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Wi-Fi in EDH and those PR guys

By: Art Garcia
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Peet’s coffee shop in Raley’s in El Dorado Hills finally is Wi-Fi’ed, but be sure to pre-charge your laptop if you plan to use it there, or at least bring your own extension cord. A long one. Or a tall ladder, one with a reach high enough to pick peaches. The only available wall electrical outlet in the entire Peet’s place is above the eating counter – higher than the windows and about a 12-foot reach. The Safeway store on Francisco Drive a recently got its eating parlor Wi-Fi’ed, but similarly does not have available outlets, a situation store manager Brad Glavin tells us will be rectified soon so laptops can be plugged in and recharged. But word from one Raley’s/Peet’s manager: No plans to install additional outlets. And no word is the final word at Raley’s, a privately held mega-billion corporation that does not allow anyone to speak for the company without first going through its small staff of young PR folks. Other companies – Regal Entertainment Group, to name one with a local connection – is another. The rationale is the company should speak with one voice. Fine for the company. On the media side, for those trying to cover the company and inform its readers, the result often is a flat “group-speak” frequently delayed by PR people getting into the act. Since recent Telegraph writings about changes at Raley, Peet’s replacing Java City as the in-store cuppa joe hole and plans for Wi-Fi, the hammer has come down from Raley’s corporate PR at West Sacramento headquarters. Those who answered simple questions were reprimanded and ordered to send all press queries to PR. The long-time definition of PR was “to facilitate.” Not so much so anymore. Anyone smart and hard working enough to manage a major supermarket or a name-brand coffee satellite should be capable of handling a few simple questions within their areas of knowledge and without opening the company vault. If the questions are too specific or demand “inside” answers, PR can step in and make available the appropriate exec-level manager at corporate. The barricade or “gate-keeper” mentality is too easily abused by private companies that don’t have to answer to shareholders. They do, however, sell their products and services to the public and opening windows is always refreshing for all constituents – customers, vendors, suppliers, maybe someday even shareholders. Art Garcia is principal of Media Mark, an El Dorado Hills corporate, private and personal writing service, at 941-8510.