Why the BackUp Shotgun Rack Company Deserve All the Bad PR They Can Get

When it comes to bad PR, the BackUp Shotgun Rack manufacturers take the gold medal. While any business has the right to advertise their products how they see fit, to use the pain and suffering of a family in shock is just downright immoral and disgusting. Yet this is exactly what the makers of the BackUp Shotgun Rack have done with their latest press release.

Using the tragic events over the weekend, Backup suggest that Hollywood actress Jennifer Hudson’s family may have still been alive had they possessed BackUp’s Shotgun Rack. I don’t want to use any of the phrases or suggestions used in the release, as the way that the whole angle is pitched is hugely insensitive, immoral and opportunistic.

What I will say is that if this is the depths that companies will sink to in order to make a profit, it’s a sad indictment on the human spirit. From a PR point of view, I’d have to question the PR team that thought this whole pitch would be a good idea to promote a product. From a business point of view, I’d have to question the morals of any company that feels it’s fair game to use such tragic circumstances to sell their goods.

I wonder if John Peters, the president of the BackUp Shotgun Rack company, would be so keen to issue such a press release if the tragic circumstances had befallen his own family? Somehow I doubt it.

If there’s any justice in this world, this pitch will get the negative reaction it deserves and see a sharp drop in custom for the company. Perhaps being hit in the pocket will be the only way to get through to the makers of the BackUp Shotgun Rack that profits should never come before humanity.

  • Update October 29 2008 – After a slew of negative publicity, the press release has been updated to remove the majority of reference to Jennifer Hudson’s family. Due to the various comments here believing there is nothing wrong with the pitch, I can only assume they have read the new version. Therefore, while I wished to leave the details with John Peters’ company, I feel the original version should be reprinted (my thanks to Katja Presnal for the copy).


Chicago, IL (MMD Newswire) October 28, 2008 — Tragedy strikes in a Chicago home leaving 3 people dead and an Oscar winner forced to identify the bodies of her family.

Jennifer Hudson’s mother and brother were gunned down in their home Friday. Could an invaluable device have saved their lives?

It’s called The BackUp and it is a bedside shotgun rack.

Everyday, there are over 8,000 home invasions in America, many resulting in assault, rape, and murder. That’s according to a report by the US Department of Justice.

Whether it is someone known or a stranger entering the home, too many people in this country are paying with their lives during these home invasions. The Hudson family is just one of far too many Americans gunned down in their own home.

What can be done? Law enforcement and the government aren’t solving the problem. So law-abiding citizens are now forced to take their safety, security, and life into their own hands.

Shotguns are often weapons of choice at home because of their deterrent effect on assailants, their close-range stopping power, their affordability and their reduced risk of injury to innocent others from stray shot. But the problem is storing them in a place where you don’t have to turn your back on your assailant. Propped in the corner or under the bed takes valuable time to get to, and could cost you your life.

But now there is a solution. The BackUp makes them easily accessible during a time of need. Racked between the mattresses, The BackUp offers immediate access to the homeowner’s shotgun: in the hands, cocked and ready to defend in 2 seconds.

Home Security Expert Howard Pitts says, “A shotgun provides the most effective protection against home invasion. And The BackUp is a much safer and secure solution than having a shotgun in the corner or under the bed.” 

The BackUp is made in America and the adjustable 2-foot by 2-foot rack assembles in minutes.

For more information, visit the website at http://www.the-backup.com 

Available for immediate interview, contact company president John Peters at
 (612) 605-3613 or email at press-info@the-backup.com.”

  • Update October 30 2008 – John Peters has responded to the widespread criticism through a forum for gun owners. He has also had the company website updated to “respond to world-wide media inquiries” following the furore over his press release. The fact that Peters used a gun owners forum instead of addressing the inquiries directly, and still doesn’t offer an apology on his website to the Hudson family, speaks volumes of his intentions when authorizing the release in the first place.

Copyright © 2008 Press Release PR. If you wish to reprint this article, please list an author credit as “Danny Brown / Press Release PR” and link the credit to http://www.pressreleasepr.com

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32 responses to “Why the BackUp Shotgun Rack Company Deserve All the Bad PR They Can Get

  1. That’s awful. These high profile tragedies will bring out some shameless behaviors.

    But what is also making me sad is that I’m now fighting the urge to google that release and see just how low they stooped. Fortunately, my present workload prevents me from indulging my schadenfreude.

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ll have to read more here…

  2. Hi Julie,

    This is what saddens me the most as well – the fact that there will always be companies that will use the lowest possible shock tactics and personal heartbreak to profit from a situation.

