Last week, President Obama was answering questions at a news conference. And one short sentence got him in big trouble in the court of public opinion.
I wrote about this in a post on LinkedIn just now.
I wrote about this in a post on LinkedIn just now.
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.
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 email@example.com, call Rich Klein at (347) 926-3530 and also check out past episodes of The Crisis Show.
“Division I athletics are probably the best marketing tool we have in terms of getting the Rutgers’ name out there,” he said. “If they don’t know the name and they haven’t seen the brand, they’re not going to even look at you.” — Robert L. Barchi, Rutgers president, September 4, 2012 in Star-Ledger interview.
A story in The New York Times today about Rutgers is a great example of how a crisis in one part of your organization can result in the media covering (or uncovering) bigger problems inside your administration. And that unplanned media attention can severely harm the entire reputation of an institution. I’ve always advised my clients to beware the smoldering fire, that slow-brewing crisis that suddenly envelops your administration (or your business) and brings greater harm to your institutional reputation.
I’ll now call this the Crisis Domino Effect or CDE. The CDE is akin to that stuffy nose that leads to a cold that leads to a flu that won’t go away for weeks or months. And just like you try to throw everything at the cold (vitamins, OJ, medicines), you may try multiple tactics to rid your campus or business of the unwelcome media barrage – plus the social media inferno that either follows traditional media or motivates reporters to write stories.
You may “decline comment” or even curse at a reporter or editor for writing that story. You may try to put out a wishy washy statement that gets you in even MORE hot water with your critical audiences. Or, you may sincerely try to get the messaging just right, but you fail to convey or attach any human emotion to the spiraling crisis.
Let’s face it. If I’m a parent who a month ago was thinking about sending my child to Rutgers, it’s likely I’m going to revisit that decision in light of the gross mishandling of the belated firing of Mike Rice, the former men’s basketball coach. (As one of my guests on The Crisis Show pointed out this week, if that was his kid getting abused by a coach, he’d be driving to the school to confront that coach personally.)
It’s safe to assume that same parent considering sending their child to Rutgers has heard about the coaching fiasco. Combine that with today’s article –which focuses on numerous other criticisms of President Robert L. Barchi — and good chance I’m crossing Rutgers off the list. That’s why Barchi and Rutgers now have a full blown crisis and are scrambling to stop the bleeding. And as long as Tim Pernetti, the embattled athletic director remains, the loss of reputation won’t stop soon.
The Rutgers lesson is one I’ve seen so many times. A company, campus or other organization thinks it has an isolated HR problem, when in fact it’s much bigger than that. And, as Rutgers is experiencing, by “investigating” instead of “terminating” Rice last year, it now has a much more costly crisis in terms of litigation as well as lost revenue from those parents of prospective students who have now crossed Rutgers off their lists.
It’s also important to note that while this (thankfully) is not as serious as the Sandusky-Paterno-Penn State scandal, the story is similar in that horrible behavior emanating from the athletics department was ignored by college officials for years. Penn State has paid $208,000 per month to a big public relations firm since April 2012 for an engagement that was scheduled to end this month.
When you add up the costs of litigation, lost revenue and the cost to rebuild reputation, it’s clear that eliminating HR problems with decisive, early actions save reputations later –and monies can be spent more intelligently where all students benefit most. What do you think? Please comment below.
Here’s a video replay of The Crisis Show, which aired February 20, 2013. Host Rich Klein was joined by guest Shel Holtz. We analyzed Carnival Cruise Line’s crisis, Poland Spring’s missed public relations/social media opportunity, the hacking of Burger King’s Twitter account and the creative use of Google+ by TD Bank. For show notes and related links, please visit http://www.TheCrisisShow.com.
It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. — George Washington
Crisis Management Lesson: Crisis situations are magnified when leaders fail to accept responsibility for their company’s actions. They are also magnified when poor excuses are made for obvious failures –and then the media gets to the truth and calls you out.
I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts. –Abraham Lincoln
Crisis Management Lesson: The public is much more likely to forgive mistakes made by an organization IF you are honest about the facts from the very beginning of the crisis – regardless of what some lawyers might tell you.
When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.
John F. Kennedy
Crisis Management Lesson: Don’t get obsessed and stressed about the crisis. Instead, focus energies on the solution. McNeil Consumer Products, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, had a major crisis of confidence on its hands with Tylenol in 1982 – but by creating the first tamper-proof bottles, converted a horrible situation into a golden opportunity that changed an industry and that restored the public’s trust in its products.
You can always amend a big plan, but you can never expand a little one. I don’t believe in little plans. I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation which we can’t possibly foresee now. — Harry S. Truman
Crisis Management Lesson: Don’t just think of a few minor case scenarios when doing your crisis management planning. (You’re not doing crisis management planning?? Let’s talk.) Think of the BIG Crises that could impact your business. For example, plan for a SuperStorm Sandy that floods your offices and destroys customer data – rather than just a brief power outage. Plan for a workplace shooting rather than a testy verbal exchange between employees.
In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. — Theodore Roosevelt
Crisis Management Lesson: Companies that do nothing in a crisis are at most risk for loss of reputation and more. Unfortunately, we see all too much of this today. Those organizations that try to do the right thing but get it wrong are often forgiven by the public if they keep working on a solution. Always try to do the right thing FIRST and that will save reputation, often prevent costly litigation and quickly restore any lost public trust. Companies that do the right thing early in a crisis will often see increased revenues and market share once the crisis begins to subside.
My failures have been errors in judgment, not of intent. –Ulysses S. Grant
Crisis Management Lesson: If true, borrow this great quote from Grant when you are publicly responding in a crisis!
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Effective February 9, 2013, LawFirmsPR changed its name to Rich Klein Crisis Management to more accurately reflect the majority of the work we now perform for a wide variety of clients. It also syncs nicely with The Crisis Show, a project that we launched in June 2012 to educate leaders about all aspects of crisis management.
Rich Klein has specialized in law firm public relations and law firm crisis communications since the early 1990’s. In recent years, more and more non-law firms sought his counsel for crisis management and online reputation issues, which prompted this name change.
Thank you to everyone who has supported our work thus far and especially to those friends and colleagues who visit this blog.
Although we changed our name, we remain committed to providing valuable content here and on many other social media channels.
We were pleasantly surprised and honored today to receive recognition by a video monitoring/syndication service which praised the “innovation” of The Crisis Show.