In the last few weeks, attention and conversation has spiked around the topic of the separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. If you’ve spent much time on Facebook you’ve likely seen calls for donations to organizations supporting these immigrant families. The fundraiser for RAICES came up in my feed again and again, so I decided to look into what they were doing to stay so prominent and what lessons nonprofits could take from their moment in the spotlight of this national crisis. 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:
As 2016 comes to a close, we take time to reflect on the year’s biggest PR disasters:
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.
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.
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.
In public relations, it often is the small things that make big differences. The U.S. Women’s National Team goalie, Hope Solo, learned that lesson the hard way when she was suspended from the team for six months this week.
What were the little things that went so wrong for Hope?
- She used colorful language. Many athletes engage in sour grapes after a tough loss by complaining that the better team actually lost. They will use expressions like, “They didn’t win; we gave it to them.” Hope expressed those thoughts, too, but she made her quote more colorful by calling the Swedes “a bunch of cowards.” In my non-scientific survey, the word “cowards” appeared in 100 percent of the media coverage. Journalists love colorful, which can work for you or against you.
- She had priors. No criminal appearing before a judge would expect to catch a break when he or she has been convicted before. And Hope should have known that she had little margin for error based on her previous actions this year alone that included a domestic violence arrest and allowing her inebriated husband to drive a U.S. Soccer vehicle.
- She set the stage. A lesson that every professional wrestler learns is that it is okay if they love you or hate you; it is indifference that will end your career quickly. Hope loves the spotlight, and she established herself as the anti-hero of the Rio Olympics before she even left the U.S. by tweeting photos of herself in heavy-duty, mosquito-proof outfits. She thumbed her nose at her Olympics hosts, and she was already the center of attention when she arrived.
- She violated the spirit of the Olympics – When athletes are paid mercenaries (i.e., performing in for-profit leagues while being paid millions of dollars), fans tend to be pretty forgiving for lapses in etiquette. But when you act like a jerk on arguably the biggest sports stage in the world that is also synonymous with sportsmanship, it becomes a problem.
Pop quiz: Is Twitter an opportunity or a threat for your business? The answer, of course, is both.
Social media allows businesses to connect more directly with customers and prospective customers than in any time in history. And it also allows competitors and detractors to screw with your brand more than in any time in history.
The stakes are real, and so is the data. A recent study conducted by a professor at Belgium’s University of Leuven found:
- 94 percent of all PR crises either started or were fanned by Twitter, and online trolls were a “key catalyst” for spreading awareness of PR issues
- 19 percent of PR crises actually broke on Twitter, making the social media platform a bigger threat to brands than Facebook (16 percent), YouTube (4 percent) and blogs (4 percent)
- Consumers are more comfortable criticizing brands on Twitter. Users are 17 percent more likely to send a negative Tweet than publish a negative Facebook post.
These figures are as stunning as they are frightening. If social media monitoring isn’t part of your marketing budget, you are making a serious mistake.
While not all GFMers watch “Game of Thrones,” there are a number of us who are huge fans. We like to share articles about predictions for upcoming episodes and then rehash all of the action from the previous night’s episode on Monday morning. So when Ragan’s PR Daily put out an article today entitled “8 PR lessons from ‘Game of Thrones,’” I couldn’t help myself – I had to click on it. Their 8 tips were based on quotes by various characters from the show. See below for my take on each:
More and more, as public relations practitioners, especially if you work with clients on crisis communication, you will work with attorneys – either the client’s in-house attorneys or outside counsel. Bill Ojile, an attorney and partner at Armstrong Teasdale and former GFM client, recently met with the GFM team to share his insights on how to effectively work with legal counsel.
According to Bill, lawyers’ jobs are to make people uncomfortable, to ask a lot of questions and to be skeptical. He also noted that lawyers don’t write for everyday people, and they don’t write for the media; they write for every contingency. With that said, how do PR people and lawyers co-exist and together create the very best communications and outcomes for their mutual clients? Bill provided the following tips for how to navigate the legal waters:
Public relations practitioners and attorneys often find themselves on opposite sides of the fence when dealing with crisis communication situations.
PR folks encourage their clients to be honest and transparent in a crisis, admit to any wrongdoing, show compassion and contrition and move on. Attorneys, who are paid to assume the worst, will encourage the client to admit to and say nothing.
As a marketing communications firm with extensive experience handling a wide variety of crises on behalf of clients, our GroundFloor Media (GFM) experts have learned that attorneys can be our best friends.
One of the key topics that PR practitioners should become very familiar with is attorney client privilege. As one attorney recently shared, start from the premise that everything we do and write is discoverable. Simply put, our work, including all client emails, plans, written communications (all drafts), texts and Skypes could be subpoenaed if your client is involved in litigation.