Archive for the ‘Crisis Communication’ Category

Public Relations on the Web: a Case in Point

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The Web in Action: National Pizza Chain Reacts

By: Tiffany Engleman

In my previous article, Power of the Web, we saw there are many different ways that the World Wide Web can become useful for public relations professionals across the board. In the case of Domino’s Pizza and the infamous YouTube video from Conover, North Carolina, we can see just how powerful the Web can be in dispelling false information.

In 2009, Domino’s faced a major setback to it’s brand reputation when two employees decided to create a “prank” YouTube video, while at work, showing them making sandwiches completely violating all health standards. The video attracted 500,000 viewers in just 24 hours. Within 48 hours, the video had reached over a million views and the mainstream media had began to

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pick up the story. With such a blow to the Domino’s brand reputation, their public relations team had to create an impeccable strategy to set the record straight and the Web played a major role in their comeback.

Domino’s used the following tactics on the Web to inform their consumers about what was happening with the company and what they were doing to fix the problem. The first thing Domino’s decided to do was create a Twitter account solely to communicate with their customers about the issue. They then placed a “customer care” link about the incident on their corporate webpage to effectively respond to consumer concerns.

Another public relations tactic used was communicating via email to all employees and franchises to keep them informed about what was happening. Conducting interviews and distributing news releases via electronic news services, blogs, and social media sites were also used extensively to reach their consumers. Finally, using the company’s Facebook page, Domino’s was able to attract and gather “friends” and keep them informed about what they were doing to resolve this issue.

As you can see, the Web was the perfect forum for dismissing the false information that the YouTube video conveyed to the public. It is also simple to notice how advantageous the Web can be for public relations professionals when trying to communicate with mass audiences as quickly as possible. Domino’s was able to get back on its feet and once

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again establish the trust that they held prior with their customers through proper utilization of the Web.

Source: Wilcox, Dennis L., Cameron, Glen T., Reber, Bryan H., & Shin, Jae-Hwa. (2011). Think Public Relations. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education.

Case in Point: The Power of Public Relations

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Public Relations and the Tylenol Case

By Tiffany Engleman

Over the past few decades, a variety of organizations have executed some of the most influential public relations campaigns known to the field. An abundance of knowledge can be acquired from the research and study of these iconic cases. The strategy behind these campaigns can power organizations through crises and prove how momentous the practice of public relations was then and still is today. The Johnson & Johnson Tylenol crisis is a prime example of exquisitely executed public relations strategy.

Tylenol Crisis: Johnson & Johnson had their hands full when seven people died from ingesting cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules in the Chicago area on September 29, 1982.  The nation was in a panic and many believed that Tylenol would never recover from the devastation created by the tampering.

Nevertheless, the company began the recovery process by issuing a complete recall of Tylenol products. In addition to the recall, the design of the Tylenol bottles was reconstructed with tamperproof packaging. Last but certainly not least, Tylenol launched a media campaign with full-disclosure to ensure that the public was fully informed on the status of their products.

You might think there is no coming back from a crisis such as this, but Tylenol was capable of pushing through with the guidance of an all-star public relations team. An organized strategy was executed to regain the trust that Tylenol had previously held with consumers. The Tylenol case resonates with public relations professionals because it truly illustrates the importance of having a public relations team as a resource. Their work may at times be behind the scenes, but it will always be crucial to have a team in place backing your organization when all the chips are down.

Works Cited: Wilcox, Dennis L., Cameron, Glen T., Reber, Bryan H., & Shin, Jae-Hwa. (2011). Think Public Relations. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Education.

2 Tips on Preparing for the Media

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Strategic Preparation Can Make or Break You — Especially During a Crisis

By Tiffany Engleman

A media critic once said, “Being interviewed is like playing Russian roulette, you never know which question will kill you.” When in a crisis situation, the media has to be dealt with strategically. Being prepared will either make you or break you when it comes to protecting your company’s reputation. Two major tips are essential, particularly during a crisis situation.

