AT&T Public Relations
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AT&T Public Relations
A compilation of AT&T's PR efforts in the news
Curated by Amanda Morgan
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AT&T bids on T-Mobile

AT&T bids on T-Mobile | AT&T Public Relations |

           In an attempt to rebuild its ever-depleting prestige and prominence, AT&T placed a bid to buy T-Mobile in order to utilize its congruent service layout. AT&T needs “more bars in more places” and T-Mobile has the towers to make it happen. How much does it cost to take on a cellular service provider? Just a mere $39 billion. But, will it work?


           As Ben Parr for Mashable points out, the AT&T infrastructure is less-than superb. Their March 2011 press release included two sections devoted solely to addressing their popular decline as it stems from their fundamental mishaps. AT&T realized that they needed to act fast and, despite their amazing, iPhone-driven sales, knew that customers would not hesitate to cross over to Verizon once it acquired Apple’s seal of approval.


          Since this article covers the start of a merger-that-wasn’t, it’s challenging to discuss because we all know what happened next. However, I wanted to start my project here because it marks the beginning of a reputation crisis that AT&T is still fleshing out.


          Well into the acute crisis stage (pg. 298), and despite the noted volatile environment AT&T was experiencing, their media relations efforts (though a bit reactive) seemed to appease customers and the media. This article reflects that appeasement; considering Parr didn’t rip AT&T apart, but rather he provided a breakdown of what was sure to be a smooth merger for the two mega-providers. AT&T’s candor also kept them afloat (pg. 300). Their attempt to keep the situation from escalating via a press release for the public and a potential merger for shareholders (shareholder relations pg. 300) also calmed potentially volatile waters. AT&T’s acknowledgement of their problems along with their plan to turn things around (as shaky as the idea may be) in their press release tells me that their crisis management team worked overtime. Transparency is important; especially in times of unpopularity.


          Of all the preparations Guth and Marsh mention in chapter 13, candor stuck out to me because the bulk of AT&T’s customers have, in turn, stuck with them. Is this because AT&T acknowledged that they were subpar? Or have they, in fact, beefed up the reliability of their service?


          It appears that while AT&T is obviously doing something wrong, they continue to get some sort of customer appeasement right.

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Should Regulators Block AT&T's Acquisition of T-Mobile?

Should Regulators Block AT&T's Acquisition of T-Mobile? | AT&T Public Relations |

               Hal J. Singer for the Harvard Business Review asks if regulators should block the AT&T-T-Mobile merger. He notes that though the merger is between two bigger wireless companies, 17 smaller businesses would see fluctuations as well.


               The biggest concern for Singer is seeing a possible change in prices. Since the market has been growing, people have been receiving a lower wireless bill. Could this change should AT&T become the biggest company in wireless?


               Singer says no.


               The Department Of Justice and the FCC’s attempts at analyzing AT&T and Verizon’s market leave little to be desired. When searching for pricing power as it relates to the two mega-wireless company’s hold on our bank accounts, as previously noted, prices are falling. Singer suggests this is not AT&T and Verizon’s doing, but rather Sprint and T-Mobile’s inability to maintain existing subscribers.


               Additionally, AT&T and Verizon operate at around 1000 megahertz (MHz), while T-Mobile operates at a higher MHz level. For T-Mobile to build additional towers that operate at their current MHz level, the company would need to completely reposition itself to obtain the funding; this is where AT&T comes in. Since T-Mobile essentially stands alone in the MHz realm of wireless, if it was acquired by AT&T there is no rival company effected. This backs AT&T’s claim that acquiring T-Mobile will only provide for the growing need of high-speed, internet supported LTE phones, possibly forcing the FCC and DOJ to go a different route with their blockage.


               Singer, an AT&T customer himself, made his concern of price fluctuation known. I’m sure he was not alone. This consumer relations piece demonstrates how AT&T missed the mark by failing to announce what the merger would do to its customer’s bank accounts. Even if AT&T wasn’t for sure what the outcome would be, it should be made known that the customers are still in the company’s best interest; and it would maneuver in ways which represented this interest in monetary terms.


               What AT&T did do, though, was present goodwill towards customers not through their bank accounts, but through an acknowledgement that their smart phone speeds needed to increase. Their main argument was based around “meeting the needs” of its customers. Center et al. note that a shift has been made within the marketplace which blends the lines of PR and marketing (page 133). Realizing that customers buy in accordance to how companies run their business (pg. 134), AT&T positioned itself in a light which presented a more marketable environment, despite the growing complaints against it.


               AT&T pushed the idea that it would be providing more, rather than making up for what it didn’t already have.

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U.S. Sues to Stop AT&T Deal

U.S. Sues to Stop AT&T Deal | AT&T Public Relations |

           Five months after its announcement to take on the Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile, AT&T faces charges against the proposal from none other than the U.S. government.


           What was sure to be a smooth transition turned into battle royale. Thomas Catan and Spencer E. Ante for the Wall Street Journal report that just weeks prior, AT&T had been in Washington with dozens of interest groups, lobbying for support. Also, a days before, AT&T had met with the Justice Department in order to discuss the merger, and had gotten the impression that the government’s distress had been eased.


