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Who Wrote the Infamous Ketchum/FedEx Email?

Who Wrote the Infamous Ketchum/FedEx Email?

By, Suzanne McGee, Account Director

Many of you have seen the Ketchum/FedEx saga that is unfolding as a result of some Twitter posts from a Ketchum employee that negatively portrayed Memphis – hometown to FedEx, a client of Ketchum’s. Apparently an unnamed FedEx employee fired off a very unhappy email calling out this exec and questioning Ketchum’s whole account with FedEx. (If you haven’t read it, it’s posted on Shankman’s blog: shankman.com
While many are already posting their position on the matter, it’s interesting to note that the blog post calls out the accused, but not the accuser. We don’t know what position this person holds or what their personal bias is.  
All we “know” from a third-party e-mail chain is that this person is very angry and someone (maybe not even the original author) found a way to trumpet this dissatisfaction to the entire world via the Internet. However, this well written piece is making the rounds on the Internet, but with no source or indication of authorship, never mind questions from PR peers about its veracity.
It’ll be interesting to see if this story changes once we know this person’s identity. Let’s get the whole story and then weigh in on the matter. Wouldn’t you want people to do that if you were in the Ketchum employee’s shoes?
  • Chris Michaels

    January 16, 2009 at 10:43 am Reply

    Hopefully everyone has read the Shankman post and possibly reconsidered what you post on Twitter, Facebook or any public social media application that could be viewed by clients.

    But the post raises a few questions. Is this a “spoof” because there’s no real attribution for the letter’s author? Was there any real damage to FedEx? Did the twitter post warrant calling into question the person, community or the entire multi-million dollar Ketchum account? Was the comment really worth sending a letter to FedEx corporate communications or was this just someone with an axe to grind?

    For all we know, this was just hearsay. It was a message forwarded from a person to another person and finally posted on the Internet. While it may be very well written, without attributing a name to it, the veracity of such a post needs to be questioned.

    The author is not the next “deep throat,” and maintaining his or her anonymity is just as bad as posting a chain letter that claims that Brand X is going to give $1 per person who adds their name and forwards it on.

  • Jessica

    January 16, 2009 at 2:15 pm Reply

    The original copy has the the name on it but was just excluded on Shankman’s blog. The email from this person started out as just that – an internal email directed toward James (with multiple people CC’d). The author did not hide his/her identity…. sorry Chris, but this one is unfortunately real live drama.

  • Anonymous

    January 16, 2009 at 2:15 pm Reply

    The original email was signed by the FedEx employee. The simple fact that it was cut from every posting means nothing. I am also an employee in FedEx Corporate Communications and received the email first hand and it is not a spoof, it came from FedEx Corporate Communications, not sent to it and I assure you there is no axe to grind with Mr. Andrews.

    I think everyone is missing the real point here. Our entire staff “received their first paycheck of 2009 containing a 5% pay cut…” I don’t think anyone has read that paragraph or realizes the amount of money FedEx pays Ketchum to We are very thankful here at FedEx that we still have our jobs, but we do not need an outsider bashing the world HQ city of the Fortune 100 company that without doubt makes it possible for him to receive his salary.

    It seems to me that Fusion account executives might be smelling PR blood.

  • Anonymous

    January 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm Reply

    Bottom line, it was a reckless rude comment that is characteristic of an arrogant personality. Harmless or not, KPR needs to hold Mr. Andrews accountable in a responsible manner. We’ll see just how serious Ketchum treats this insult.

  • Anonymous

    January 16, 2009 at 3:24 pm Reply

    Makes me wonder if Mr. Andrews has ever been to New York City! Oops. He works there.

  • Anonymous

    January 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm Reply

    At first I found humor in the misery of a competitor, but when I read it again, and saw the wide distribution, I’ve come to conclude that the FedEx Comms department needs to get the stick out of their ass.

    I mean, really. He didn’t trash the client, he just said he didn’t like the crappy city you call home. It was no reflection on you.


  • Aletheia

    January 17, 2009 at 10:26 am Reply

    James Andrews works in the Atlanta office. He had a bad experience in Memphis and was upset. His tweet had nothing to do with FedEx.

    The FedEx employee took the opportunity to lash out. If he really cared about FedEx he would have never sent the letter to Shankman.

  • Mike Brown

    January 17, 2009 at 10:32 pm Reply

    Regardless of who is right or wrong on this, not every thought needs to be tweeted. Here’s a suggested list of words that aren’t synonymous with “tweet about” to think about before tweeting.

  • Norman

    January 19, 2009 at 1:19 pm Reply

    It does show the problem of social networking — that what we think we’re writing for friends is actually accessible by people we don’t know or who don’t understand any nuance about the person who’s writing/tweeting/blogging. With Twitter, the additional problem is that, when you search on Twitter, you see just the individual tweet, not the entire chain of dialog.

  • Anonymous

    January 21, 2009 at 11:28 am Reply

    I think FedEx handled it very sloppily on its part and I think it goes to show how they perceive their PR firm and how they think about partners and vendors. I think it’s bad person PR when people try to castigate others via email and they cc the world at large…it’s unprofessional and disrespectful and show’s the writer has a real axe to grind. He would have been better served if he approached this person directly and explained how he felt. I’m sure the Ketchum guy would have offered an apology and realized the error of his ways. What do we achieve by publicly trying to humiliate someone.

    With regard to the 5% increase, people are lucky to have jobs. That’s such an old boys response…like the CEO of Ford saying he couldn’t take the corporate jet. I don’t feel sorry for FedEx at all, especially since twice I have had to deal with rude customer service works after having paid for overnight which never came of a delivery person which never rang my bell. Perhaps FedEx has gotten just a little too comfortable and needs to look inward and assess some major issues in its corporate culture.

  • WilliamsburgLisa

    January 21, 2009 at 11:46 am Reply

    I agree with the person above (although I think you mean decrease). I think there’s little to gain by humiliating someone in public and gaffs like these will hurt FedEx’s reputation in the long run. Email nowadays makes people trigger happy. The author should have considered the long term impact he could have on someone’s career before hitting send. Having managed an agency in the past, I learned the value of approaching someone directly and giving someone the benefit of an explanation before giving them a hard time. Was posting that comment on Twitter a bit dumb? Yes. But it wasn’t something that couldn’t have been fixed via an apology? Does the author of said email ever make mistakes? I hope for his/her sake not. This is just bad PR for FedEx. I personally will now think twice before using them. Go USPS!

  • Steve

    January 26, 2009 at 10:46 am Reply

    Many excellent points are made in the comments to Suzanne’s original post. However without Peter Shankman’s adding the considerable power of his blog to this exchange none of this fallout would have happened. This leads me to question Mr. Shankman’s assertion that this is an example of why we need to be careful with social media. I think it would be more accurate for him to say, “Be careful with social media, because if I get a hold of something and post it on my blog, lots of PR people will know about it.”

    I’m not sure why Mr. Shankman decided to share this story, giving it “legs” from his powerful blog but he did, seemingly to illustrate a lesson about social media. In doing so I believe he illustrated the most dangerous part of social media, perhaps desiring to reinforce his warning by also providing an example of what not to do… posting something before fully thinking through the ramifications. After all we are professional communicators and should be devoting some thought to nearly everything we communicate. It should be part of our DNA.

    I get a feeling similar to the one when I contemplate the philosophy behind capital punishment; we teach society and the perpetrator that killing is wrong, by killing them. I think I could rest easier if we just admitted we execute murders mostly for vengeance.

    In this instance Mr. Shankman is demonstrating how important it is to think through your social media activities vis a vie how these activities might impact clients, your business and ultimately yourself in ways you never imagined. To teach us this he posts a note supposedly from FedEx corp communications, with no attribution, no proof it ever came from FedEx and without even clearly identifying the individual from Ketchum who made the ill thought through though benign post about Memphis’ airport to begin with.

    I believe, Mr. Shankman, your posting of this exchange gave life to something that was well on its way to dying a natural social media marketplace death. Without Mr. Shankman’s post none of us would have know about it, or so very few it would not have mattered. Which means not only did Mr. Shankman post something with no more attribution than any Internet-based urban myth thus committing the social media sin he warns us about, lack of foresight. Most importantly, until he gave the issue a prominence it lacked by posting and giving the exchange new life the danger he warns against did not exist. There can be little doubt Mr. Shankman, as a social media expert and owner of a very popular PR industry blog knew exactly what would happen when he posted this.

    Only by posting the story did Mr. Shankman actually cause the effect he warned against. Without his interference this would not have been the issue Mr. Shankman made it. Instead I think it is Mr. Shankman who might want to review his thinking process behind posts, offer up much more attribution and if planning to “out” something or someone as an example so the rest of us can learn at the feet of this “master” either do more or provide more insight in to his own due diligence.

    Why, the rant? Peter Shankman makes his living, at least in part, claiming to be a social media expert but, when you peel away the layers of thinking representing his actions, in this case, he brought about exactly what he cautions against by committing the exact sin he warns about. Also, as a Mr. Andrews who formerly worked with Ketchum, not FedEx, but Ketchum, I do not appreciate being a suspect in the hearsay Mr. Shankman tosses about so casually and could so easily have prevent me the trouble and potential reputation damage to my firm and personal reputation by properly identifying the players in the melodrama.

  • Holly

    January 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm Reply

    Dear Anonymous 1:15,

    Thanks for verifying the authenticity of the note. I never doubted it. In fact, I have BEEN THERE with agency hot-shots coming in, gettting paid big bucks when in-house people are scrimping.

    I wrote an open letter to the “FedEx letter writer” on my blog. Maybe you can pass it along.


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