The first step is to elect a spokesperson for your organization. Preferable, a top officer of the company such as the chief executive officer or president should be the one chosen as the face and voice of the company. By designating one individual as the company’s spokesperson, you create one shared voice. You are also preventing conflicting stories from being released to the media that might damage the company’s reputation. One individual will be able to prepare and deliver key messages in a constructive way that will keep the company’s credibility and validity intact throughout the crisis period.

Another beneficial tip to utilize when communicating with the media is to formulate and rehearse answering anticipated questions. These questions should encompass possible question that might come up and questions that are sometimes referred to as “trick questions.”  A trick question can be defined as a question, which makes you believe you should answer in one certain way, when the question you are really meant to answer is hidden within it. Often times the media asks questions strategically, swaying the interviewee’s answers to give them a better story. Some examples of these questions might include:  “Say, pal, off the record, what do you think?” Always remember that when dealing with the media there is no such thing as “off the record.” Once information is given to a reporter, it is considered public knowledge.

A leading statement might be: “We have the story. We just need a few wrap up facts.” Ask the reporter to be specific on the facts they are seeking. If you do not know the facts, offer to get back to the reporter at later date when you do have the facts.

Taking steps to be prepared for the rush of media during crisis situations is very important and can greatly affect the recovery process after your organization has become crisis stricken. Understanding how to effectively approach media interviews can help your organization tremendously. When you know how to handle the media you will be able to uphold the credibility of your company and sustain or establish a positive image in the court of public opinion.


five key components of a Crisis management plan

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Management Should Never Ignore Crisis Planning

By Tiffany Engleman

There are five major components that should always be included when creating an effective Crisis Management Plan for any organization.

The first key component is the Crisis Management Team Contact Sheet. This particular section of the CMP provides the names and contact information of all members of the crisis team, their areas of expertise, and/or any outside professionals that may be necessary. It also includes any outside agents that may need to be contacted, such as emergency personnel and insurance agents.

A First-Action Page is a crucial component of an effective CMP. A First-Action Page lists in detail the top management and how these individuals can be immediately contacted. It also illustrates how and when a CMP should be implemented.

A Crisis Control Center Description is the third key component of an operative Crisis Management Plan. When the CMP is activated, team members need to be aware of a place where they can assemble. With Crisis Control Centers established, team members will then know to go directly to the Crisis Control Center when they are contacted which gives an organization the opportunity to get through a crisis situation efficiently.

Once you have a Crisis Management Team Contact Sheet, a First-Action Page, and a Crisis Control Center established, one can now focus on the fourth key component:

Crisis Risk Assessment. The Risk Assessment Section anticipates what crises an organization potentially may face. The Risk Assessment Section identifies potential crises and evaluates the risk of each crisis in terms of impact and then the probability on an organization. The impact of damage should first and foremost include the human impact, then the financial, structural, environmental and reputational. It is important to be prepared for every possible crisis scenario, especially the human impact.

The final key component of an effective Crisis Management Plan is constructing a Business Continuity Plan. How will an organization recover from a crisis? How quickly will an organization return to normalcy? What steps can be taken to ensure that business continues? These are all questions that a Business Continuity Plan will answer and subsequently make the road to recovery that much easier

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There are many more elements to consider when creating an effective Crisis Management Plan; however these five key components will result in a very promising start. By creating and utilizing a Crisis Management Team Contact Sheet, a First-Action Page, Crisis Control Centers, Crisis Risk Assessment Section, and a Business Continuity Plan a business owner will have solidly laid the foundation for a successful and effective Crisis Management Plan.


Crisis Media Relations

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

It’s a Crisis. Don’t play games with the Media.

by Neil Kuvin

mediaYou turn around outside your place of business and hello!! You’re looking into the barrel (in this case the lens) of a media videographer’s camera. You look to the right of the camera and there he is – the most annoying, arrogant member of the local media. He’s on a story-hunting safari ever since one of your long-time, executives was arrested for grand theft.

So, you think you’re ready for this. You think it’s like two gladiators crossing swords. You’re cool. You can handle anything. You’re tough and you’re ready. You attended one of your company’s “Media Crisis Communications” sessions a couple of years ago. You’re ready. Aren’t you?

