Category Archives: Crisis Communication

Starbucks Shows it Takes Discrimination Seriously

Starbucks_3By now, you have no doubt seen the news that two African-American men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks  Thursday. The men were waiting for a friend when they were asked to leave because they hadn’t yet purchased anything, a request that appears to run counter to the company’s policy. The incident sparked outrage and protest amid accusations that race was at the heart of the incident – had the two men been white, for example, it is almost certain the police would not have been called.

Give Starbucks’ senior management and crisis communications teams credit for neutralizing a delicate situation. The company recognized immediately that it had a highly charged and potentially combustible issue on its hands, and its reaction has been impressive. Among its responses:

  • Starbucks immediately acknowledged the issue on social media and promised to look into the issue.
  • Once Starbucks quickly determined it was in the wrong, CEO Kevin Johnson personally apologized to the men. Johnson also apologized publicly in written and video statements that were posted to the company’s social media platforms.
  • Johnson traveled to Philadelphia and spent several days listening face-to-face to members of the community.
  • Starbucks reassigned the store employee who called the police.
  • The company announced that it will close all 8,000 of its U.S. stores on May 29 to conduct racial-bias education training for nearly 175,000 employees. Additionally, Starbucks shared that the curriculum for that training will be created in collaboration with some of the leading experts on addressing racial bias.

Bottom Line: Starbucks followed the PR crisis playbook closely, and it has been incredibly effective at neutralizing this crisis. It didn’t just react, it leaned toward overreacting. Protesters in Philadelphia (and nationally) have been trying to leverage this situation into something bigger, but Starbucks has been a step ahead of them from the beginning. Additionally, Starbucks has signaled to its socially conscious customer base that it shares their inherent values and is more than willing to be a leader in the fight for principles such as racial equality and respect for all individuals.

Jeremy Story is a Vice President at GroundFloor Media, where he co-leads the firm’s Crisis, Reputation and Issues Management practice. He has more than 20 years of experience helping companies ranging from startups to the Fortune 100 prepare for, manage and recover from crisis issues.

 

Crisis Response: Plan, Monitor and Respond

Traditional Media During a Crisis | GroundFloor Media Crisis Communications ExpertsIt’s 2018. When was the last time your company or organization updated its crisis communication plan?

The GroundFloor Media crisis team has been spending time reviewing crisis communication plans for our clients, and we are finding several areas that need updating. For instance, unlike five years ago, most crisis events these days don’t manifest only in the media, so there is a large social media component. Also, response scenarios likely need to be updated as well as key audiences to take into account the likelihood of a crisis happening on social media.

In general, the key theme of a crisis-response plan must be providing clear, honest communications to various audiences that might be impacted by the bad news. The crisis response approach is simple and straightforward, and based on three points:

  1. Don’t cover up
  2. Fix the problem
  3. Apologize and make sure it does not happen again

Here’s an outline of a crisis communications response plan:

Plan

  • Identify and prepare for potential issues
  • Communicate with the customer-service and legal teams
  • Get the facts and prepare statements

Monitor

Respond

  • Get in front of the story
  • “No comment” is a last-ditch response
  • Accurately convey your side of the story to all audiences

Find out more about elements of a crisis plan in a Denver Business Journal article I wrote. Also, let us know if your business needs help revising its crisis communication plan.

5 Truths About Crisis Communications

There are few things as frightening, potentially damaging and as misunderstood as a crisis. Here are five things about crisis communications that may be counter intuitive but are absolutely true: Read more after the jump…

Takeaways from Hawaii’s False Ballistic Missile Text

Crisis Communications Takeaways from Hawaii’s False Ballistic Missile Text | GroundFloor Media PR AgencyOnly two weeks into 2018, and we have the first crisis communication case study of the year courtesy of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and its false tweet to residents across the island chain warning of a “ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii.”

The January 13 early-morning false alarm had families panicked, saying their goodbyes as they sought shelter from this doomsday scenario. After the threat was discovered to be false, government agencies and the media did all they could to inform people that this was a false alarm. Unfortunately, it took an excruciating 38-minutes to inform the public via text that it was a mistake.

Apparently, since November the agency has been practicing its Cold War-era nuclear warning sirens and online alerts amid growing fears of an attack by North Korea. It was a drop-down issue on a computer program and the employee mistakenly hit the “Missile alert” button instead of “Test missile alert.”

