Category Archives: Crisis Communication

London Could Boot Uber Based on Reputation Issues

UBER_(1)We all know that a poor reputation is harmful to a business’ bottom line, but rarely is that connection so clear as in the case of Uber. We learned this weekend that the car service could be out business in London as soon as the end of this month, and the reason cited by regulators is “a lack of corporate responsibility.”

As The Wall Street Journal reported:

London’s top transport authority stripped Uber Technologies Inc. of its private-car hire license in the city, threatening to shut the company out of one of its biggest markets.

The surprise decision presents another obstacle for the company as it tries to pare heavy losses and right itself amid a series of scandals, probes and board infighting. The authority, Transport for London, cited “a lack of corporate responsibility” that it said could undermine public safety and security, and said it won’t issue Uber a new license when its current one expires Sept. 30.

What do regulators mean by a lack of corporate responsibility? In short, a bad reputation. You can point to a number of issues over the past two years ranging from the FBI investigating its nefarious “Project Greyball” to allegations of false advertising to sexual harassment claims, and the list goes on and on.

London is an important market for Uber, and it represents approximately 3.25 million users – nearly a third of its active user base in Europe. The annual gross revenue hit to Uber could total $400 million, about 5 percent of the company’s overall gross revenue.

Often, trying to calculate the precise damage a crisis does to a brand’s reputation is extraordinarily difficult. With Uber, we may be able to start with $400 million. The additional damage that the company has suffered by those jumping on the #DeleteUber bandwagon continues to be difficult to quantify, but it may be many times the damage that London could cause it.

When A Private Crisis Strategy Session Becomes Front Page News

Crisis Communications Lessons: When A Private Crisis Strategy Session Becomes Front Page News | GroundFloor Media PR Agency | Denver, COAs part of crisis communications training with our clients, we emphasize that unless you are in a closed-door office or in a private location, anything you say in public can be used against you. This lesson, once again, resonated loud and clear in a Sunday New York Times scoop.

Last week, Denver attorney Ty Cobb who now works for the White House to coordinate its response into investigations into Russia’s connection with President Trump, was having a strategy lunch with the president’s lead outside attorney on the Russia investigations, John Dowd.

Little did they know, a Times reporter was also having lunch, at the next table.

Read more after the jump…

Media Questions During A Crisis

newsIt’s difficult to prepare for a crisis, particularly one that involves media coverage.

To help prepare, here is a list of the most commonly asked questions by the media to serve as a general guide.

Big? picture, journalists are likely to ask six primary questions in a crisis: who, what, where, when, why, and how. They will relate to five broad topics:

  1. What happened?
  2. What caused it to happen?
  3. What does it mean?
  4. Who is to blame?
  5. What are you doing to ensure it does not happen again?

Of course, only some will apply but this comprehensive list of questions is a good start to prepare you and your team for the next crisis:

77 Questions Commonly Asked by Journalists During a Crisis

Read more after the jump…

The Art of an Apology Tested in the Past Week

sorry_desuIt’s been a week of very public apologies: Pepsi, United Airlines and White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

Without getting into the merits of each crisis communication instance, since we have already worn a path around the water cooler, in general there are some best practices to make an effective apology that will at least take a bit of the sting out of a negative situation.

Immediacy: When something goes wrong and your reputation is at stake, the sooner you apologize, the better. This can be difficult, without knowing all the facts and when dealing with legal issues. But, an immediate apology that expresses remorse, admits responsibility, makes amends and promises that it won’t happen again should still feel real without having completed a full investigation.

Use Social Media: Either through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube — apologize on a platform that your target audiences are following. Read more after the jump…

GroundFloor Media Expert Quoted on WikiLeaks CIA Crisis

CIA_Spying_Through_TVs_PR_Brand_CrisisIn an unprecedented leak of C.I.A documents, WikiLeaks released on Tuesday thousands of pages describing software tools and techniques used by the agency to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions.

For companies around the world, this should be setting off alarm bells. If the CIA can get hacked, what about you? GroundFloor Media’s Gil Rudawsky offers some advice to a reporter Ragan.com.

GroundFloor Media Crisis Expert

Organizations can perhaps mitigate the damage of leaks by having a plan in place to respond when they do happen, says Gil Rudawsky, vice president of GroundFloor Media.

“This is another alarm bell for all clients dealing with sensitive information that anything you say or email can potentially become public knowledge,” Rudawsky says. “If the CIA can get hacked or has a leak, what about businesses that spend millions of dollars less on maintaining secrecy of proprietary information?”

Read the entire article and what it means to your company.