You smile. He asks his first question: “How long did this fellow work for you?”

Think a minute. Make that 3 seconds. Remember the “pat” answers from that communications session?

1. Yes, I have the answer and here it is.

2. No, I don’t have the answer, but I’ll get it for you.

3. Yes, I do have the answer, but I cannot discuss it.

“OK,” you think, “Number 2 is easy” so that’s what you say. Turns out Mr. Arrogance is not easily put off. He’s working against a tight deadline and you’re going to slow him down? So he applies his “not ready to talk” tactic and throws in a “softball” to warm you up. And your smiling answer is Number one.

He then hits hard with an off-the-record, personnel question that Number 3 can satisfy. Hah, you think. This is getting easy. But he persists and persists, asking things about your arrested employee that are only supposed to be accessed by particular other employees in your company. How do you duck and run?

Let’s look at the situation with relaxed lungs and a dry brow.

There are some situations in which you can legitimately use the third option:

  1. The case is before the courts.
  2. For competitive reasons.
  3. Union negotiations causing a blackout have been imposed.
  4. Situations involving member, client, employee, or other forms of privacy.
  5. Employees have not yet been informed (but you’d better take care of that immediately).
  6. Securities legislation would be breached.
  7. Issues involving national security.

If the temptation to “no comment” is being used as a substitute for not wanting to deal with an issue, my advice is to wake up. In today’s world, you’re going to have to deal with the issue sooner or later. Sooner means on your terms. Later means on everyone else’s, not just the media. All over the media, fingers are being pointed at management or anyone who has control or command of conditions.

If you keep getting hammered; continuing along the “message, message, message” approach will eventually wear out the reporter (or irritate her/him). A really good, experienced reporter knows how to deal with your bobbing and weaving. So, prepare by having “Crisis Media Training” or at least a rehearsal where one or two of your employees ask you questions that may

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Enough Number 2 and 3 answers and you also risk the allegation that you refused to answer the question. Which in one instance or more you did. But, believe me; it’s better than hemming and hawing or “no commenting.” It also depends on how well you know the reporter. If it’s someone you’ve been working with for awhile, and it’s not a topic of public outrage, and a microphone isn’t being stuck in your face, it’s usually easier to move past the question and deliver a message you want to get out, particularly regarding this incident.

Your treasured reputation is at stake in these coming weeks and months. Anticipate. Rehearse. Take your own bullets first. Don’t use Number 3. Whatever the situation, be prepared!


Could you use a little Public Relations today?

Monday, March 19th, 2012

by Neil Kuvin

Public RelationsDid’ja hear the latest in a long line of corporations making public fools of themselves by using past incidents to stir emotions or use examples? Here are just three examples of incredibly bad decision-making and why Public Relations is essential to wipe up the dropped and broken advertising bowl.

UPS buys time in the highly-viewed NCAA 2nd round Kentucky game and builds a commercial around video of Duke’s previous basketball star, Christian Laetner shooting a last-second shot that won the 1992 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.  UPS is using the video footage of Laetner’s shot to demonstrate a lack of “logistics” – their latest limp ad campaign.  When you see the complete video you know Kentucky’s team left Laetner alone at the foul line at the other end of the court.  Logistics indeed.  Sounds more like a major coaching mistake by Kentucky.  Laetner is virtually unguarded.  The ball arrives.  Laetner turns and shoots a 16-footer and… we all know the outcome.

And now, 20 years later, probably no fewer than 25 million people saw the spot and except for basketball fans in Siberia, Iceland and Greenland, haven’t the slightest knowledge of why Duke is so hated across the tobacco and horse fields of Kentucky.  And this commercial has stirred up the Kentucky Cats’ faithful.  They are outraged.  Hell, I can’t escape a Kentuckian’s wrath when I proudly wear my 30-year old Duke hat.  In fact, about 10 years ago, while wearing the dark blue hat, I was sternly told by a “Home Depot” clerk not only to “get out,” she added, “and don’t come in here again wearing that hat.”  Her eyes and hands told me she was serious.