From a crisis communication perspective, here are a couple of takeaways from the incident:
Read more after the jump…

Everything You Need to Know About Media Interviews You Can Learn on “60 Minutes”

Everything You Need to Know About Media Interviews You Can Learn on “60 Minutes” | GroundFloor Media PR AgencyI recently caught an episode of “60 Minutes”  during which they shared the tricks of the trade by some of the most revered journalists ever, most of them now passed. As you may know, “60 Minutes” has been celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, which makes it the longest running broadcast program ever.

When the show first aired in 1967, the formula for a “60 Minutes” segment was simple: keep it timely, keep it relevant and never be dull. That same formula is as relevant today, and should be used by marketing communications professionals in developing stories and pitches for the media. It doesn’t matter if your story idea is for print, TV, radio or online – your media pitch needs to include all of those elements, and it needs to be visual, as even a good radio story can be shared online.

In the segment, they shared their rules for conducting a “60 Minutes” interview, and these are recommendations for how to prepare for them:

Read more after the jump…

Time to Revisit Your Crisis Communication Plan

Media Interview Tips

Crisis communication plan and risk assessment

With 2017 almost in the books, it’s a good time to review and update your crisis, reputation and issues management communication plan or to think about developing a crisis plan if you don’t already have one.

Each year, GroundFloor Media works with clients to review their plans and ensure they are still accurate in terms of team members, assessment of current risks, messaging, scenarios and responses. For those thinking about putting together a plan, here is an overview of what should be in a plan.

  • Develop a “risk assessment”

    • Identify and prioritize areas of vulnerability
    • Research public perception, emerging issues and business practices
    • Conduct social media research and monitoring
  • Develop a crisis communication and issues management plan, including policies and procedures, audiences, potential scenarios and responses

  • Develop key messages

  • Develop third-party alliances

  • Testing and refinement

  • Conduct crisis communication/messaging training

  • Provide media training for key personnel

  • Evolution, revisions and lessons learned

No company wants to deal with a crisis, but having a tested plan in place will make the experience – and your results – infinitely better. For more information on GroundFloor Media’s crisis experience, please visit our website.

The Biggest PR Disasters of 2017 – Part 2

Last week, I shared Part 1 of my Biggest PR Disasters of the Year, which included United Airlines, the American Red Cross, Pepsi, Facebook, Papa John’s and former Denver Post sports reporter Terry Frei. Here is Part 2 of the look back at 2017’s biggest PR debacles.

Oscars_Logo-1002x326THE OSCARS AND PwC … If you are like me, you went to bed on the night of Feb. 26 thinking that La La Land had won the Oscar for Best Picture. It wasn’t until the next morning that I learned Moonlight had actually won. So what went wrong? In short, star-struck auditors at PwC. The duo assigned to the Oscars was more focused on celebrity selfies than their jobs, and they blew it by giving the wrong envelope to presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. In an instant, an all-time Oscars moment was created and an 80-year relationship between PwC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was frayed.

MenMEN … Between Silicon Valley and Hollywood, it has been a year when many powerful men have been outed as lecherous sleazebags. In June, The New York Times wrote a definitive piece on sexual harassment by employees at Silicon Valley venture capital firms, and it seemed like we had hit a tipping point. Women throughout the technology industry quickly shared their stories of harassment, and some of the worst offenders found themselves fired. Not to be outdone, the entertainment industry showed that when it comes to harassment, Silicon Valley is a bunch of amateurs. From Harvey Weinstein to Louis C.K. to Kevin Spacey, the #MeToo campaign helped Hollywood prove it really can be the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

kathy-griffin-featureKATHY GRIFFIN … Infamous for her place on Hollywood’s D List, comedian Kathy Griffin has always pushed the boundaries of good taste. But in May, she accomplished what few others have been able to do – she made Donald Trump a sympathetic figure. Her photo shoot that featured a bloody, severed Donald Trump head was evocative of ISIS beheadings and immediately made her a pariah among both the political left and right. When she sensed the magnitude of the backlash, she quickly apologized, but it was too late. She lost her annual CNN New Year’s Eve gig with Anderson Cooper, and her planned comedy tour was cancelled.

