by making a savvy, proactive PR move. Short-term, 7-Eleven's quick action may secure the mega-chain at least a stay-of-execution from American consumers. That's the PR part.

Read the coverage, though and you'll see that 7-Eleven was already seeking to private-label its gasonline; legally separating itself from Citgo sets the stage for them to solicit new providers. Meaning their PR tactic also doubles as a pretty slick business move

It's only a matter of time before patriotic fervor fuels (sorry!) a consumer boycott. Citgo's next move in the PR arena should be interesting, to say the least.

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