          Not so.


         The government’s claim: “The combination of second- and fourth-largest cellphone companies in the U.S. would harm competition and likely raise prices for consumers. (Looks like you got a point across, Sprint).


         AT&T, though “surprised and disappointed,” stated it would not back down; preparing for “one of the most significant antitrust court battles in recent years.” (To review-- AT&T’s reasoning for the merger is based around its ability to use T-Mobile’s towers quickly, ensuring customer satisfaction and growth.)


        The Justice Department made it known that it is ready and willing to negotiate. But as Catan and Ante note, analysts are uncertain of what AT&T could have to offer the government and still remain profitable. This article points out that up until the U.S. initiative to stop AT&T, the wireless company had been covering its bases in hopes of a more secure merger. Often times, companies need the backing of special interest groups (pg. 270, Guth and Marsh) to get what they need. Once a special interest group has sided with your cause, it can spread a message like wildfire.


        In this case, AT&T enlisted the help of a few choice unions along with a hand-full of smaller organizations for support. Once these groups had been won over, lobbying could occur. Guth and Marsh write that this is important and effective because it “conveys an impression of broad public support” (pg. 272). AT&T wanted it to appear that the only parties who could be against the proposal were its competition. And, even then, it still claimed that the merger would be beneficial.


        AT&T’s recognition that government relations would be essential to their merger demonstrates an understanding of one of the most popular PR tactics.

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AT&T's last-ditch effort to save T-mobile deal

AT&T's last-ditch effort to save T-mobile deal | AT&T Public Relations |

                Though AT&T withdrew its proposal to the FCC, CBS News reports that it will still press on with the attempted merger.


                The New York Times reported: “AT&T has been secretly working on an audacious 11th-hour deal to salvage the transaction: AT&T is knee-deep in talks with Leap Wireless, a second-tier but growing wireless player, to sell it a big piece of T-Mobile’s customer accounts and some of its wireless spectrum, according to people involved in the negotiations.”


               Also, CBS News adds the concern that the merger would effect citizens in rural areas is high on the list of reasons for the DOJ and FCC to shut things down despite AT&T’s secret workings with Leap Wireless.


               For AT&T to acquire Leap Wireless it must prove ways in which this new merger would still benefit all parties. Considering the road blocks AT&T has seen, keeping its publics in mind is the only way this new merger would occur. This may stem from AT&T's motives.


              While AT&T’s actions have been legal, their inability to admit defeat has me questioning whether its actions have been ethical (Guth & Marsh, pg. 243). Thus far, AT&T has ignored fixing its poor infrastructure, attempted to acquire a smaller business as a result of those internal problems, battled the government, ignored its customer’s concerns regarding prices and essentially dragged Deutsche Telekom “down” with them.


              Since social responsibility is heavily embedded within PR (pg. 246), AT&T could’ve composed a statement of goodwill towards its customers for the duration of the merger. I understand that AT&T heavily invested in taking on T-Mobile and does not want to see their efforts go to waste. However, attempting to take on a different, smaller company makes AT&T appear desperate.


              I would like to see AT&T’s PR team return to its roots, remember their code of ethics and prepare a statement admitting defeat, outline a new plan of action and reiterate that AT&T is committed to its customers and the goodwill of the country.


             Lastly, understanding that putting the goodwill for the the nation as a whole as top priority could’ve prevented many of AT&T’s blunders. Guth and Marsh note that “no organization is an island” (pg. 246). AT&T could have used its time and resources better by reaching out to other organizations to help fix what it was lacking, rather than attempt to build on an all-but broken infrastructure.

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AT&T Posts $6.7 Billion Loss on Failure of T-Mobile Deal

AT&T Posts $6.7 Billion Loss on Failure of T-Mobile Deal | AT&T Public Relations |

               Repercussions of the botched T-Mobile deal have hit AT&T with full force. Its fourth quarter reports indicated a $6.7 billion loss resulting in 42 cents per share.


               But, alas; Apple to the rescue. A flood of iPhone sales helped ease the $4 billion dollar T-Mobile payment while surpassing Verizon smartphone sales. Additionally, analysts were not impressed with AT&T’s lack of growth, noting that it has had the iPhone for three and a half years and has still not met expectations.


               Randall Stephenson, CEO, has changed his tune, shedding light on the end of the T-Mobile tunnel: “I am absolutely convinced that the smartphone is a platform,” he said. “The customer that you hold with a smartphone, you will also sell a tablet, a connected device, a home monitoring service. I really believe it’s become a platform in terms of further penetrations of mobile data.”


               Though AT&T didn’t completely bomb out, it barely managed to stay afloat despite its awesome holiday season. Now, it needs to push onward and upward.


               With unhappy shareholders and a tarnished reputation, AT&T needs to take hold of the new wave of wireless and smartphone users outside of the realm of cell phones to generate revenue.


               Rounding out the crisis resolution stage of this merger-gone-bad, AT&T should recognize “why the crisis happened and the decisions that were made” (Guth and Marsh, pg. 298) in order to plan for prevention of this happening again. Meanwhile, those in investor relations should be planning meeting after conference call after proposal (Guth & Marsh, pg. 89). The beginning of a new quarter for AT&T offers a chance to re-strategize and regroup. Since stockholders took such a huge hit during the previous year’s merger efforts, mending this relationship is vital. Without investors, there is no company.


