Introducing The Crisis Management Advisor on Google Helpouts

I’m thrilled to be selected by Google this month as the first Crisis Management advisor on the new platform known as Helpouts. Helpouts allows me to counsel clients around the world with high resolution video that also allows us to share screens and collaborate. It’s been made so easy to make an online appointment and to pay for your time with me, either by the minute or by the session.

I look forward to meeting and advising individuals, companies and organizations facing crisis situations in 2014 and beyond using this great tool.

On the Helpout, I’ll quickly gauge the seriousness of your crisis, make recommendations and then get to work on the process of protecting your reputation.

That can take the form of creating sharp content that influences public opinion, helping to identify the right spokespeople, conducting media training for mock interviews and news conferences, teaching you how to deal with the media and how to use social media at all stages of a crisis (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and more).

Remember – a few hundred dollars spent on a Helpout could save millions of dollars of lost revenue due to a crisis situation that catches you and your organization off guard and that could destroy goodwill and hard-earned reputation.

Honesty Remains Lonely Word: Royal Caribbean, Michael’s Stores

When three hundred 600 of your passengers fall ill to a virus out on the ocean, it’s big news and a crisis. When millions of your customers have their data stolen because they shopped at your chain stores, it’s also big news and a crisis. So why did the leaders of Royal Caribbean and Michael’s Stores this weekend try so hard to bury the bad news and insulting the intelligence of their critical audiences and beyond?

Both these companies have active Twitter and Facebook pages. But 24+ hours into their respective crises, only customers are reporting the obvious news while the companies offer little insight into what happened. One big problem in these situations is that company executives limit release of their crisis statements to the media.

That’s a huge miscalculation because the media is rarely going to run the full statement.

To have the best chance at defending reputation, companies need to post their own statements on their websites ASAP with links going to their Twitter and Facebook pages as well. CEOs and company presidents might also consider creating short YouTube videos about the crisis to show real compassion.

In a crisis, do you really want everyone else to tell your story?

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I’ve written and lectured about this subject for more than two decades and remain baffled at this widespread disregard for honesty, ethics, social responsibility and their own corporate reputation. Is it the lawyers telling them to not say anything or is it their own decision-making? Or, do they foolishly not prepare for a crisis that happens over the weekend because no one is in their corporate offices?

Unless we are inside these (and other companies), we’ll never know. But it’s clear that withholding or burying critical information that customers need in a crisis is a great way to alienate loyal customers and impacts the ability to attract new ones.

I believe part of the problem is that many companies today are too worried about short term revenues, short term rises in stock prices and counting on short memories.

When they start focusing instead on long term reputation by dealing with a short term crisis head-on with transparency and compassion, they are more likely to be rewarded with repeat business by more loyal customers for decades.

Update: Michael’s finally put its CEO letter front and center on its website but didn’t mention it on its Facebook or Twitter pages.

Royal Caribbean finally acknowledged Sunday night on Twitter — for the first time — that there was a crisis. And here’s the statement that the company finally issued: It’s impersonal, shows no real concern for health of passengers and has no attribution.

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Princeton University Statement on Meningitis Vaccine

Tonight, I received the following statement from Martin A. Mbugua, director of media relations at Princeton University, regarding reports  late today that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was considering the use of emergency doses of a meningitis vaccine (not approved for use in the U.S.)  to halt an outbreak of the potentially deadly infection that has sickened seven students since March of this year.

“This is a question we have been considering very carefully. We will be discussing it with our trustees this weekend, and when we have something to announce we will make an announcement.”
The statement was emailed after I asked if the new college president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, had issued any statement about the development. He hadn’t and I was asked to attribute the above statement to the college spokesperson.
Sure, it’s a good idea to discuss critical health issues with the Board of Trustees.
But President Eisgruber needs to show more immediate leadership on this issue, especially to calm campus fears and thousands of parents about the outbreak – even if he has already done that days, weeks and months earlier.
In today’s crisis world, it’s not enough to lean on your past statements. Information moves too quickly and changes too often (today was great example with CDC action) to rely on past statements.
I applaud the college director of media relations for his quick response to my request. But clearly his hands are being tied by a Board of Trustees (and maybe some legal counsel) that doesn’t allow for a statement attributed to the college president that shows the Ivy League school is treating this with the utmost urgency.