    I sent an email to the president of the company expressing my disgust – yet I can’t help but feel that if he okay’d this release then he won’t be the least bit bothered about a negative email.

    Perhaps if his company starts getting negative press itself he might change his mind – we can but hope.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, appreciate it.

  3. You hit it right on the money. Some companies will stoop to anything to try to make a buck. All this PR company did was make a bad reputation for themselves. I would go so far as to say with all the bad press this has and will generate, they could easily be digging their own grave.
    Good post!

  4. Shameless, absolutely shameless. You have to wonder if the marcom team at BackUp scours the news daily looking for tragedies like this to exploit.

    This post is on page one of Google results for “BackUp Shotgun Rack”…and I’ve just found this post as well: http://nsidenewyork.com/2008/10/sensitive-company-exploits-jennifer-hudsons-tragedy-in-24-hours-flat-tacky-tacky-tacky/

    My sentiments exactly – tacky tacky tacky. Definitely retweeting this…

  5. @ Virginia – Thank you. It would have been nicer if I (or anyone else) didn’t have to write responses like this. Unfortunately, as you say, there will always be companies willing to stoop low enough to profit from such situations.

    @ Kari – You know, that’s what I was thinking – I guess the kind of product that this company sells just begs for a morally questionable research team. As I mentioned in the post, I wonder how they’d feel if it was their families involved? Thanks for the info on the post being on Google – perhaps if it rises high enough, it might sit nicely alongside BackUp’s main website? That would be the best kind of publicity for them.

    Thanks for reading and commenting guys, I appreciate it.

  6. I cannot believe this company would gain any benefit from a press release like this. However, perhaps they are smarter than we think. Is bad publicity better than no publicity at all? Before this post, I would have not even known this kind of product existed (not that I have a need for it!). It’s unfortunate – yet difficult not to – as we continue to feed energy to companies like this who are giving publicists a bad name. This is just not cool. I seriously trust that at some point every action is served with an equal reaction…this company better be prepared to “duck”.

    Good on ya for sending an email to the company president.

  7. Hi Danny,

    I wrote to the president of the company too and told him how despicable I thought it was of him and his company to capitalize on the Hudson family tragedy. What they’ve done here give legitimate people like us in the PR field a bad name and unjustly so. How dare they put something like this out at a time like this! I’m ashamed for them, as apparently they don’t know what proper behavior is.

    Thank you for slapping their wrists. What scum.

    ~ Lizz

  8. @ Jill. You may have a point there. I know that there is the saying “there’s no such thing as bad PR”, yet at some point even the most negative publicity must have an effect. There’s a difference between, say, recalling a faulty product and ensuring customer safety, and then what you have here. Even if the company was looking to attract attention through controversy, there are certain levels you shouldn’t sink to. But, as you say, every action has a reaction – here’s hoping karma is particularly strong the day it catches up with John Peters and his ilk.

    @ Lizz. Good to hear you contacted him as well – we can but hope he replies to offer his views (though I won’t hold my breath). As you say, it’s more ammunition for those that already hold the PR industry in such disdain. With “news” like this, I can’t say I’m surprised. You can but hope they never find themselves in the same situation – I doubt they’d be so quick to try and profit then.

    Thanks for reading and sharing your views, guys, it’s very much appreciated.

  9. I get the feeling that this was written without the help of any professional communications person; most likely by the owner/operator/inventor of this strange gun rack. Simply flabbergasted that somebody would think issuing this would be acceptable in any way, shape or form.

  10. You would certainly think that any sane PR professional would have balked at this pitch long before it got anywhere near a green light – but like any industry, we have our fair share of contemporaries that place money over morals.

    I completely agree with you – it doesn’t matter if it was the owner or an actual PR team, the fact that it took advantage of such a tragic situation is beyond comprehension.

    Thanks for reading and sharing your views.

  11. I thought the saying was “any press is good press”. I am so out of touch with ‘celebrity news’ that I have no clue who the lady in question is.
    That aside, a company that sells what they consider a security device is not wrong is leveraging the press. After reading your post I Google the ‘celebrity’ name in Google News. The news I found was so vague that I would have had a better read of the press release.

    What I understood from the 2 news stories I read is
    – the ‘celebrity’ was on a TV talent show
    – people in her family were killed. I don’t even know the weapon used.
    – There was a man arrested who has been in jail before, he has a brother, his father was in jail.

    Not a lot off the press.

    Now the press release gives not more details, in fact less. The family of someone famous was shot in their own home. They could have defended themselves if they had a shotgun resting on “The BackUp”.

