Public Relations Implications of Groupon’s Today Show Interview — It Was a Commercial Masquerading as an Interview


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According to the San Francisco Chronicle, before he appeared on the Today Show this morning, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason tweeted, “About to do TODAY show and beta test a new technique for dodging questions.”

All week the media has been fixated on Google’s reported $6 billion offer to buy Groupon and speculation about why the deal fell apart.. Yet when Mason was asked about it, he launched into a long-winded story about being embarrassed about his middle name as a child. Today Show host, Matt Lauer, cut him off when he realized it was a stall tactic designed to run out the interview clock.

Later Lauer asked Mason what he wants to do with his “clout” as a hot shot young CEO in the digital world. Mason’s answer? He said he wanted to get more buildings to have the word “laser” in their name. He then added, “I don’t know, I can’t take that seriously, I feel like clout is something that builds up on your teeth.”

Watching this interview raised two questions public relations questions:

1) Why did the Today Show go forward with the interview when they knew that Mason wasn’t willing to reveal any information related to the Google deal? Surely the Today Show knew in advance that Mason wasn’t going to spill the beans. National news shows always do a pre-interview with guests prior to putting them on a live broadcast. I can only assume that they thought having Mason on the show would be a big ratings draw, regardless of what he did or didn’t say.

2) Was it wise for Mason to agree to do a national TV interview knowing full well that he wasn’t going to talk about the Google deal? If you watched the interview, that question is a no-brainer. The Today Show gave Mason access to a national audience where he was able to explain how Groupon worked and why it is so popular with both consumers and retailers. The net effect was that he got a free Groupon commercial. Good for Mason. Bad for viewers.

Jill Z. McBride
Jill founded JZMcBride & Associates in 1996 to provide marketing, public relations, social media and event planning services and consultation. More than a decade later, the firm serves an impressive roster of consumer, business-to-business and non-profit clients. Jill's contagious energy, personal involvement and extensive industry knowledge infuses every endeavor of the group in order to help her clients grow.


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