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Did HMV’s technical glitch have the PR X-Factor?

As far as businesses with little to lose when it comes to their reputations go, HMV has got to come pretty close to top of the list. Let's face it, the once giant of the British high street have had a tough couple of yeears. And historically that has been in spite of rather than because of their PR – masterminded by the brilliant Gennaro Castaldo.

However, watching the HMV fiasco unfold over the last week, I was prompted to speculate over whether the whole “early release of Amelia Lily’s winning single” was really as much of a technical hitch as it has been claimed.

Now this is all purely speculation of course. There are no accusations or allegations of foul play. After all, here’s Amelia Lily saying how unfortunate it all was and how upset she was by HMV prompting all the speculation.

But just think about it.

1. The most-talked about single release of the year.

2. A media that loves the idea that X Factor might be a fix.

3. An attractive, tabloid-friendly finalist with a come-back story to tell.

4. A rabid social media environment generating thousands of X Factor related messages – almost regardless of whether there is news or substance to the topic being discussed.

Now if you were a retailer up against iTunes and Amazon for single sales, wouldn’t that melting pot be one that was just too tempting to stir up a little bit?

The results (at least from a brand awareness perspective – let’s ignore the “Percentage Positive” chart on this particular evaluation, shall we?) have been off the scale: everyone has been talking about it. As a result, when it comes to pre-orders and then sales of the new single (which will have started in earnest by the time you read this), I would wager that a LOT more people might think of going to HMV for their purchase – whether download, or CD bought online in store.

It’d be a brave brand – or one with little to lose and everything to gain – that would let the idea of leaking this sort of “technical error” get out of the brainstorm room. But with HMV PR helmed by a past-master of spin and in a business with an uphill struggle to generate sales, I wouldn’t put a spot of risk-taking past them, would you?

James Gordon-MacIntosh is a managing partner at Hope&Glory PR and from time-to-time pens Spinning Around, a blog that he describes as “thinking out loud”

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