Category Archives: Crisis Planning

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…

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…

Deconstructing Hope Solo’s Olympics Implosion

Hope_Solo_(16539697180)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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Read more after the jump…

The double-edged sword of social media

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.

Read more after the jump…

PR Lessons from “Game of Thrones”

GOT logo for blog

Image Credit: HBO

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:

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How to Get on the Good Side of Legal

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:

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Attorney Client Privilege: What Does it Mean for PR?

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.

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How Will Chipotle’s Crisis and Recovery Compare?

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 3.47.05 PMAs Chipotle’s woes continue to unfold in the new year, GroundFloor Media wonders about the top crises of the past year and where Chipotle fit in the crisis spectrum. Chipotle had plenty of company in 2015: from Volkswagen lying about its emissions tests to the Ashley Madison data breach that disclosed the identities of 37 million users, to Subway and the child pornography charges against the company’s longtime pitchman. Since Chipotle’s issues involved serious incidents of food poisoning across numerous states, can this homegrown Colorado success story ever recover to its previous glory?

There have been other highly publicized food crises involving restaurants over the past decade, and GroundFloor Media took a look to see how these restaurants have fared since they made headlines.

Read more after the jump…

SeaWorld On The Offensive With New Orca Campaign

SeaWorld Entertainment is in full response mode as the two-year-old documentary “Blackfish” continues to gain momentum.

The documentary alleges cruel treatment of the orca, or killer whales, that SeaWorld has in captivity and uses as part of its public entertainment program. The result has had a distinct impact on the publicly traded company’s bottom line, with its stock and attendance numbers in a continued free fall.

Read more after the jump…

Nationwide Turns to Social Media to Mitigate its Super Bowl Disaster

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 10.59.10 AMI’m pretty sure everyone agrees that Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll is the biggest loser of Super Bowl XLIX. With just one shockingly bad play call, Carroll went from G.O.A.T. to goat.

But many people are pointing to insurance provider Nationwide as the second-biggest loser of Sunday’s Super Bowl. Its depressing Super Bowl ad aired in the first quarter of the game, and it was widely – and immediately – ripped to shreds. A decade ago, you had to wait for tomorrow’s newspaper to see how people responded. But Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms give advertisers real-time feedback – and allow viewer opinions to quickly go viral.

Fortunately for Nationwide, its social media and public relations team quickly came to the rescue of its focus group-challenged advertising team. Within an hour of the ad airing, Nationwide released a statement online explaining the ad and took to social media to join the conversation. The company noted in part:

Read more after the jump…