A PR lesson from one of America’s most-hated companies

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Monsanto seems to constantly face lawsuits, protests and all-around bad press, yet it’s keeping its stockholders happy. Here’s how.

By Ronn Torossian | Posted: July 24, 2014

According to a recent poll, Monsanto is the third most-hated company in America, behind only BP and Bank of America.

But PR Executive Ronn Torossian says this public perception does not seem to bother Monsanto. The company just keeps churning out wins for shareholders, and tends to stay out of arguments it knows it can’t win.

This has proven to be a successful strategy. Sure, there are millions of people who aggressively hate Monsanto, but the company only engages in tiffs when its bottom line is at risk. To Monsanto, public relations begins with keeping stockholders happy. (Perhaps more politicians should focus on getting results instead of seeking to please everyone.) This is why Monsanto rarely engages with the endless stream of street protestors, like those who recently gathered in New York City for the second annual March Against Monsanto. While the company faces lawsuits against GMO labeling and organic farmers, as well as a series of increasingly draconian accusations, Monsanto simply continues to make money.

Despite almost constant bad press and a seemingly limitless number of individuals and groups trying to draw the company into battle, the chemical company turned “world feeder” rarely engages in public PR battles. Monsanto goes to court when it must, continues to promote its products and celebrates wins with shareholders, partner farmers and employees. It doesn’t even bother to deny even the most far-fetched, headline-grabbing rumors, such as its reported purchase of Blackwater, a military contractor.

So, what’s the lesson here? The lesson for any politician or brand is to pick your battles. In PR, the fights you choose to take on are often the ones that define you.

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the 25 largest privately held PR firms in the United States. A version of this article originally appeared on CommPRO.biz. 

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