Posts about Crisis Communications

The College Admissions Scandal: A Lesson in Reputation Management

I was on a long car trip a couple weeks back with an old college friend, and as the miles rolled by, we got a chance to share our perspectives on the issues of the day. He’s among my smartest friends (I tell him he’s easily in the “Top 50”) and works as an international consultant advising technology companies about go-to-market strategies. Like me, he stays up on the news, and despite the fact that we live 3,000 miles from one another, we seem to share common wisdom on many issues. When the topic came to the recent college admissions …

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What Brands Should Know about the Facebook, Cambridge Analytica Crisis

What happened? Cambridge Analytica (CA) obtained personal data of about 87 million Facebook users without their consent with the hopes that they could use this data to develop psychographic profiles of those users. The data was collected a few years ago through a third-party app that had to be downloaded by a user, and the app was approved by Facebook (it was created by a university researcher who claimed it was for academic purposes). Those who downloaded the app unknowingly gave CA access to their data and their friends’ data. Facebook has stated that it suspended CA in 2015 after …

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A Tale of Two Crises

A little more than a week after blogging about Facebook’s conspicuously tardy response to the Cambridge Analytica dustup, here I am again making much the same point: Nothing exposes a company’s core values more than a crisis. Facebook’s young CEO may like to think that the company puts a premium on speed, but that priority was exposed as a lie when it took 100 hours to utter his first words about what could fairly be called the social platform’s most consequential crisis. (If you missed that blog, you can find it here.) On the heels of that, now comes the …

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Don’t Have a Crisis Communications Plan? Then at Least Do This

Chances are, if you are like many organizations, there’s not a crisis communications plan sitting in your top drawer, one that’s been updated and rehearsed and that lets you sleep soundly at night should some emergency befall you. Undertaking the painstaking process of developing a crisis plan seems to be that task that never quite gets off the back burner, kind of like cleaning out the gutters – there’s always something more pressing or more interesting to do. But then, inevitably, it rains and, well, you know what could happen. As important as a crisis communications plan is, this is …

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Facebook’s Costly 100 Hours

How the company abandoned its core values in a moment of crisis

Five days. That’s how long it took Facebook to respond to perhaps the greatest crisis in the company’s relatively short life. This is not a commentary piling on the company for its failure to abide by one of the core principles of crisis management – to respond early and honestly. After all, they totally blew the former and the jury is out on the latter. But the delay was more than just a strategic mistake. With recriminations flying all around them, users threatening to abandon the platform, senators in high dudgeon over this lapse of security and the company’s stock …

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Finding a Seat at the (Head) Table for PR

Back in 1998, I was the director of communications for a Circuit City-backed startup that was poised to introduce a new product to the marketplace that we hoped would reinvent the video rental business.  Company management had made the strategic decision to pilot the product rollout in two cities where retail distribution would be strong – Richmond and San Francisco.  And so I went about putting together a media relations strategy designed to engender consumer excitement about the imminent availability of a product that had been years in development. This was going to be fun. But then I was handed …

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When the Best Strategy is to Say Nothing

I’ve been in public relations for close to four decades, and based on that experience, I believe that most journalists are fair, conscientious and accurate. Sure, there have been exceptions to the rule, but by and large, my respect for the Fourth Estate runs deep. And so when a reporter calls asking for an interview or quote, I do my best to try to accommodate those requests, even when the issue that has prompted the call is an uncomfortable one. I believe that media relations is a two-way street, and if we are to ask reporters to consider our pitches, …

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#AskJon: Is it a good idea to use social media in times of crisis? [VIDEO]

In the past, folks — companies, organizations — were not inclined to use social channels during times of crisis, because of the commentary and questions that they would get on those social platforms. Now, however, companies and organizations are more used to using those social platforms in a way that they used to use their websites. In the past, when there was a crisis, companies would put out a statement. They invariably would put those statements on their websites and they drive all of the media questions and all of the public questions to those websites. Now that social platforms …

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United doesn’t have a PR problem; it’s far worse than that

I have attorney friends who are regularly queried about one high-profile legal case or another. Will the latest version of the president’s travel ban hold up in court? Is North Carolina’s bathroom bill constitutional? Will O.J. ever make parole? Once you get your law degree, I suppose such questions come with the territory. So it is with public relations professionals, and so when a United Airlines passenger of Chinese descent is dragged forcibly from his seat to the horror of onlooking passengers, folks like me get the predictable questions about how we’d address United’s “PR problem.” But to my mind, …

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The Right Spokesperson is Key in a Crisis

For most organizations, having a crisis communications plan in place is a lot like having flood or fire insurance. You’re not sure when or even if you will ever need it, but knowing it’s there during a time of need can give you peace of mind, not to mention give you a leg up as you start to recover. The best crisis plans have soup-to-nuts checklists that cover putting the necessary preparations in place before, during and after a crisis. It may present various scenarios (from building fires to computer hacking to an executive’s malfeasance), include sample news releases and …

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