             Lastly, consumer relations needs to invest heavily in the marketing mix. News releases and media kits would be essential to kick-starting AT&T’s rebounding in the first quarter (pg. 170). Getting new products, such as those listed by Stephenson, in the hands of a third-party would represent a reestablished relationship between AT&T and promotional agencies while hitting consumers with a new wave of technology AT&T has to offer. While the iPhone has boosted sales in the past, AT&T needs to beef up its own products in order to decrease dependence on Apple and turn a profit that analysts would praise.


             Restarting efforts with consumers, shareholders and employees should make for a confident, smooth-running AT&T in 2012.

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Suit Claims AT&T Billed U.S. for Nigerian Scam

Suit Claims AT&T Billed U.S. for Nigerian Scam | AT&T Public Relations |

             Old “friend” of AT&T, The Department of Justice, filed yet another lawsuit against the company in late March of this year.


             It claimed that AT&T new that its overseas services to the hearing impaired, in Nigeria in particular, had become a hotspot for scam artists to use stolen credit card numbers. The DOJ also alleged that AT&T then knowingly billed the FCC for the services.


             From WSJ: " 'As the FCC is aware, it is always possible for an individual to misuse IP Relay services, just as someone can misuse the postal system or an email account,' AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said, 'but FCC rules require that we complete all calls by customers who identify themselves as disabled.' "


             Restrictions have since been put on the calls in hopes of stopping fraud by 100%. Until then, AT&T will stand by its claim that has continually followed the FCC’s rules.


             AT&T just cannot stay out of trouble.


             From a PR standpoint, this is a nightmare.


            Once aware of what is going on, it is unethical to let activity such as this happen overseas in order to keep the money flowing. In today’s society, having no reaction to a problem is worse than having a late reaction to a problem.


            Guth and Marsh note, “There is also an ethical dimension to crisis planning. Errors of omission can be as damaging--and deadly-- as those of commission Managers-- and we hope that includes public relations practitioners-- have a moral responsibility to protect their organizations from potential dangers. That includes protecting the organization's reputation among its key stakeholders” (pg. 301).


            As the quote states, remaining ethical is imperative. When I read articles like this one I wonder if I will be faced with a situation similar to this one. If so, I would hope that I will do the right thing. The PR team is the moral compass of that institution. While it cannot work ethically on its own, with help from other departments, things should run smoothly in order to keep a company out of trouble.


           AT&T’s best bet now is to acknowledge and apologize; ensuring that something like this will never happen again. After having read this article, it is apparent that AT&T needs to make it known that the foreign countries it provides services to will not be treated like that of Nigeria.

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AT&T Extends Talks With Union After Deadline, Avoiding Strike

AT&T Extends Talks With Union After Deadline, Avoiding Strike | AT&T Public Relations |

              In an effort to compromise, AT&T extended its talks with union officials after the Sunday deadline.


              However, "AT&T continues to pass unrealistic proposals, and we continue to wonder when they will get serious," the union said in a report on the website of Local 1298, based in Hamden, Conn. "As they see their employees struggling to make ends meet, they continue to hold fast to their unrealistic request."


             AT&T is claiming that their requests are to protect middle class jobs, however the rise in cost for the union workers says otherwise.


            While it is good to see AT&T try to compromise with a third party, as the article notes, the pace is slow moving and neither party is happy with the others proposals. Working with your employees is a necessity to move the company forward, and unions are sometimes pivotal to a companies progression. “Throughout the decades, unions forced their way into the smallest and largest companies. They won concessions on wages, safety, medical benefits, vacation, and retirement benefits, to mention a few” (Center et. al, pg. 22). Center goes on to explain how outsourcing caused unions to taper off, but in AT&T’s case, they cannot outsource the project at hand. This will force them to compromise with the union.


           Also, it is in situations such as these where internal PR is critical. Effective in-house communication will let AT&T employees know what is happening with the company, keeping them up-to-date. While they are not a part of this decision, employees need to be informed of what is going on internally, to ensure no unneeded panic or gossip ensues.


          Additionally, external PR is just as critical. along with employee relations, media relations is also essential once a compromise has been made. Both parties need to be represented in a positive light and should be encouraged to thank the other for their cooperation. While this article puts somewhat of a negative light on AT&T, it is good news to see that a compromise is being made and that AT&T did not resort to replacing the union workers.


          Lastly, timeliness is important with both internal and external communication. When AT&T and the union decide something, employees must be told first, followed by a press release for the media. The inner-turmoil of the decision making process should not be touched on in interviews. Just the celebration that the sustained collaboration of the two groups should be noted.

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AT&T’s Stephenson and a Personal War Against Texting While Driving

AT&T’s Stephenson and a Personal War Against Texting While Driving | AT&T Public Relations |

           AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, performed his own PSA on Sept. 19 at a New York conference.


           His message? Don’t text and drive.  