Simon Says: We Don’t Care About People & Abercrombie No Better At Roosevelt Field

Compassion. Humanity. How hard is that? Well, for Simon Malls, owners of Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City, Long Island, as well as Abercrombie & Fitch, guess they just can’t find the time to offer a statement of concern for the nine workers overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning this morning. Check out the tweets Simon/Roosevelt sent out a good three hours after the incident:

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And this tweet from Abercrombie at 12:30 pm EDT today (June 20):

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In today’s instant news cycle, it’s mandatory to post SOMETHING on social media — particularly your Twitter profile and Facebook page — in a crisis where people are hurt on or near your properties.

Instead of turning people off with “we’re open, come shop” the message should have been at least: “Our hearts and prayers go out to the workers injured today at our Roosevelt Field location. We’re working closely with authorities to investigate the cause.” (Simon Mall example).

Abercrombie could have said something similar.

Shame on Simon Malls and Abercrombie. Companies and organizations must put people first especially when lives are in danger.

Sometimes the problem lies at the top of the organization and other times it’s because companies employ junior social media people who have no clue about crisis situations or reputation management.

Either way, it’s an issue all companies must think about if they care at all about their long term reputation.

One (PRISM) News Story, Many Companies in Crisis Mode

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James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (U.S.)

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Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg

News this week about the existence of a secret U.S. government data collection program known as PRISM is a great example of how one investigative news story in just one influential publication can rock a major industry all at once. The revelations forced most of the major Internet players (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo! Apple)  to rush out with media statements and blog posts that suddenly put them on the defensive with millions of their customers about privacy, already a sticky issue for years before we knew about PRISM. They all said basically the same thing: that they didn’t know about PRISM and that customer privacy is very important. Blah, blah, blah. This of course was after the initial story in The Guardian that focused on Verizon’s confidential cooperation with the National Security Agency.

This should be a wakeup call to companies everywhere. What is the major media story in the works about YOUR company and/or industry? If you have no idea, maybe it’s time to think about what could be written/reported about your business that might not be so glowing — that could seriously harm your reputation. Then, get to work on a draft media statement that you can refine slightly if your nightmare becomes reality. In that statement, make sure you use people language, not legalese, if you want it to be taken seriously by the media and the court of public opinion.

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Want to learn more about drafting protective media/social media statements for a possible business crisis? Need comprehensive media training (done in person and via Skype) so you are confident in facing the media? Need a crisis management/crisis communications plan that can be smoothly executed when a serious crisis hits your organization?

Email rich@richkleincrisis.com, call Rich Klein at (347) 926-3530 and also check out past episodes of The Crisis Show.

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Rutgers Now 0 For 3 with Law Firm, Search Firm & PR Firm

Rutgers University in New Jersey hired an outside law firm which, in its report, seemed to excuse the behavior of former men’s basketball coach Mike Rice. Here’s some telling language from that report:

“While it’s clear that Coach Rice was extremely demanding of the players, the assistant coaches and himself since his initial hiring as Rutgers men’s head basketball coach in May 2010, Coach Rice’s conduct does not constitute a “hostile work environment” as that term is understood under Rutgers’ anti-discrimination policies.

“On the contrary, Coach Rice formulated and implemented numerous policies and practices that were designed to, and did, operate not only to improve Rutgers’ men’s basketball program, but also to further the athletic and academic performance of all the student-athletes on Rutgers men’s basketball team.”

Rutgers also hired a search firm for a new athletic director (after the resignation of Tim Pernetti) and questions are now being raised if that firm failed to properly investigate Julie Hermann’s history at other colleges. It also hired a PR firm to clean up its reputation – yet Rutgers is in worse shape today than a few months ago. It’s good to get outside help for legal, HR and PR. Sadly, though, Rutgers is 0 for 3 in all those departments.

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Robert Barchi

But aside from the work product of these outside firms, Rutgers bears ultimate responsibility for everything that has happened. It doesn’t seem right that Robert Barchi still has his job as college president, since it was his actions (and inactions)  that have landed the school in hot water.

Mike Lupica of The Daily News makes some great points here, in particular that Rutgers shows more concern with saving face than doing the right thing.

 

Here’s a clip of my thoughts on what should happen from this week’s episode of The Crisis Show.