How many of you remember the “New Coke” product and its advertising campaign?  That product died a painful and expensive death.  Did Coca Cola put anything into Public Relations to mitigate the damage done to their iconic brand and logo?  While they didn’t use anything untoward or personally offensive in their ad campaign, they were guilty of even thinking that we consumers would literally eat it up.  They think we’re all Coke-worshipping lemmings and will buy anything they produce.  I wonder if the person who thought that whole thing up is now waiting tables in Peoria.  Just think of the money spent on creating the “New Coke” product, bottling and shipping costs, and then the ad campaign.  And no follow-up Public Relations after the product got pulled from the shelves.  I’m getting dizzy.

And now the latest in a long line of mistakes with no mop supplied. “Huggies” diapers are, like UPS, offending probably 40-50% of the population with their commercial featuring men changing diapers.  The sequences inside the commercial show men to be oafs, irritatingly silly and downright incompetent.  Men may not buy their product, but it’s for sure they know how to use it on their child.  “Stay at home” Dads and many men throughout the country are furious with the commercial, and rightly so.  But will “Huggies’” corporate moguls and overpaid advertising agency creative types change the spot or pull it temporarily to do some Public Relations damage control?  Not a chance.

Public Relations is not the end-all and be-all to fixing an image.  But it can and does have an impact on diminishing; even taking the edge off what stupid people in critically important positions do between nine and five on Madison Avenue.  Sometimes it’s years before the stigma of major advertising mistakes can finally drift away.  For UPS, at least here in Kentucky, it’ll be a lifetime.


Create an Impeccable Internet Reputation

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Use your actions — not a reputation manager

On the Internet a single voice can carry as much weight as the largest companies.

reputationThat voice has created a fear factor in companies and organizations, which has spawned the growth of “reputation managers.” These managers came into vogue with the widespread use of computers. They can track an entity’s actions and other entities’ opinionsabout those actions, analyze the statisticsand then work to cleanse negative hits by adding positive comments about an entity to the Internet.

This virtual reputation management is not only manipulative but it can cost thousands of dollars per month.

If PR professionals are to encourage people to trust companies online, you must trust that the Internet community will be, on the whole, fair, as well, says Henry Lieberman, the principal research scientist at the MIT Media Lab.

In his blog for, he cites that reputation management can easily backfire and gives this example: “The Financial Times reported a case of 50 employees of one of Britain’s leading PR firms making Wikipedia edits under faked identities to boost the reputation of one of their clients. I wonder what that did to the reputation of the PR firm. Representatives from PRSA inform me that it is against its Code of Ethics to omit disclosing a relationship to a client. I’m glad to hear it. Incidents such as these undermine trust in Wikipedia and other Internet communities and thus make it harder for reputable companies.”

Fortunately, consumers are becoming savvy enough to ignore the random Internet crazy who insults a business. For example, if you’re a company reviewed online by consumers, remember that one bad apple won’t ruin your whole delicious pie. If you have enough positive feedback from others, consumers probably will understand the random complaint is either bogus or a symptom of one bad experience in a myriad of positive ones.

If those negative comments crop up occasionally, then treat them as an opportunity to show best customer service practices and responsiveness by addressing the problem head-on when possible. Lieberman suggests that the person closest to the situation respond. For example, a complaint about a hotel’s reservation desk should be answered by one of its clerks and not the president and DEFINITELY not the PR professional.

Also, if necessary, tell your side of the story. Consumers understand you also have that right. When doing so, though, make sure to treat the commenter with respect, even if they are not respectful.

Sometimes you can even learn from the complaints if they are valid and continue. Lieberman cites the chorus of voices reacting to Bank of America’s recent planned debit card charges, saying that the particular charge itself wasn’t that onerous; they deserved their reputation for gouging, and that was just the last straw.

Reputation management may grant you a squeaky clean virtual presence, but it’s misleading. Instead of striving for no nicks and scrapes on the Web, strive for an honest portrayal of your entity. That way, customers and you aren’t fooled into thinking you’re something you’re not.

Your biggest asset is not a high-priced management company. It’s you…an organization dedicated to delivering unique products and wonderful customer service with all ethics intact.

by Stacey McArthur