          Stephenson has been spreading this message at the beginning of meetings for awhile now, and has revealed that a loved one of his died from texting and driving.


          The New York Times reports: "The smartphone, he says, 'Is a product we sell and it’s being used inappropriately.' For him, that means the company he runs has to get involved in a public awareness campaign. 'We have got to drive behavior.' ”


          Though a number of states have made texting and driving illegal, Randall hopes that changing the minds of those in the market will be enough.


          AT&T started its “It can wait” campaign in 2010, and Randall has no intentions of slowing or stopping AT&T’s efforts to keep drivers safe.


          In an era of smartphones, seeing a company take on its CSR in such an extreme way lets consumers know that AT&T has their best interest in mind.


         This message is important in today’s society.


         From a PR perspective, this humanizes not only Randall, but AT&T. To see a company putting money into compelling PSA’s is refreshing. Reminding today’s consumer to put the phone down is a 180-degree turn from commercials advertising all the things that their phones can do.


          Because of the “It can wait” campaign, AT&T has leverage in swaying public opinion. “Public opinion is in a process of constant change. It starts when an issue enters social environment. By definition, an issue must affect a variety of publics and be evolving” (Guth and Marsh pg. 268).


          I believe that the issue of texting and driving is one of the biggest that our society faces today. Since AT&T is heavily invested in ceasing this issue, it is important for them to change public opinion; be it latent, aware or active. Further, because texting and driving faces almost every driver on the road today, AT&T can take advantage of the fact that most consumers watching their PSA’s will show interest and respond to the commercial’s call to action. As the book notes, this “translates into a social action, such as a new law, and becomes social value” (Guth and March pg. 268). Once stopping texting and driving becomes of social value to consumers, the phenomenon will drop off until another issue arrises.


          AT&T’s PSA’s are an excellent demonstration of a PR department’s efforts and a reminder of what can happen if we don’t put down the phone when we drive.

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Consumer Groups Skewer AT&T Over iPhone Feature Restriction

Consumer Groups Skewer AT&T Over iPhone Feature Restriction | AT&T Public Relations |

            AT&T has fallen under attack of three special interest groups proposing a suit to be filed with the FCC. The suit will accuse AT&T of violating the internet and its regulations in regard to the FaceTime function of Apple’s iPhone.


            The groups argue that AT&T’s rival carrier, Verizon Wireless, lets all of its customers use FaceTime, regardless of their monthly data plan, while AT&T only allows users who purchase unlimited monthly data to use the FaceTime services.


            "When you sign up to use the Internet, you're allowed to use the Internet," said Free Press legislative director Joel Kelsey.


            AT&T and the FCC have declined to comment.


           Special interest groups can be major company advocates. For AT&T to upset not just one, but three, is not a good situation. Because the iron triangle is such a powerful process within our government, these special interest groups pose a threat to AT&T.


           “In an iron triangle, groups represented at each point of the special interest pyramid communicate with the others as either a primary public or as an intervening public effort to influence the third party” (Guth & Marsh, pg. 271). In this case the FCC is the third party to be convinced of the special interest group’s agenda. Since AT&T has had many run-ins with the FCC, along with the fact that, if the material presented in this article is not skewed, AT&T is enforcing an unlawful policy, the outcome may not be favorable for AT&T.


           Since this is a Huffington Post article, AT&T is cast in a negative light. Other publications may have represented the story differently. Regardless, AT&T should release a statement of their policy along with their justification for said policy. Customers like to get what they paid for, and, because the amount of transparency demanded by a company as large as AT&T, they cannot remain silent on this issue.


           Not all constituents can be a part of these special interest groups like Free Press or Public Knowledge, but they can take to social media and the web to voice their opinions on the subject. The simplest statement can now go viral in a matter of minutes. AT&T needs to get a handle on the situation as soon as possible because of the hands-on technology available to so many today. AT&T could put out a tweet or make a press release available online stating their case and containing the situation as best as possible until either party makes a statement regarding the case.

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AT&T and Viacom Join Forces To Take 'TV Everywhere'

AT&T and Viacom Join Forces To Take 'TV Everywhere' | AT&T Public Relations |

           It seems that AT&T’s future is looking brighter. On Oct. 15 it announced with Viacom, a mass media and cable television company, that the two would be joining forces. This will allow AT&T U-Verse customers to access a variety of shows from MTV, VH1, etc... from the web and stream them instantly.


           Jeff Weber from AT&T said "We're excited to give customers online access to Viacom's compelling content.

           "This is just one more way we're offering U-verse TV customers the best entertainment experience, wherever they are."


           Viacom also backed the decision, saying, "AT&T U-verse continues to bring great entertainment to its customers in every corner of their lives, and Viacom networks are a powerful part of that experience that viewers can count on to enjoy on every screen," said Denise Denson, Executive Vice President of Content Distribution and Marketing, Viacom Media Networks.


           So, since AT&T’s U-Verse’s popularity has been slipping since its astounding debut, this offer seems as though it will keep U-Verse customers happy.


           Further, both quotes are customer-centered, reassuring that this deal would be in the consumers best interest.


