Amazon's year-long publicity blitz for HQ2 has backfired


To be fair, HQ2’s publicity failure is not entirely Amazon’s fault. New York’s highly political environment and its failure to include all stakeholders into the bidding process added to the growing opposition.

Still, the fallout shows how Amazon missed out on what could have been a great opportunity to generate goodwill and positive corporate sentiment across the country, according to Pallavi Kumar, a communications professor at American University.

For example, Kumar said, Amazon could have chosen a struggling city like Detroit, instead of economically thriving regions like New York and Northern Virginia. That would have completely changed the narrative, creating stories of how a tech giant could have “profound, positive effects” on a city looking to bounce back, she said.

“Think of how many more great stories would have been generated for years to come,” Kumar said.

The public backlash on HQ2 was made worse by Amazon’s lack of transparency on why exactly it ran a public bidding process, said Toni D’Angelo, a public relations professor at Syracuse University. If it had clearly explained why it’s pursuing a new location in such an unusual manner, and what the motivations were, while more fully engaging local representatives to mitigate concerns, Amazon may have seen a different outcome, he said.

“Staging an auction on such a grand scale amplifies pressure on Amazon to both deliver the goods and minimize the ‘bads.'” D’Angelo said. “It’s now in an unexpected defensive posture that’s been accentuated by the hoopla it created.”

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