Countering a Class Action Lawsuit Using Both Traditional and Online Media
In early 2009, one of Colorado’s largest private employers became the focus of a class action lawsuit, which played out in both traditional and social media. To respond to negative information being disseminated throughout numerous forms of media, and to manage ongoing concerns among the myriad internal audiences, business community and legislators, GroundFloor Media (GFM) was engaged to handle crisis and issues management for the service provider.
GFM went into action immediately, setting up a 24-hour rapid response team to field media inquiries, monitor traditional news stories, respond to online posts about the lawsuit and provide an aggressive response strategy in real time. GFM’s team of experts, which includes former journalists, worked with the media to offer our client’s side of the story and to counter a negative campaign.
To offset negative comments online and on social media channels and share the client’s perspective, our team utilized the latest online tools, including search-optimized press releases, microsites, Facebook, various online forums, Twitter and YouTube. The agency’s crisis and issues management team also created a rapid-response process to determine in advance what types of online comments to respond to and which to leave unanswered. In regard to traditional media relations, GFM’s rapid response team worked closely with the client to selectively participate in those media opportunities that afforded GFM the opportunity to include the client’s key messages and those that would only further damage their image. Furthermore, GFM developed a comprehensive communications plan that included a stakeholder matrix, key messages, traditional and social media policies and internal communications tools, including multiple forms of communications for internal audiences, industry officials and the business community.
Through the efforts of GFM and our close working relationship with the client’s media team, factual information, responses and proactive outreach from the client are posted strategically and in a timely manner to their social media platforms and other online forums and blogs. The client’s Facebook and Twitter platforms have a more engaged following than their counterparts, which are maintained by the class action law firm. Additionally, proactive and organic online conversations about the client increased by more than 370 percent in just 10 months, the number of Facebook fans continues to grow by approximately 100 per month and the number of YouTube video views increased by more than 600 percent in less than one year.
In terms of traditional media, GFM fostered relationships with reporters covering the issue offering balanced, fact-based responses. Nearly all stories we participated in offered some balance, and many were refocused and killed after we aggressively countered unsubstantiated claims.
GFM Works in Lockstep with VICORP on a Very Sensitive Announcement
When VICORP Restaurants Inc., owners of Village Inn and Bakers Square restaurants, made the decision in 2008 to enter into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they needed a PR partner with the experience, judgment and discretion to help them plan an extremely sensitive announcement and manage the multiple issues that unfolded in the months to follow. They called on GroundFloor Media’s (GFM) crisis communication and reputation management team for assistance to provide strategic counsel, develop talking points and ensure message consistency to internal and external stakeholders, and to help minimalize negative media coverage.
Working in lockstep with the leadership team at VICORP, GFM’s seasoned PR advisors held several closed-door sessions with VICORP executives to understand how many restaurants were closing and in what markets as well as any anticipated employees layoffs. The team then determined the most strategic way to communicate with key internal and external audiences such as employees, franchisees, vendors/suppliers, landlords, consumers and the media.
As the date of the filing approached, the GFM team conducted meetings and conference calls with VICORP’s CEO, management team, legal advisory team and board of directors to learn more about the business objectives and strategic planning surrounding the approaching event.
On the day of the bankruptcy filing, GFM worked onsite at corporate headquarters, attended key staff meetings, participated in internal field calls, and handled all media inquiries and media interviews with the company’s executives.
Through real-time media monitoring, GFM was also able to stay on top of the story and provide key messages and additional facts to remedy potentially negative coverage, and continued to do so for months afterward. Conservatively, GFM estimates that more than 28 million media impressions were generated from print, broadcast and online coverage of the announcement including outlets such as Wall Street Journal, CNN, Chicago Tribune and The Denver Post. VICORP’s leadership team was extremely pleased with how GFM guided them through a very complex situation and the resulting coverage the team was able to achieve.
For its work on this complicated issue, GFM was awarded the Silver Pick Award for crisis communication from the Colorado Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.