           AT&T and Viacom are major corporations, so knowing what their consumers and want and how to keep them happy is vital to their success and sustainability. A pairing of this caliber, when done correctly, is a good investment for both company’s futures.


          Page 170 of Guth and Marsh says “As consumer publics change, no doubt marketing public relations tactics will change as well. New practitioners should understand traditional consumer relations tactics-- but they also must be ready to meet evolution with innovation.”


          This deal demonstrates both company’s understanding of evolution and innovation. Now, it is not enough to give customers obnoxious amounts of channel options. With today’s technology, instant and remote access to their television programs is essential to keep customers happy. Because this deal allows for Viacom’s channels to be accessed via anything that has the internet, consumers can watch TV virtually anytime, anywhere.


          As my generation enters the workforce, we must keep ourselves familiar with the concepts of evolution and innovation. It will hit us harder and faster than any PR pros before us. Technology is moving forward faster than most can keep up. We must stay on top of the conversations being had about our places of employment as well as maintain relationships using all of the tools given to us.

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Big Names in Tech Back AT&T's T-Mobile Bid

Big Names in Tech Back AT&T's T-Mobile Bid | AT&T Public Relations |

          In wake of AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile, the backlash of other wireless company's disapproval was trumped by an overwhelming support system from eight “tech-giants.” Michael De La Merced for the NY Times reported mega-companies like Facebook along with other venture capital firms have submitted letters in favor of AT&T’s proposed merger outcomes.


          De La Merced reports AT&T’s claim: “...the T-Mobile deal will help the company extend its next-generation data network across the country, helping to meet the growing need for wireless broadband services.”


          Despite the green light from the tech moguls, Sprint expressed their concern. Their CEO spoke with the Senate; claiming competition and innovation would all-but cease to exist. (While this may be true, we see right through you, Sprint. Nice try.)


          Major companies like Microsoft, however, continued to reach out to other tech-based companies that would also benefit from the merger.


          Support snowballed.


         The possible consolidation of AT&T and T-Mobile effects not only other wireless providers, but the majority of the marketplace. This article represents just how game-changing a merger of this capacity would be. Immediately the big-wigs were siding with what would benefit them-- not the wireless industry. Meanwhile, the “little guys” begged and pleaded, knowing they’d be toast should the collaboration occur.


         Either way, business to business interaction is imperative when a move of this capacity is in the making. AT&T needed its fellow corporations to get behind them while Sprint needed the government to take them into consideration as well.


         Guth and Marsh note on page 192 that “business purchase decisions often require teamwork.” AT&T couldn’t make the merger happen alone. The other companies had something AT&T wanted-- in this case it was support-- and its demonstration of partner relationship management (pg. 193) revealed a solid backing from prominent businesses. A quote from Josh Krist on page 193 exemplifies AT&T’s probable communication process in order to ensure its unwavering support: “PRM companies seem to agree that PRM is about aligning the goals of disparate companies and making this so financially attractive to partners in the form of [sales] leads and other incentives that they never want to leave your company’s sphere of influence.”


         Lastly, Guth and Marsh identify how the other colossal companies so willingly boarded the merger mayhem, saying, “ long as B2B practitioners seek shared values and mutually beneficial relationships, they will feel at home--even in high-tech concept houses” (pg. 196).


         In other words, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Or, rather, “money talks.”

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FCC Asks For Hearing On AT&T/T-Mobile Deal

FCC Asks For Hearing On AT&T/T-Mobile Deal | AT&T Public Relations |

              The FCC’s announcement to join the DOJ in opposition of the AT&T-T-Mobile merger knocks the wireless company further off course, claiming that the merger “either does not consider the transaction to be in the public interest or has ‘substantial, material questions’ about the deal.”


              What does this mean for AT&T? Elizabeth Woyke for Forbes reports: “By law, the FCC does not have power to block the AT&T/T-Mobile acquisition. Instead, the agency must do one of three things: approve the transaction as originally presented; approve it with conditions or designate it for a hearing.”


             Because of this, the FCC will precede the DOJ trial; which is set for February 2012. If the DOJ wins, the FCC is not able to take further action relevant to the case.


             Though final decisions regarding the draft order are freshly underway, the FCC’s decision to involve itself with the merger can push back the finalization of the deal by more than a year. This drawn out debate would force T-Mobile to withdraw the deal, leaving AT&T with a mess and both companies with nearly irreversible debt.



            At this point, AT&T and T-Mobile shareholders must be frantic. However, after tracking down AT&T’s response, it would appear that those in investor relations had been ready for such events to occur, setting the record straight for any who might have been worried. Their confidence, though it involved some finger-pointing at the FCC, clears the air in regard to the FCC report that was, according to more-than-one media outlet, poorly written.


           During the rough time AT&T was experiencing, remaining effective communicators should be high priority. On page 92 Guth and Marsh note that “investor relations professionals who function within a company’s financial department should coordinate their relationship-building efforts with other public relations functions within the company, such as media relations and employee relations.” This highlights the importance of preparedness and smart communication within groups.


           Should shareholders panic, AT&T’s media relations specialists had to work quickly to ensure that the FCC’s announcement was as minimized as possible by the media, and then relay any information they had to other departments. As previously stated, AT&T received help from notable publications like Forbes, claiming the FCC’s release was weak and easy to disprove.


