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China The Media Apple

Foxconn Hires Top Spinners To Defend Its Image 162

Posted by timothy
from the thank-you-for-smoking dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Foxconn is insisting that it has done no wrong. But it has hired Burson-Marsteller to deal with the press failout from recent child labour allegations. Burson-Masteller is a PR heavy hitter called in when outfits have big image problems. It handled Tylenol poisonings, and, according to Corporate Watch, the Bhopal disaster, and Three Mile Island. It represented the private military group Blackwater after Baghdad allegations. Its clients have included the Argentinian military junta led by General Jorge Videla and Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu and Saudi Arabia after it was pointed out that most of the September 11 attackers were from that country."
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Foxconn Hires Top Spinners To Defend Its Image

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  • by sethstorm (512897) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @07:04AM (#39157313) Homepage

    Foxconn has done plenty of wrong - consulting with this(or any) PR agency only affirms it. There's only one option that should be on the table - confess the truth no matter how bad it is, correct the wrongdoings of slave labor and mistreatment of their workers, and then make sure it never happens again.

    It's kind of hard to justify your actions when people catch you doing not-so-good-stuff (to say it lightly) and then catch your lies as well. That, and it's even harder to do it when people keep on catching you do it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Foxconn doesn't care about justifying their actions, or about being honest. Far from it, that's the entire point of hiring major league PR firms. There will be confessing of any truths, but there will be plenty of shiny happy propaganda spewed around the globe.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        You can replace the name "FoxConn" with any corporations name and still be as correct.

        Hell you can put in any Politicians name and still use that statement.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        You do not fully understand PR=B$ firms. Not only will there be shiny happy propaganda, there will be attacks and disparagement of anyone that challenges the shiny happy, people will be paid to shut up and people will be force to shut up under legal threats, already paid off media sources will carry the message and of course as a result of the internet, hundreds of marketdroids trolls with thousands of forum accounts will go to work, either promoting their message or when they lose flooding out forums that

    • by coder111 (912060) <coder@nOSpam.rrmail.com> on Saturday February 25, 2012 @07:45AM (#39157457)
      If you screwed your employees or raped the environment or society and walked away with millions or billions in profits, in what way have you failed?

      Remember, corporations have no morals. They cannot have morals by definition. Their only goal and measure of success is profit. If did some bad things and hired a PR company afterwards and still profits are up, you haven't failed.

      • by sethstorm (512897)

        They lied, got caught lying, got caught trying to use a shill organization like the "Fair Labor Association", and stand to lose money trying to defend their own lies. Their own country's propaganda department is so incompetent that they could not contain it or explain it. Those billions are going to be spent on figuring out how to not fail any worse.

        Unfortunately for you, I (along with many other reasonable people) don't have the idea that profitability should come at the cost of morality.

      • by frieko (855745)
        I'm getting tired of hearing that load on here everytime some company does somethign disgusting.

        corporation 1. an association of individuals, created by law or under authority of law, having a continuous existence independent of the existences of its members, and powers and liabilities distinct from those of its members.

        Where does it say they can't have morals? A corporation has to obey its shareholders- mostly people who are just trying to save money for retirement through mutual funds and would probabl
        • by retchdog (1319261)

          if the only obligation of these entities is toward the morals of the shareholders, and they ignore or actively shirk this obligation, isn't that pretty much the definition of amorality?

    • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @08:38AM (#39157603) Homepage

      ...and then close your business. You forgot that part.

      Labor markets are a tricky thing. The only way to do away with such practices is to make them all stop unilaterally. Someone here on slashdot related a story about a town in the south where slavery was made illegal while all surrounding areas still permitted it. It wasn't long before competition was able to have its affect on the town and they had to permit slavery after all. Those WalMart prices are simply too irresistible.

      But this is the norm all across the planet. Occupy protesters on iPhones and on and on. Even the protesters support this kind of human exploitation. Business, left unchecked, can and will ruin humanity. Regulations on the markets and exchanges have proven to be necessary for decades and even centuries. Regulations on utilities have shown to be necessary. Any time or place where there is an unlimited demand (power, fuel, food, air, water, etc) or an artificial control on an unlimited or otherwise natural supply (copyright, creativity, knowledge, information, seeds, etc) you will find business [run and directed by humans] trying to leverage those things to their most potential even and including at the cost of human lives... 10s, 100s, 1000s, 1000000s of lives... they don't care. Apple doesn't care. Consumers don't care. The few who care have to make the difference and it has to be someone's job to care so that others don't have to. That's what government is supposed to be there for.

      Granted, that's not the way things are.