    Since the news is so weak I don’t know if the family was awake or asleep. If they had a shotgun, heard the noise, had the state of mind to get the gun, get the safety off and take a defensive position they may have stood a chance.

    I don’t think that there is anything wrong with the press release.

  12. While there is some weight to any press is good press, there will always be a limit to what is “press” and what is simply poor taste and opportunism.

    As you will see at the start of my post, I agree that companies have a right to advertise their product how they see fit – however, using the pain and suffering of a family still in shock is beyond reproach.

    I’m not sure where about you Googled the story about Jennifer Hudson’s family and the circumstances behind the murders, since the Internet is full of all the details, including the likely suspect and details of deaths.

    Where the press release is garnering so much disdain from the majority of the public relations industry (which you’ll see from the comments here) is that it smacks of nothing more than opportunistic greed and lack of compassion for the family involved. A celebrity’s family gets murdered – that’ll make a great way to sell our product, by tying in to the wave of news about the deaths.

    I feel you are mistaking the press for PR – two different industries. Any PR professional I know is absolutely disgusted with the way John Peters is using this tragic event to try and profit from it (as should any right thinking person). As he says himself in his release, there are 8,000 home invasions a day in the US. If it’s not opportunistic to jump and issue a press release just days after the murders of a famous person’s family, then I don’t know what is.

  13. Bad press is certainly not always good. True, you can leverage negative connotations on occasion to a successful gain, but you have to be very careful. In this case, I was put off by the company.

    Keep in mind that though my views are often liberal, I am a gun advocate in the truest form. I agree that we should protect our family, and as a leader of my family I will do so with force if necessary.

    That being said, as a gun advocate, I will never have anything to do with this company because if this is their view, and this is the way in which they want to promote themselves, then I want no association with them. There are too many other companies that offer the same products. I’m certain I am not the only person that feels this way, so this is one of those times bad press isn’t good.

    And more directly, to talk so specifically about an incident, regardless of their celebrity status, is just dirty. “Oh, your family died? You should have gotten our gun rack!” Are you kidding me? How tasteless and disrespectful is that?!

    It would have been just as easy to promote national statistics as a reason. And a press release? This wouldn’t have constituted a reason for a release were it not for the famous name it was attached to.

    It all stinks, and I feel they will lose for it.

    I’m with Danny. It is opportunism at it’s worst.

    Besides, people already think most gun owners/advocates in a not so bright light. Its stuff like this that perpetuates the negative views on gun advocates.

  14. @Richard McLaughlin, Yep I’m with you. I had no idea who this person was when the story broke. Not even a clue. However, my wife knew. And we have to remember the continued success of reality TV and celebrity whatnots (celebrity blogging is at an all time high, and continues to grow). So, just because I didn’t know who she was, doesn’t mean millions of people don’t either.

    Either way, it is quite clear that someone saw an opportunity to ride the coat tail of a story, and ran with a release.

  15. @ Josh. Thank you for your reasoned comments. Coming from a gun advocate, they add extra weight to the argument and I appreciate you taking the time to share your views here. I think your comments say all that’s needed to be said so I’ll add no more.

  16. I’m not PR guy and wonder if this happens frequently in the PR world? And, if so, is it ever effective? It seems to me to be counter productive with the overwhelming responses here being negative.

  17. Hi Bob,

    Although we’d like to think that people will always have common sense and decency when it comes to running something, there will always be someone who puts money or “attention through infamy” over everything else.

    Like any industry, the PR one has its fair share of bad apples. However, looking at this release in more detail – the format, the grammar, etc – I would hazard a guess and say it wasn’t written by a PR professional. Perhaps an outsourced writer, or someone at the company. Then again, maybe I’m wrong.

    Although there have been cases in the past where there have been some dubious PR campaigns and releases, I can’t recall any being as crass as this one – the majority of PR professionals have morals as well, as you rightly point out from the responses to this post.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, it’s appreciated.

  18. karinmk123

    It is unthinkable that a company would stoop so low as to profit from the misfortunes of others. To instill fear in the public and then evoke a vigilante, Wild West “we gotta take the law into our own hands” solution is shameful.

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  20. Hannah Foshee

    Well, I wrote to the president of the company and thanked him. Maybe the timing was tacky, but at least now I know about this thing. And in this world where anyone seems to be vulnerable to a crazy person breaking in, I want all the help and protection I can get.

  21. Charlie

    I constantly see victims of violence on news programs that appeared to have been defenseless as they were murdered, typically i turn to the wife and say it’s too bad that the woman wasn’t armed before she was gang raped and murdered.
    That commercial is no different.

    The City of Chicago has no answers….