            Because of the swift criticism of the FCC, rather than AT&T, the wireless company was able to focus on what was to come next, simply releasing a statement on their website for the media to utilize.



AT&T response:

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FCC allows AT&T to withdraw application to purchase T-Mobile

FCC allows AT&T to withdraw application to purchase T-Mobile | AT&T Public Relations |


               The FCC gave AT&T permission to withdraw its application for acquisition of T-Mobile.


               The FCC has spent past months investigating possible effects of the merger. Its thousands of hours spent and paperwork sorted resulted in finding loss of jobs and detriment to competition. This led to a strong opinion that the merger was not in the public interest.


               Deutsche Telekom also recently announced its intention to withdraw from the wireless arms race in order to turn focus to the antitrust suit filed against the deal.


               Regardless, the FCC will present their analysis to the DOJ. Should AT&T win the suit, they may reapply for the FCC’s approval. This would restart the multiple-month review conducted by the FCC.


               AT&T was not in favor of the FCC’s release of the analysis.


               Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, commented that the report was “not an order of the FCC,” nor has it been voted on. "It is simply a staff draft that raises questions of fact that were to be addressed in an administrative hearing, a hearing which will not now take place. It has no force or effect under law, which raises questions as to why the FCC would choose to release it."


              Simply put: AT&T is in deep.


              They lobbied, negotiated, broadcasted and analyzed. Yet their best efforts have been squashed by the FCC. Deutsche Telekom isn’t even playing on their team anymore.


              Back to crisis mode.


             Since this merger was a proposal made in selfish fulfillment of the company’s needs, AT&T must’ve known that the FCC would drum something up to be put on the table. Battling Sprint from the get-go along with the government, AT&T was dependent upon the backing of other bigger, tech-based companies to help out its cause. But surely this outcome was in their risk assessment, right?


            Cicconi’s statement tells me AT&T had a major misstep in their crisis communication planning. It should’ve prepared for the "job/competition loss" argument. While I do feel that it was important to address that the FCC draft was simply just that, it seems that Cicconi is on the defense rather than representing a calm, prepared AT&T; as we have seen thus far.


           Guth and Marsh note that employee training is important should crisis occur. Cicconi’s statement is aggressive. While AT&T may have wanted it that way, to me it insinuates that AT&T knows its back is against the wall. Additionally, G&M comment “what that person (in this case, Cicconi) chooses to do or not do will influence all decisions that follow” (pg. 299). AT&T’s charged statement suggests an urgency about the company as a whole. There was no mention of next steps, actions being taken at the present time or immediate effects.


AT&T’s next decisions will be pivotal for its survival.

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AT&T drops bid to buy T-Mobile, plans $4B charge

AT&T drops bid to buy T-Mobile, plans $4B charge | AT&T Public Relations |

                 That’s all, folks. After nearly eight months, AT&T is throwing in the towel for the attempted T-Mobile merger.


                The failed consolidation of the two mega-providers will result in a $4 billion charge from AT&T to Deutsche Telekom for breaking the arrangement.


                AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson voiced his irritation with the fall out, blaming the FCC and the DOJ. “Customers will be harmed and needed investment will be stifled,” he said. “AT&T will continue to be aggressive in leading the mobile Internet revolution.”


               On the opposing side, analyst Jack Gold notes that “the silver lining for consumers in this is that competition stays in place, at least for the short term.” He also states that he found AT&T’s claims of job creation hard to believe.


               AT&T certainly stirred controversy within all realms of the wireless industry with their proposed take-over of T-Mobile.


              Stephenson’s comment seemed reminiscent of Cicconi’s in that he was aggressive and failed to bring light to any steps AT&T was taking as a result of the failed deal. Shareholders, employees and customers alike were probably confused and frustrated as he was at the time of the announcement. However, by this point it is obvious that AT&T execs had lost their cool. I feel that the PR team should've urged Stephenson to take a different route in his communication with the press.


               Crisis planning should be meticulously dealt with while upholding a corporations ethical standards. With that said,


              AT&T did:

               - release a press release in early March of 2011 which looked planned and promising. 

               - openly express concern for its underwhelming service outline steps to be taken to turn the company around convey good will toward customers with the promise of better service

               - lobby for support accept the challenges the DOJ and FCC proposed


             AT&T did not:

               - work on its own broken infrastructure

               - keep the goodwill of the industry in mind

               - counsel those making statements to the press to remain calm and reaffirm AT&T's values and goals for success

               - provide strong evidence to the government reassuring goodwill for all


             Lastly, I think the repercussions AT&T is feeling are a result of short-term thinking. As noted on page 243 “short-term thinking can lead to momentary pleasure at the cost of long-term pain.” AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile was going to simply put a Band Aide on a wound that required invasive surgery. It was a billion-dollar gamble that AT&T was sure it could not lose.

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AT&T Doubles Fee

AT&T Doubles Fee | AT&T Public Relations |

                 In an effort to jumpstart customer’s efforts to obtain smartphones, AT&T is doubling its upgrading fee.