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        the problem is 'free' trade, free trade only works between equals and near equals, free trade between US, Canada, Germany, UK, etc. would be fine, including developing countries just turns into exploitation
        • letting your currency float helps too. China forces a low exchange which helps keep the exports up. It abuses their own citizens but I don't think that factors in to their pinky and the brain world domination plan.

        • by tqk (413719)

          the problem is 'free' trade, free trade only works between equals and near equals, free trade between US, Canada, Germany, UK, etc. would be fine, including developing countries just turns into exploitation

          That's a silly thing to say. Exploitation knows no bounds. Ask Occupy Wall St. or Nelson Mandela or Kim Jung Un (or whatever the !@#$ his name is). All exploitation takes is one greedy, lazy jerk to convince a few other greedy, lazy jerks to band together to rob everybody else. The Europeans raised it to a fine art during the colonial period, and the US' colonialists taught them how fragile their scheme was when the "everybody else" part stands up together to say no.

          If Chinese peasants want to work for

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Occupy protesters on iPhones and on and on. Even the protesters support this kind of human exploitation.

        You don't seem to understand what Occupy is about. They are not saying get rid of capitalism or make everything super expensive so that wages in China can go up. They are merely saying that unchecked gambling by financial institutions and then walking away with bailouts, bonuses for failure and leaving the 99% of people who were not involved to pay for it has to stop. That has nothing to do with what this thread is about.

        They don't want to give up iPhones and Starbucks, they want financial markets to stop h

    • by DaveGod (703167) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @08:43AM (#39157613)

      Foxconn has done plenty of wrong - consulting with this(or any) PR agency only affirms it.

      No it doesn't. All it indicates is that Foxconn perceives advantages from improving it's public relations. Anything else you wish to take from it is merely reaching from your personal subjectivity and preconceptions.

      Maybe Foxconn has done wrong and seeks to spin the story to it's advantage. Maybe.

      Or maybe it's done wrong and seeks to do right - PR firms don't only offer consulting for public communications, they can help guide genuine change within a company. Often "bad guy" companies have such a corporate culture because the board have a lack of expertise and influence on how and why to be a "good guy" company, a PR firm can fill in that gap. Any year one, nay, week one marketing student

      Or, maybe the media have got it wrong and Foxconn seek to get the truth out there. Perhaps Foxconn are good guys and these reports are all lies. Well OK, probably not, but it's entirely plausable Foxconn's failings and their lack of response have at least been exaggerated in the media. When was the last time you read an article or watched a news report on something you have a very high level of knowledge about, and shook your head about how completely they'd got it wrong? Maybe I should re-phrase that: can you recall the last time they got it right?

      I'm not trying to argue any of the above is the case, merely outline a few of the possibilities. Slashdot generally has a healthy respect for science on issues that clearly fit within the realm of science, but it would be easy to read the submissions and comments and conclude it's readership is totally incapable of applying any of it's lessons for any other topic.

      • My take is company that does not have $SPECIALIZED_SKILLS hires outside company that is good at $SPECIALIZED_SKILLS. News at 11.
    • mistreatment of workers is the entire purpose of outsourcing manufacturing to China in the first place. if you make Foxconn stop abusing people, you essentially put it out of business, because now the playing field is leveled so that other countries that are not brutal dictatorships will have a chance to enter manufacturing again.

      the destruction of unions and the lowering of wages and the destruction of environmmental regulations was the very purposes of existence of companies like Foxconn, and their Americ

    • Easy to say, when _their_ spin doctors went at it first.

      Sometimes silence is interpreted as guilt, for obvious, or, and that is a f***ing big OR unfounded reasons.

    • by jo42 (227475)

      There's only one option that should be on the table - confess the truth no matter how bad it is, correct the wrongdoings of slave labor and mistreatment of their workers, and then make sure it never happens again.

      And destroy the Chinese economy? You think Foxconn is the only Chinese manufacturer where this goes on? The whole Chinese economy is based on slave-level labor. Why do think the American manufacturing industry has been sodomized over with a stiff wire brush in the last few decades?

    • If you hire a lawyer, you've failed, if you go to a doctor, you've failed? Read NYT David Pogue's Post http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/23/what-cameras-inside-foxconn-found/?smid=tw-nytimes&seid=auto#comments [nytimes.com]
    • by microbox (704317)

      Foxconn has done plenty of wrong - consulting with this(or any) PR agency only affirms it.

      Unfortunately, PR firms do a great job at muddying the waters -- even when they are completely transparent shills. The may well be astroturf shills on this very webpage, ready to "educate" us.

