There is good Public Relations and then there is bad Public Relations. Take a recent story about Cleveland, Ohio in Business Week magazine.
The Cleveland public school system is $152 million dollars in debt and doesn't have the money to fix leaking roofs, supply textbooks, or climb out of the academic doldrums. (Only 7% of graduates in the 72,000-student system test at the 12th grade level).
In a recent election, taxpayers approved a new school levy that will add $67 million to the school budget annually. So what's the bad news, you say?
The taxpayers also have approved underwriting the new Cleveland Browns football stadium--to the tune of $250 million dollars. Cleveland Tomorrow, a civic group of 55 local businesses, spent nearly $480,000 to ensure the school levy would pass. They have lent $5 million to the stadium project and are ready to give another $5 million. To a facility that will be used 10 times a year.
Joseph Gorman, chairman and chief executive of TRW, Inc., headquartered in Cleveland, commented, "If you're going to keep corporate headquarters and attract new businesses, you have to worry about all quality-of-living issues. Right or wrong, good or bad, you have to think of football." TRW recently bought one of the luxury boxes at the new stadium, which was opened in 2000, for $125,000 a year.
My tip to you and your company is really quite simple. If you have a corporate giving policy, great. If you don't, you might want to consider one. And whatever cause you give to, keep your priorities straight. Bad PR is not only bad for the company, it's bad for the soul. Cleveland, Ohio, is not so far away from you or me -- or our children.