                The Huffington Post reports an email sent by AT&T: “Wireless devices today are more sophisticated than ever before. And because of that, the costs associated with upgrading to a new device have increased and is reflected in our new upgrade fee. This fee isn’t unique to AT&T and this is the first time we’re changing it in nearly 10 years.”


                Huffington Post notes that while Verizon has yet to impose an upgrade fee, long-time critic, Sprint, has a $36 fee. Initially, AT&T’s response to the Post was manufactured in a way that represents the cause of the fee. Then it takes a turn and points a finger at other wireless companies, encompassing a sense of “follow the leader.” It is as if since other wireless companies have a similar fee, it’s okay for AT&T to have, too. Then, while I believe it is important to note that AT&T hasn’t changed in 10 years, this part of the message could’ve been worded more eloquently. Consumers appreciate solid policies, and AT&T almost hit their message home by first explaining themselves, then reminding customers that it is a company that hasn’t changed often, but lost this with their use of defensive language. Additionally, Center and his colleagues note on page 134 the customers also make decisions based upon how a companies values guide its decisions. AT&T could have used this to their advantage, disseminating the same message (they have solid policies that rarely change), just with different syntax.


                 Additionally, because AT&T has many obstacles to overcome while its merger wounds are still fresh, perhaps the email reviewed in the article wasn’t the best message to initially disseminate. The Huffington Post showed no mercy on AT&T, recapping its less-than-successful fourth quarter of 2011 with a not-so optimistic tone. It is pivotal that AT&T mend its relationship with the press and those in media relations must heavily express goodwill towards media outlets. AT&T should be prepared, calm and straightforward with their media sources (Center et al., pg. 118). However, the Huffington Post did not sharpen or twist any of AT&T’s words, it simply quoted the received email. So, in this case, it is my opinion that AT&T should soften its message to media outlets. It is possible to keep the goodwill of customers in mind while imposing new fees or policies as well as maintaining solid rapport with the media.

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AT&T Faces Possible Walkout

AT&T Faces Possible Walkout | AT&T Public Relations |

             AT&T is in even more trouble. This time with the union. If the two cannot reach an agreement, members of the Communications Workers of America will walk off the job.


            As usual, spokesperson Marty Richter was speaking to the press, saying, “Our goal is to do everything in our power to protect those careers.”


            On the contrary, however, the Wall Street Journal noted that AT&T has been preparing for a strike such as this for two years. Because employees have seen a rise in healthcare costs, AT&T must have anticipated the backlash.


            This article, which insinuates a message dissimilar to that of Richter’s, leaves AT&T with a bit of a mess.


            If this potential walkout has been anticipated for two years, why hasn’t emphasis been placed on the number-crunchers to work on a plan that would satisfy both parties, rather than training people to do the same job for less.


            One core public relations objective is communication of values, or, “the values and vision of the organization-- for better or worse. “Whatever the explicit message sent forth, with it goes an implicit message of whether the organization really cares about people, the community, and the future or instead is self-centered and concerned only with its immediate profits or success-- or possibly even antisocial” (Center et. al, pg. 4).


            I believe that AT&T has conducted itself in the “self-centered, concerned with immediate profits or success” form of expressed values. This article is an example of poor company values being expressed not blatantly or forthcoming, but negatively. Richter’s statement of job preservation does not correlate with the company’s action to train internally for jobs that those of the union perform.


            Though the union’s demands may not be possible, AT&T needs to send a message of goodwill to those who accommodate its needs. The public opinion of AT&T has deteriorated over the past few years as a result of its consistent mishaps with the government, shareholders, employees and consumers. Yet somehow its sales have only marginally faltered.


            However, this does not change the fact that AT&T has, yet again, hit an ethical road block. It needs to either make a deal with the union or break away from its services, employing its own workers to construct the lines and services needed for their products. Following this decision, a press release should be drafted to ensure the company’s goodwill towards its workers and those associated with it.

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AT&T's about-face on 4G

AT&T's about-face on 4G | AT&T Public Relations |

            AT&T’s claim to deliver 4G access to more cities by 2014 is being heavily scrutinized by the FCC.


            The FCC released a “damning report” of AT&T’s efforts saying that AT&T was bluffing about how much it would be able to deliver in actuality. AT&T retaliated, claiming that the FCC’s report was “based purely on speculation” and that AT&T would deliver on its promises-- on schedule.


           Josh King, a former AT&T executive, commented on the situation, saying, “That poor-mouth 80% statement was about as credible as AT&T's claim that the merger would create 96,000 jobs."


           Analysts have predicted AT&T’s moves thus far, saying that they do believe that it has been a goal of AT&T for years now to expand its services, but the road to completion has been bumpy.


           Regardless, the FCC stands by its word as of now and has since congratulated AT&T on its efforts calling them "proof positive that the climate for investment and innovation in the U.S. communications sector is healthy."


          Since its failed T-Mobile merger a attempt, AT&T has been no stranger to the FCC. The focal point of this article, however, is the quote from King. PR practitioners are well aware that employees, former and current, are the best and biggest advocates for a company. For King to be that negative and vocal about his feelings on the subject says a lot of things about AT&T; a lot of negative things that it now needs to make right.