    • by plopez (54068)

      The problem is the perception, not the working conditions. You have manage perceptions to maintain the value of your brand. Actually changing how you do business requires effort so the best thing to do is hire professional liars to change your image.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @07:09AM (#39157333)

    And does this PR agency charge 35 cents per hour and work 12 hour shifts 6 days a week?

  • I can get the level of bias and innuendo in that editorial easily enough from the MSM with the same thin layer of 'news story'.

    Why is it so many alleged news sources feel the need to try and bend their readers to their view? The MSM is dying from this disease as there are now better and more plentiful sources.

    • by tqk (413719)

      Why is it so many alleged news sources feel the need to try and bend their readers to their view?

      Perhaps it wasn't intended as a message to their readers, but was instead intended to blackmail Apple/Foxconn into spending more on advertising. Follow the money.

  • What's a "Press Failout"? Is that a deliberate play on "fallout" or an actual fail in itself?

  • and umm. did they run any successful campaigns?

    how did their sales pitch to foxconn go..
    foxconn: so.. what previous employers you've had?
    b-m: well, you remember blackwater? they're thought of as a pretty cool company now, right? and good old Ceaucescu? and of course everyone knows how forward thinking and free country Saudi Arabia is right??

    (FLA is a shill organization. the article says that foxconn was tipped about about the inspections? well doh, there were fucking headlines on papers about how there wa

    • Success is a very relative word here. In cases like this, success can be a company having the PR of Blackwater-errr.... Xe. errr.... Acadami, where failure can be a mob of tens of thousands with torches and sticks and rocks.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        well.. they handled blackwater ok I suppose as I have NFI what they're up to today and under what name, the case for the genius of carpathians not so well.

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @07:18AM (#39157379) Homepage

    Anyway, Foxconn is telling us that it has strict recruitment regulations to ensure full compliance with worker age regulations and laws.

    That presumes that the records are accurate and that nobody falsifies them - including the Chinese government.

    "We have sufficient access to workers who are of legal age and there is no incentive for us to break our own strict policies and Chinese law on the matter. Let us be very clear, Foxconn does not employ, in any capacity, any underage workers," the spokesperson said.

    When you have to make a lot of product in a short amount of time, there is huge incentive to break your policies. Never mind that Chinese law only gets enforced if you're from the wrong family or alignment of families.

    "It is a clear sign that SACOM is not interested in seeing actions that bring real benefit to workers in China. As such, they do a disservice to those companies who do provide competitive wages and benefits," Foxconn said.

    SACOM is interested in bringing benefit to workers in China, just that they would rather see workers have some freedom - especially if it means openly speaking out against the multinationals and government officials that only want a pliant workforce.

    In a sideways swipe to SACOM, Foxconn is working with "credible outside organisations such as the Fair Labor Association" to "ensure that our over a million employees in China have a safe and positive working environment and compensation and benefits that are competitive to everyone else."

    Foxconn's definition of credible is "as long as they say things we like".

    Foxconn top brass Terry Gou has been quoted as saying: "Hungry people have especially clear minds".

    If his definition means willing to comply just for the meager rations given, even if one sees unspeakable acts.

    Terry Gou also allegedly said [techeye.net], speaking at a zoo in Taipei: "I have a headache how to manage one million animals."

    He sure has a very low opinion of the people that work for Foxconn if that's so good of a place.

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      Foxconn as a business has no motivation to use child workers. They have far more adult applicants than they can put to work and the pay is the same. If some kids got in there it was probably a corrupt HR worker trying to get a gig for his nephews or something - and they've improved the screening process, requiring good government ID. That sort of thing happens. Heck, the US military recruited and sent off to war a good many teens during WWII and prior. Every now and then a young person still gets in -
      • by sethstorm (512897)

        If some kids got in there it was probably a corrupt HR worker trying to get a gig for his nephews or something - and they've improved the screening process, requiring good government ID

        Which, given China, is something that can easily be faked.

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @07:22AM (#39157391) Homepage

    There can't be many PR companies which have had clients like the Argentinian military junta led by General Jorge Videla who helped 35,000 people to disappear. Burson-Marsteller looked after the image of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu and Saudi Arabia after it was pointed out that most of the September 11 attackers were from that country.

    With clients like these, Burson Marsteller might as well be a propaganda firm given how many despotic countries outside the US are on the list.

    • Countries that treat their citizens with respect and dignity generally don't need help improving their image.
    • by jpapon (1877296) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @08:09AM (#39157531) Journal
      I didn't know there was a difference between a PR firm and a "propaganda" firm.
      • I didn't know there was a difference between a PR firm and a "propaganda" firm.