USAGymnasticsUSA GYMNASTICS … Every four years, the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team wows America with its gold-medal-winning Olympic performances. What goes on between Olympics, however, is far more sinister. Team doctor Larry Nassar was accused by 125 female athletes who said he abused them them during medical appointments. While nearly none of the original accusers was a household name, superstar Olympian Aly Raisman announced earlier this month that she was also a victim. The governing body named a new CEO this month, as it tries to reform a culture that was focused more on medals than the safety of its athletes.

NikonLogoNIKON … Nikon is known the world over for its professional camera equipment, and in 2017, the company launched its latest innovation – the $3,200 D850 DSLR. To create awareness of the launch, the company hand picked 32 photographers to get an advance look at the camera and share their experiences on the company’s website. Despite picking photographers from Asia to Africa, all the photographers had one thing in common: they were men. As The New York Times reported, “It was a baffling oversight to many female photographers, who have no shortage of challenges finding opportunities in a notoriously male-dominated industry.”

Cheerios-logoCHEERIOS … It’s no secret that there is an issue with the world’s bee population. Their numbers are declining, and scientists aren’t exactly sure why. As a breakfast cereal with a cute bee mascot, Cheerios seems like a logical product to help bring attention to this issue, and it did just that by distributing 1.5 billion wildflower seeds to help with bee habitat restoration. Unfortunately, the promotion quickly caused controversy when it was learned that “the packets Cheerios sent out included seeds for plants deemed invasive in some states and outright banned in others.” Cheerios pushed back on the accusations, but the damage was already done.

Read the entire series of 2017’s biggest PR disasters:

Part 1: Includes United Airlines, Facebook and Papa John’s Pizza
Part 2: Includes Kathy Griffin, the Oscars and Men
Part 3: Includes Uber, Equifax and Nivea

What Communicators Can Learn from the White House Press Secretary

What Communicators Can Learn from the White House Press Secretary | GroundFloor Media PR AgencyAs communicators, it’s hard not to have an admiration for one of the toughest PR jobs on earth: The White House Press Secretary. Watching the current White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, bob and weave on a daily basis, got me thinking about this challenging role and one of the most famous press secretaries, C.J. Cregg of the West Wing (I know it was a TV show, but who didn’t love watching her in action?).

It has to be one of the toughest, most stressful communications jobs as every day is a crisis of some sort. According to the International Business Times, the average White House spokesperson stays in the job for two and a half years. President Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, made infamous on Saturday Night Live, lasted just 182 days.

Read more after the jump…

Social Media Complainers Aren’t Just After a Freebie

Social Media Complainers | CenterTable Digital Agency

Photo credit: geralt

In the early days of social media, many brands had a real concern about consumers using these new platforms to seek out freebies.

Whether it was a customer complaining about a restaurant experience or claiming that a packaged good didn’t live up to expectations, brands were often concerned about publicly offering replacements or coupons in fear of opening the flood gates to greedy onlookers.

Why Customers Complain on Social

We can now report that, in our many years of experience, customers complaining on social are rarely looking for a handout. And, recent research from Sprout Social backs that claim. Most often, complaining customers are simply looking to raise awareness among fellow consumers (70%) or gain an apology or solution (55%) from the brand they’re targeting. Less than half the time are they looking for a refund (38%) or seeking a discount (19%). Read more after the jump…

Air Force General Anti-Racism Response Video Goes Viral

Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria’s address last week to Air Force Academy students and staff in response racial attacks that appeared on message boards at the school set the bar for effective crisis response. It’s no surprise that the video has gone viral.

His five-minute speech, during which he encouraged those in attendance to film and share on social media, is worth watching in full.

PR Daily broke down his address, highlighting several key points that made it so effective:

  • Message was unambiguous
  • Strong closing
  • Built on the group’s collective power
  • Demand for action
  • Avoided politics
  • Strong delivery emphasized audience connection

Adding to these, and having worked with clients on crisis responses, one aspect that gave the address such impact was its authenticity. Surely everyone who heard it live, watched it on YouTube or on one of the many media sites that picked it up, walked away with no doubts that Silveria set the right tone for condemning the actions, and for moving forward as the preeminent educational institution that represents the Air Force and the country.