Friday, May 8, 2015

Pitchman Fails To Extinguish Pearson's PR Fire

If corporations really are people then Pearson must be crying in his coffee right about now.

First, Pearson received a thorough skewering at the hands of John Oliver.

As one might expect, the Oliver bit went viral on social media. On the Last Week Tonight Facebook page, the video has been viewed almost 3.5 million times, and has been shared 56,000 times. To date, it's the most viewed video of the season. The only video that has come remotely close to the same number of views was a segment on government surveillance where Oliver interviewed Edward Snowden. The Snowden segment has been watched a little more than 2.6 million times, and shared 37,000 times.

Congratulations, Pearson!! You're more frightening to the American public than their own government spying on them.

What even I didn't expect however was that the segment went viral in the main stream media. It's been covered by Time, Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal and even EdWeek among a host of other major media outlets.

Then the brilliant Valerie Strauss reached out to Pearson and asked if they wanted to respond to the segment. Seems they thought this would be a good opportunity to do some Crisis Communications.

Pearson's chosen Pitchman is a fellow by the name of Alfred Binford. Pearson sent Alfred out to fight their five alarm PR Fire.

Alfred was described in the post as the "managing director of assessment and direct delivery." Whatever the heck that means.

A quick perusal of his LinkedIn account shows Alfred's only been on the job for 6 months. 
Before releasing his missive, Pearson may have wanted to make sure the job description on his LinkedIn account matched what they were sending to the Washington Post, since LinkedIn says he "Directs North American Sales and GTM operations across major units for global market leader."

His letter sure reads like a sales pitch, and not only is Pearson selling us their test, they're trying to sell us Alfred himself.
The best things that have happened in my life are because of my family and education. A single mom made schooling a top priority for my siblings and me, and I am a proud product of the Bronx Public Schools in New York City. Education has always been “access to opportunity” for me and has helped shape me as a husband, dad, neighbor, employee, and citizen.
My wife and I want our three boys to get great educations that prepare them to earn good-paying jobs and to find fulfillment in life. Just about every parent knows that so much of future success depends on access to the best education possible. 
It sure seems like Pearson's PR flacks are putting Alfred out there as the new, fresh, family friendly face of Pearson. And what a coincidence, I found reference to Alfred on the Facebook page of L. Wolfe Communications.

And of course, Pearson is listed as a client of L. Wolfe Communications.

The article L. Wolfe was hawking goes even further to sell us on the Cult of Alfred.
My family is no different.  In my new role at Pearson, I am busy with the development and distribution of our assessment and virtual learning solutions, and supporting our dedicated team of professionals who work with educators throughout North America. My wife, Jackie, is putting her undergraduate degree and master’s in business administration to work as a part-time substitute teacher in Georgia. When traveling for work, I am so grateful for her shouldering much of the responsibility for managing the busy lives of our three boys—everything from shuttling them to and from basketball practice and taking them to the latest action movie sequel (that I think are way too violent) to helping with their homework projects.
In the midst of our hectic lives, we find one activity that really unites us is family dinner. In the Binford household, we make an effort for the five of us to sit down at the table together every chance we get. Whether at home, or at our favorite local restaurants, this precious time together provides us with a break from our busy lives, and time to talk, laugh (mostly at me) and re-connect.
Note to Pearson (and I know you are reading this):


Parents want an honest conversation about your tests and your role in our kids' schools. We are far too smart for you to prop up someone like Alfred and attempt to have him woo us with flowery language about the importance of family and public education. We already know how important these things are, and that is precisely why we want you out of our schools and off of our kids' social media accounts.

Here is the press release that was sent out when Alfred took his previous job as President and CEO of MYCOM, "a leading provider of innovative engineering services and carrier grade software solutions". Give it a nice long read. (Go ahead and have it taken down Pearson, I have it saved as a pdf.)

Meet the real Alfred "Industry Leader" Binford.
Alfred Binford: Binford has more than 25 years of experience in the communications industry and has worked across a broad range of major markets. Prior to joining MYCOM North America, Binford led the Amdocs Consulting Division to significant growth on a worldwide basis, joining the company in 2010. Before joining Amdocs, he was a senior executive at Vodafone, leading its Global Enterprise business in the Americas. Prior to working at Vodafone, Binford led the Managed Services and Outsourcing businesses for Unisys and, earlier, at EDS. Binford began his career in telecommunications with AT&T where, over the course of eleven years, he held assignments of increasing responsibility across sales, marketing, network operations, and product management. Binford went on to work at Verizon, where he was initially Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Advertising, and later the President and CEO of its long‐distance subsidiary during the startup phase.
Communications Industry... Major Markets... Corporate Marketing... Consulting Division... Business... Sales... Operations... Product Management... Advertising...

Hmmm, see EDUCATION in there anywhere? No? Well, I'll be darned.

Pearson, your attempt to humanize your company is as big of a disaster as your test.

I beg you. On behalf of parents everywhere.



  1. And, we'll just file this under dyin' from not-surprise. Both at his lack of education background and at Pearson's bumbling "sell."

  2. Is that supposed to be a picture of him and his wife sharing a meal? Who is girl? He says he has 3 boys. Uh oh...

    1. I noticed that too! I went back to look at the pic again to double check

    2. That picture looks like a stock photo. Maybe he did modeling to pay hisway through B-school.

  3. You said it! Thanks for the background on this guy. Absolutely astounding this is who they put forward when the Post have them space.

    Here's hoping Pearson meets the same date as InBloom, another corporation driven out of our schools purely by par don't outrage.

    Keep up the great work !!!

  4. Never ceases to amaze me how these 'reformers' think we're so naive as to buy their saccharine-sweet BS. But, he who laughs last...

  5. my takeaway from his statement was how tepid, dull, and lame it was as a response to John Oliver. Thanks for digging all this up!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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