    [QUOTE]Mayor Daley said today he’s “not proud” of the fact that Chicago is the homicide capital of the nation, but he said the slayings of Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew could not have been prevented.

    “We’re not proud of it. But, you don’t hide it. You don’t take the statistics, all the facts and say it didn’t happen. It happens,” Daley said, apparently referring to past attempts to re-classify homicides to hold down the murder rate.

    “We’ll get it down next year. We’ll get it down. We’ll do things differently. But, this [Hudson family] crime could never have been prevented, unfortunately.”[/QUOTE]

    Mayor Daley has pulled out all the stops to make sure that law abiding citizens cannot protect themselves, and all he can say is “we cannot prevent this”.

    That is precisely why I keep a gun next to my bed, I don’t need a slimy politician to manufacture fake tears.

  22. ddkay

    I found the site! Bombard these people. What lowlifes.

    The site is called The Back Up. Website: http://www.the-backup.com
    Email: info@homebackup.com or support@the-backup.com.

    Addresss is

    Home Back-Up Protection LLC.
    113 Barksdale Professional Center
    Newark, Delaware 19711

  23. @ Hannah – “Maybe the timing was tacky”? I think using the slayings in the manner that Peters did with his original press release, and the wording that he used, was more than just “tacky timing”. However, I respect your right to an opinion, hence the publication of your comment, whether I disagree strongly with it or not.

    @ Charlie. While the commercial (which I’m assuming you watched on their website) is no different, what’s being discussed here is the unethical and immoral use of Hudson’s tragedy to profit. That is why the majority of comments and news stories, both here and around the web, are universally condemning Peters’ approach.

    Yes, every family has a right to protect themselves from invaders – however, in this case, it appears that the victim knew the assailant and it was a result of domestic violence. Therefore the danger signals would have been less apparent (if apparent at all). That is where Peters’ original press release got it so wrong.

  24. Aznav

    1. The advertisement was tasteless and tactless to say the least.
    2. I do worry about a state and a city that leaves self defense up to 911 (and we know how quick they respond).
    3. After having two armed break-ins by meth-heads in my upper middle class neighborhood, I have a sad and sober appreciation for protecting my family from drug addicts who have absolutely no feelings or mercy (until they come down the next day and blubber apologies for slaughtering children and parents).

  25. Hi Aznav,

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

    This was the main complaint in the first place (and the reason why so many people in the media and outside it raised the issue so vociferously).

    It’s not that the company is offering a product to (potentially) save lives – it’s the very obvious and tasteless cash-in on someone else’s suffering, and so soon after the event.

    No matter how much the owner of the company may say he intended no harm, the truth of the matter is he could have used numerous other angles to make a news story. The figures used in the release, for example, or the struggles that law enforcement is facing to try and control the problem – which, sadly, looks like it’s failing.

    I’m sorry to hear of your own examples and can only offer my wishes that you and your family continue to be safe.

  26. Aznav

    Press, thank you for your prompt and courteous response. Meaning absolutely no disrespect, and I mean that, my good wishes are a legally sawed off 12 gauge with “00” buckshot and a forty cal Steyr pistol with fifteen rounds sitting next to my bed. (-:

  27. I don’t think he had a PR team – that’s why Peters is listed as the contact. Probably used a crappy freelancer to write the thing, and they cared more about the paycheck (or didn’t know better) than to give counsel.

  28. This seems to be the general consensus of the PR industry, Brad. As much as we have some bad eggs in our industry – just like any other – I still believe that even the least experienced professionals would have advised against this release.

    This is why press releases need to be handled by PR professionals or agencies – not just for distribution, but for proper advice on what’s good and what’s not. Of course, the problem is that because it’s a press release, it’s automatically assumed someone in PR wrote it…

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  30. This is such typical behavior used to advertise a product; any event (and, sorry to say, the more tragic the better, due to the high emotional content) can and will be used to insert the product into the minds of potential buyers. The company’s, through advertising, primary goal is to ‘hook’ the potential buyer (this is why high emotional content works best) by stirring their emotions, which ‘brands’ the product in the mind. Even long after the original event has been forgotten, the brand remains. And as long as any talk about the product (in any forum, whether it’s negative or positive) it serves as further advertising for the product.

    Great post! I arrived here by way of the Blogiversary Carnival at The Lives and Times.

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  32. Dave

    Yeah. That release was pretty bad in its original form. But the BackUp Shotgun Rack? Well, it’s a pretty effing awesome shotgun rack. I mean, the paralels drawn in the original release are abhorrent. But it’s, like…a pretty cool rack. I’m just sayin’, you know?…

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