        Propaganda firms are usually government employees. And PR firm employees are usually better dressed.

        But it is essentially the same old shit they shovel.

  • by pertinax18 (569045) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @08:56AM (#39157647) Homepage
    Why do you need an expensive PR firm when you already have David Pogue working for you?
  • by kthreadd (1558445) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @09:06AM (#39157679)

    It's not about them.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @09:42AM (#39157811)

    I'll get modded flamebait for this but it's true. Everyone I know does not give a single f-ck about upgrading for the sake of having the newest, latest, greatest whatever gadget is coming out. Apples 'record sales' are largely symptomatic of a several much bigger problems. Greed, envy, waste, and more. 37 million iphones? with sales up 128% from last year. 15.4 million ipads - also doubled from last year. Apple isnt the only offender but they are tge biggest.

    * http://allthingsd.com/20120124/apples-record-iphone-and-ipad-sales-beat-expectations/ [allthingsd.com]

  • by retroworks (652802) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @10:10AM (#39157959) Homepage Journal

    How is this an eyebrow raising story? Is Tylenol somehow like Bohpol? Tylenol was a corporation which was a victim of an attack on its brand and business practice, and hired a PR firm and made changes to bottle caps which are taught as the textbook business response to a press emergency. Having been to Foxconn / Han Hai and worked with people from there, and having read the hysterical descriptions of their operations in the USA press, I think they deserve credit for A) having already identified a scaleability problem (plan to put in robot labor), B) having raised the salaries significantly within weeks of the bad press, and now C) hiring a professional western PR firm to help them in a dilemma in western PR.

    I'm not excusing everything that has happened in the course of Han Hoi Precision's growth curve, but they seem to be handling the industrial revolution reform at a pace in years rather than decades. Sure some of it is reaction to criticism, but rapid response is not the same as "cover up"! Some commenters seem to have no default setting between fanboy/troll, and any story with Foxconn in a headline becomes 5-Mod v. 0-Mod debate, more like American politics than indication that anyone is in any way concerned about China's development, pollution, or unemployment balance.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @10:51AM (#39158167)

      Most here only seem to see the sensationalism of certain aspects and ignore details that make the story less interesting.

      Workers sometimes work 30 hours straight during a rush period for which they were paid for every hour. I've worked 36 hour shifts myself during plant startup/shutdown but since I was salaried I didn't get any extra pay.
      These workers live in company dormitories because the surrounding areas have no housing for them. If the company didn't built dorms, they could not attract any workers.
      Workers don't have hot running water in their dorms much like the surrounding area.
      Workers don't even know their roommates which is not unlike large, densely populated cities where neighbors don't know each other especially if they don't share the same work shift.
      Workers work for little pay according to US wages. For China their wages are better than normal.
      There have been 20 suicides in the last two years for a work population of nearly 1 million which is well below the national average.

      I don't pretend that work conditions are the best in the world. It's a minimum wage factory job and some people don't like those jobs whether they are in China or on an assembly line in the US. For the most part, Foxconn doesn't really care about their workers any more than a company should. They don't go out of their way to harm workers which some people seem to think.

      • A voluntary non-slave workforce with choices of places to work is the cure for most workplace ills. For better or worse, Foxconn is a place that people can quit from, and many people do, it's high turnover. For now, Foxconn is better than the textile mills in the area, so it's not a management emergency yet. But they appear to be responding to these complaints, and responding to them professionally to constructive criticism. http://bit.ly/x5VT83 [bit.ly] Personally I like the melting-pot story... when Cantonese
    • This kind of nonsense is a part of a very pervasive ideology within much of the left that is hysterically conspiratorial in its view of "the corporations" (which itself is just a buzzword for all business except mom-and-pops) and where the government needs to step in and micromanage every aspect of economic life. Many believe it; many also don't and use this as propaganda as they're fully aware of what you mentioned above. Their concern isn't truth, betterment of the workers, or anything like that--it's s

  • ... and see if we can find any influence yet.

  • by MemoryDragon (544441) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @11:52AM (#39158457)

    If you hire a guy like this one, then you have more than a little bit of shit up your sleeves.

  • And all the companies that job their manufacturing to this company. Why Apple is singled out is completely beyond reason.

  • "By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising...kill yourself. Thank you. Just planting seeds, planting seeds is all I'm doing. No joke here, really. Seriously, kill yourself, you have no rationalisation for what you do, you are Satan's little helpers. Kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself now. Now, back to the show. Seriously, I know the marketing people: 'There's gonna be a joke comin' up.' There's no fuckin' joke. Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself...borrow a pistol from an NRA buddy, do

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky