The Sunday NY Times Magazine had a great article that criticized Websites of distressed brands for being out of step and striking the wrong tone.
It included some praise for PR. Remarking about an insincere apology on stroller manufacturer Maclaren's site, the article said that "only someone way too emotionally involved with Maclaren's reputation – and not a corporate PR firm – could have made such a hash of damage control." (If you think that this is a stretch and it is faint praise – well, we will take the meager crumbs of compliments wherever and whenever we can find them).
Other sites were cited for mixing happy talk and images with info about deadly serious product recalls, and for inviting visitors to subscribe to exciting updates. E.g. in describing a banner on Toyota's site, the article said:
“Recall Information: Get the Latest Updates Here.”
This “latest updates” phrasing, set against an image of a family
cavorting on a beach near a minivan, makes the recall sound exciting
and newsy. Shame is not in evidence.
The article reports that John Edwards uses his Website to:
…. hold on to dashed dreams. “He wants to build an America that lives up to its promise,” insists JohnEdwards.com.
Does he? The whole spread — the Edwards campaign site, seemingly
untouched since 2008 — appears delusional… The site is a shrine to a lost fantasy.
It concludes with some great advice:
There’s a lesson in this tour. Web sites should update or shut down;
the ones that hang around collecting cobwebs have an almost
frightening, hollow-eyed quality. If your plans change, you should note
the revision publicly, and manifest confidence online. If you hit a
losing streak or your plans crumble, as did the plans announced on JohnEdwards.com, you should close up Web shop as soon as possible — and maybe keep to yourself for a while.