          AT&T now needs to do what it can internally to ensure that further statements such as King’s aren’t made, and ensuring that its employees are working as a cohesive group with similar mindsets. “But if employees are to help their companies succeed, that success must mean something to them. Employee relations practitioners must share the vision and the values that unite the organization and share its goals” (Guth & Marsh, pg. 37). At this point an evaluation of the internal communication of AT&T would prove beneficial. The use of intranet for emerging issues and updates could be used as well as a newsletter for less urgent information.


         AT&T has proven to be somewhat of a volatile company in that its efforts are heavily scrutinized. It is important that those in positions of command work closely with those in the PR department to ensure things run as smoothly as possible during such times of opposition.

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AT&T's $14 Billion Dollar 'Bribe' to Get Rid of Telecom Regulations Is a Multi-Layered Hoax

AT&T's $14 Billion Dollar 'Bribe' to Get Rid of Telecom Regulations Is a Multi-Layered Hoax | AT&T Public Relations |

           AT&T is getting hit yet again. Bruce Kushnick reported that AT&T’s $14 billion investment is a hoax.


           In early Nov. AT&T announced in a press release that it would be investing billions of dollars to expand its wireless and broadband networks to support data growth and services.


          But Kushnick isn’t taking the bait, saying, “It is a collection of great sound-bytes designed to be picked up by pundits, media companies and used by politicians who believe in blue skies, sunny days and the tooth fairy. Or worse, they are gullible or part of the AT&T cabal, either through campaign financing, advertising sales or direct deposits.”


          Kushnick believes that AT&T is using extortion to get what it wants out of the government and using fancy language to fool its consumers into thinking it’s doing something that innovates products the customer frequently uses. Kushnick says none of this is the case, and that AT&T is “holding 22 states’ economic future hostage.”


          This hostile Huffington Post article demonstrates just how important being on top of online conversation is. This article, at best, shows AT&T’s willingness to succeed in the marketplace, despite the cost.


          After reading this article from a well-known, popular news source, any consumer would be anti-AT&T. Consumers are heavily influenced by media they know and trust, despite the fact that many media and news source’s prerogatives have been skewed as of late.


         Center et. al note that “In recent years, few would argue that news media have been responsible carriers of information needed by citizens; most would say they have concentrated on scandals and titillating trivialities that provided public entertainment. This perception must be taken clearly into account when planning crisis strategy” (pg. 267). AT&T needs to reach out to media outlets that it has a relationship with in order to counterbalance an article such as Kushnick’s.Even though journalists are supposed to be unbiased, this piece not only bashes AT&T, but advises readers to be weary of the company.


        Since consumers demand high transparency from corporations, it is imperative that AT&T address the allegations made against it in this article. If they don’t, it could spread like wildfire until the company winds up back where it was earlier this year, dealing with the mess of the failed T-Mobile merger and a heavily tarnished image.

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Despite Merger Promise, Rural AT&T Customers Find High-Speed Internet Out of Reach

Despite Merger Promise, Rural AT&T Customers Find High-Speed Internet Out of Reach | AT&T Public Relations |

              Yet another multibillion dollar AT&T merger has fallen short of its promises. Those in rural areas are still waiting for their high speed internet access as a result of AT&T not conducting its merger with BellSouth in a timely manner.


              The FCC, yet again, is involved. It has received AT&T’s documentation that they have met all of their merger obligations, but AT&T did not comply when asked to prove their efforts by demonstrating their services in the territories claimed by the merger. “We have a problem at the commission, historically, with following-up on merger conditions,” said Michael Copps, who served on the FCC from 2001 to 2011, and who voted to approve the AT&T-BellSouth merger.


             “A lot of these conditions that get attached are not that great, and they are not always really enforced.” AT&T’s consumer relations in these rural areas is obviously lacking. The article goes on to shed light on those who have businesses in the area who have lost customers, can’t find jobs, etc... because of their lack of internet connection.


            This article then highlights a trait that AT&T seems to lack, at least as portrayed by the media; consumer relations. While AT&T seems to keep its smartphone customers happy, those who use the service in their homes have lots of problems and receive little AT&T feedback.


            Because AT&T has failed to provide internet to the rural areas as promised, sending out a statement or apology via any online source would be for not. This raises a question of how to connect with the people of these towns and reconcile and salvage a relationship with them.


            Futher, the notion that “People want to be served, not sold” (Center et al, pg. 133) proves true in this situation. When AT&T said it would merge with BellSouth, people expected them to be true to their word. They NEED the internet to survive in a country where internet access is in virtually every home. AT&T’s PR department should be remedying this failed promise in the form of customer service.


            Phase 4 of the 4-step customer service model on page 136 of the Center et al. book discusses “ongoing evaluation to make sure operational changes are happening, tracking survey data and continuing to update the plan.” Once AT&T deciphers the best way to reach their future consumers they must follow step 4 in order to ensure customer satisfaction. Since AT&T had such a rough start with people from these rural towns, when the service is finally provided, AT&T must ensure their relationship with those now given service are taken care of.

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