Biggest PR Disasters of 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, we take time to reflect on the year’s biggest PR disasters:

lochteRYAN LOCHTE … An Olympic swimmer perpetually overshadowed by Michael Phelps finally finds the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Ryan Lochte is an accomplished Olympian who in almost any era would be recognized as one of the greatest swimmers of all time. Unfortunately for Lochte, though, he swims in the Michael Phelps era. That frustration may have contributed to his decision to “over-exaggerate” – his term ­– the details of an alleged armed robbery at the Olympics in Brazil. After video emerged of Lochte and other U.S. swimmers appearing to vandalize a gas station bathroom, the armed robbery started looking more like a request for restitution. Lochte apologized, but the consequences were swift: sponsors Speedo and Polo Ralph Lauren dropped him immediately, and he solidified his spot as an Olympic punch line for generations to come.

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SAMSUNG … What do the global electronics giant’s mobile phones and washing machines have in common? They both explode.

It was a tough year for Samsung, who twice found itself at the top of the list of the year’s biggest safety recalls. First, it was the company’s flagship mobile phone, the Galaxy 7, some of which were spontaneously exploding. It got so bad that the Department of Transportation eventually banned the phones from all U.S. airline flights. And then Samsung was forced to recall 2.8 million washing machines because they could explode. That caused a viral sensation because no one could really wrap their heads around how a washing machine could explode. But YouTube videos gave us our answer, much to Samsung’s dismay.

Read more after the jump…

Respond to a Social Media Crisis #LikeABoss

twitterThis year created a library full of social media crisis communication case studies, both what to do and what not to do.

Heading into 2017, we advise all of our clients to refresh their social media crisis communication plans given the rapid growth and updates with social communication channels. To help get started, here are a few basic points that should be part of a plan:

Read more after the jump…

Why Swallowing Your Pride Never Seems To Go Completely Out of Style

(Photo: Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News)

(Photo: Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News)

It seems that with each passing day, the era for digging in your heels, drawing lines in the sand and shouting “how dare you?!” becomes more and more pronounced. I was reminded of that last month as I watched a very public and painful saga play out between former coworkers.

It all started when former FOX31 Denver investigative reporter Heidi Hemmat took to her personal blog on Thanksgiving day to air grievances with her former employer. Mind you, these grievances were at the very least deemed worthy of headlines locally (see: Denver Post), nationally (see: New York Post) and internationally (see: The Daily Mail).

Hemmat said she received death threats from a man who had not only been put out of business but convicted of fraud on the basis of her reporting. These were threats, Hemmat claimed, that had been substantiated by the man’s psychiatrist. If nothing else, I remember hearing about these threats shortly after Hemmat became aware of them, as I was working for the Denver TV station as its digital content editor at the time.

Read more after the jump…

Don’t Waste the Spotlight

At its essence, crisis communications is about taking external negativity and finding a way to transform it into a positive. Are you a business that made a mistake? Find a way to impress your customers with how you responded. They’ll forgive you.

The Cincinnati Zoo ignored this principle when it shut down its Twitter account two months ago in the face of cyberbullying trolls who inundated it with memes and attacks over the death of its beloved gorilla, Harambe. As PRWeek reported:

“The zoo has been the target of keyboard critics since May, after a boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, and zookeepers shot and killed Harambe, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla, to save the child’s life. Since then, Harambe has turned into a source of myriad internet memes.”

The Cincinnati Zoo had a spotlight on it, and instead of finding a way to withstand the pressure and use the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to its mission, it chose to run and hide. Standing up in the heat of a crisis is never easy, but it speaks to what you are as an organization, to your core values.

The Cincinnati Zoo could have used the spotlight to engage the community. It could have developed a program to support a gorilla conservation initiative, or created elementary and middle school curriculum that could be used in schools to educate children about gorillas.

And more than anything, it could have earned goodwill from the community by responding to the ridiculous barbs in a dignified and respectable manner. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is amazing how reasonable you can look when your opponents are unhinged lunatics*.”

The Cincinnati Zoo finally restored its Twitter account last week, but the damage has already been done and the opportunities have already been missed.

*Lincoln may have never said that.

Reprise: What You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You

bhribahcqaax1h9Given the non-stop media chatter about leaked or hacked emails and recorded conversations, here is an updated blog post from several years ago with tips on how to keep yourself or your company out of the media cycle.

The scrappy Aspen Daily News has one of the best mottos in the business: “If You Don’t Want It Printed, Don’t Let It Happen.”

In the world of communications, we have a similar motto that we share with clients who are facing a pending crisis or are in the midst of one: “Anything You Say, Write, Email, Skype or iChat Can Be Used Against You.” It’s not as jocular as the News’ motto. But it just happens to be the truth in our increasingly litigious and curious world.

Clients can face all types of situations that are sensitive, controversial and deal with legal issues. While the lawyer’s role is to protect clients from and defend them during litigation, crisis communicators are focused on managing, protecting and — if needed — rebuilding the client’s reputation. They work closely with companies on strategy, messaging, stakeholder communications and media relations before, during and after a crisis.

Read more after the jump…