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…
Only 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…
I 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:
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.
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.
THE 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.
MEN … 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 … 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.
USA 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.
NIKON … 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 … 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:
As 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.
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…
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.
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.
As 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.