Given the rapid pace at which we digest information, expert crisis management is the best defense against a brand reputation meltdown. Managing the flow of harmful news articles and social media posts is a delicate craft, best handled by PR pros with a balanced approach—neither dismissing the seriousness of claims, nor issuing a hasty apology. One such PR professional, George Atallah, assistant executive director of external affairs at the NFL Players Association, spoke on crisis PR with Doug Simon, president and CEO of D S Simon Media, at PR News’ Media Relations Conference in December.
Many organizations make the mistake of not planning for a crisis, thinking it’s either superstitious or somewhat futile. But when dealing with a crisis, you need to be fast, transparent and most of all, prepared, says Linda Rutherford, vice president and chief communications officer with Southwest Airlines. Here are three lessons she has learned from the airline industry and beyond.
Given their broad franchise networks and large customer base—and of course their huge social media audiences—fast-food chains can be seen as guinea pigs for how the public discourse is digitally evolving. Consider the latest high-profile example of how a single Facebook post led to the rapid closure of a Dairy Queen—within 48 hours of being posted.
McDonald’s has opened a location just a stone’s throw from Vatican City, eliciting complaints from Vatican authorities. NBC reported at least one cardinal’s public opposition, calling the opening “perverse” and “abberant.” Amidst a flurry of international headlines, McDonald’s has been noticeably silent, and has not issued any kind of public statement. The fast food chain hasn’t even announced the opening on social media or other official channels. McDonald’s silent posture is likely a strategic move to keep the brand out of a volatile situation.
IKEA, the Sweden-based furniture giant, agreed to pay $50 million to settle a lawsuit over deaths that occurred when its dressers tipped over onto children. It’s a significant black eye for the brand going into the holidays; one wonders, then, if another bit of related news was carefully timed to divert the conversation to something a bit more lighthearted.
There were so many candidates for Image Patrol this month, and with the year ending we decided to forego the usual comparison of two brands and instead create the ultimate image disaster list for 2016. This PR News Pro premium content is offered to you free in the spirit of the season.
For all the good that social media provides, it also, during times of crisis, can be the venue for horror stories about brands. We mentioned in our Dec. 5 edition the plight of Delta Air Lines, whose Thanksgiving turkey was ruined when an unruly passenger’s tirade—and the cabin crew’s failure to boot him from the aircraft—was captured on video.
Developing a brand message can be difficult. It can be even more difficult to ensure that your message stays consistent across all channels, both internally and externally. And when you have a crisis on your hands, and don’t have the luxury of a great deal of time in which to craft messages that address the crisis, that can be more difficult still.
Whose Court? A California court is deciding whether or not to honor a clause that prohibits Wells Fargo customers from suing the bank over the phony accounts scandal. Should the clause hold in court, wronged customers will forced to submit to arbitration, an option seen as more favorable to Wells Fargo.
With digital’s breakneck speed influencing crises, you’d think new tools and technology that can help in crisis management would be priorities for communicators. Not so fast. A judicious mix of traditional and digital is the preferred method of Eric Wohlschlegel, director, media relations, American Petroleum Institute (API), who will be speaking at PR News’ Media Relations Conference, Dec. 8, in Washington, D.C.