Category Archives: Issues Management

Mid-2017 Crisis Communications Overview

Adidas crisis communications responseHere is a recap of the some of the best crisis communications gaffes, courtesy of PR Daily and Meltwater, that you may not have heard of. Be sure to check out the takeaways at the end.

Shea Moisture
This company featured a series of television commercials that profiled different types of hair types, but unfortunately they showed a limited number of minorities in their ads. They issued an apology: “We really f-ed this one up. Please know that our intention was not – and would never be – to disrespect our community, and as such, we are pulling this piece immediately because it does not represent what we intended to communicate.”

Adidas
In a tone-deaf blunder, Adidas sent an email out Boston Marathon participants with the subject line: “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon.” It didn’t take long for them to apologize, and the crisis dissipated.

Juicero
Bloomberg news showed how a $400 Wi-Fi-enabled juicer was basically just a ruse, in a video showing a person producing the same amount of juice as the specialty juicer. Reporters were able to wring 7.5 ounces of juice from the specialty packs in a minute and a half. The machine yielded 8 ounces in about two minutes. The startup this week cut its staff by 25 percent, and it offered customers refunds.

Fyre Festival
Billy McFarland and Ja Rule launched a luxury music festival at a private island in the Bahamas, and tickets ran from $2,500 to $250,000 for “deluxe” packages. Instead of the promised extravagant catering, beach yoga sessions, bikini-clad models and yachts to lounge on, attendees found a “disaster tent city” with scant rations. Instagram photos documented sorrowful bread-and-cheese sandwiches and dreadful accommodations. Social media users had a field day mocking the woes of the well-to-do audience and the downfall of the much-hyped event. A criminal investigation is under way and lawsuits abound. Ja Rule’s response: The whole world knows Fyre’s name now,” he said. “This will pass, guys.”

Takeaways
With any crisis situation, including the ones above, having a response plan beforehand can help, and listening and responding to social media in real-time can help turn the tide. Keep these points in mind:

  • When you mess up, genuinely apologize and share what you’ll do to prevent similar mistakes in the future.
  • When in doubt, talk to your community; they’re the people who already support you.
  • Treat your community with respect and listen to what it has to say. If you’re only interested in the bottom line, it will show.

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…

GroundFloor Media Expert Weighs In On Grubhub Controversy

grub_hub_crisis_comms_prThe chief executive of Grubhub, an online and mobile food ordering company, learned a lesson last week  after he sent out a companywide email that implied that employees should resign if they supported President-elect Donald Trump.

The backlash was immediate and sustained. CEO Matt Maloney quickly moved to clarify his comments, but he damage was done. There were calls for a boycott and media pounced on the executive.

Responding to questions from a Ragan’s PR Daily reporter about the issue, GroundFloor Media’s Vice President Gil Rudawsky said that he began advising clients to update their policies concerning making public political statements earlier this year, and re-emphasized this in the weeks leading up to the election.

“Public comments, even from personal accounts, can be—and often are—misconstrued as being representative of their company’s views,” Rudawsky told Ragan’s. “As a best practice, it is not appropriate for executives to make decidedly one-sided political comments or to push their views on employees.”

And regarding Maloney’s missive to his staff, Rudawsky offered this lesson:

“We remind our clients that while free speech is right, just because you can make political mandates doesn’t mean you should.”

Read the entire Ragan article.

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.

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…

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:

Read more after the jump…

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.

Read more after the jump…

Beware the Donalds

RumsfeldTrumpEvery few years a mavericky, break-all-the-rules type of leader bubbles up into the public consciousness. He wows people with his “blunt” talk, “refreshing candor” and willingness to address complex issues in a very simple and straightforward manner.

A decade ago it was Donald Rumsfeld. While U.S. Defense Secretary, his treatise on “known knowns and unknown unknowns” made him the darling of the lecture circuit. It even resulted in a book deal – Known and Unknown: A Memoir. And much more recently, Donald Trump has climbed up the GOP presidential nominee rankings through a sometimes-incoherent strategy of attacking almost anything that moves. Supporters admire his “leadership” and “take-action” style, if not his depth and nuance.

Leaders like the Donalds usually have a shelf-life, but the internal and external damage they may do can live far beyond the FOX News and CNN news cycles. The Donalds are charismatic, and serve as role models for many other leaders, including C-level executives.

CEOs who tire of having constraints placed on them with media will point to people such as the Donalds as proof that they should be able to speak bluntly and without talking points. After all, the Donalds prove that people love outspoken leaders who are not afraid of saying what people are secretly thinking.

So here’s some free advice for PR people who work with C-level executives: Don’t let them listen to leaders like the Donalds. Both Rumsfeld and Trump are outliers, and CEOs who seek to model themselves after them will quickly find out that you can’t count on lightning striking every time. And if they try, the clean up will not be pretty.

Free Advice for an Ice Cream-Loving Texas Billionaire

Marketers have long known that constraining supply often piques demand. Coors, In-N-Out Burger and Blue Bell ice cream are all examples of products that have created national reputations, in part, by not being available nationwide. People desired what they couldn’t have, and absence definitely made the heart grow fonder.

That level of customer fanaticism can help propel brands to amazing heights, but it also means that customers feel personally invested, and that can create complicated situations when the brand does not, in their eyes, live up to its brand promise.

Read more after the jump…

Is Controversy Good for Ratings?

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 2.45.29 PMSaturday Night Live (SNL) is no stranger to controversy and pushing the boundaries of comedy.

The latest controversy has to do with a skit about ISIS that was a parody of a Toyota commercial that ran during the Super Bowl where a father drops his daughter off at the airport as she’s embarking on her military career. Chances are the firestorm that’s taking place on media and social media will subside soon, but not before it drives thousands, if not millions of people to watch the video on its site and tune back in to SNL.

So, is controversy good for ratings? You bet. NBC Nightly News’ ratings are up due to the embarrassment it recently faced when Brian Williams admitted to “embellishing” his wartime experiences.

Read more after the jump…