Strange Fruit Saga
PR nightmare rages on for Austin firm formerly known Strange Fruit
The nightmare surrounding the local hospitality public relations firm formerly known as Strange Fruit PR just won't end. Last weekend, the firm went off the grid after coming under fire for using a racially insensitive name associated with the lynching of blacks in the South.
Founders Mary Mickel and Ali Slutsky deactivated the company's Twitter and Facebook accounts and took down its website while they "feverishly" worked on a new identity for the firm.
On Tuesday morning, the firm reemerged with a new name — Perennial PR — and a formal apology "to those offended by the former name of [their] firm." But what these PR professionals didn't do was secure the Twitter handle for the firm's new name before making the identity public. Can you guess what happened next?
On Tuesday evening, tweets started flowing from the Twitter handle @PerennialPR — but they're not coming from Mickel and Slutsky. The account was snatched up by anonymous users who are to using it breed further dialogue about the Strange Fruit PR scandal.
One of the first tweets from the new account reads:
So we picked Perennial. You know, like a tree! But not at all like the kind of tree you hang dead bodies of blacks from. LOL. No, really.— Perennial PR (@PerennialPR) December 10, 2014
While some see a lesson here (don't announce the new name without securing your online presence first), others in the local media see it as bullying, calling it "mean-spirited and gross."
@PerennialPR there is a line between “encouraging productive change” and “straight-up bullying” and you crossed it 20 miles ago.— dan solomon (@dansolomon) December 10, 2014
@jenniferinc@JulieAnnHolden@odam@gdinges@broylesa It was dumb not to register the twitter account, but this is mean-spirited and gross.— dan solomon (@dansolomon) December 10, 2014
This parody account is poking, prodding, mass-following and @-ing people, trying to stir up even more drama that isn't helping anyone.— Addie Broyles (@broylesa) December 10, 2014
CultureMap reached out to the @PerennialPR account owners for comment via Twitter. While they would not reveal an identity or location, they said, "We would say we have one foot in and one foot out of the Austin area. Are certainly familiar with many of [Strange Fruit PR's] clients."
Regarding accusations of bullying, the account owners said, "We kinda wonder how many who think we're 'bullying' also, say, read The Onion and watch The Daily Show. Surely no hypocrisy in Austin! Also kinda wonder if they really think simply whitewashing the issue(s) by changing SFPR's name and moving on is 'helping with progress.'"
The users did not say how long they plan to keep the parody account active, but did elaborate on why they started the account. "Maybe the real question is why would a PR firm not before announcing new name after such controversy?"