An almost-constant refrain of PR crisis management pros is that brands and organizations should own their mistakes, apologize and describe how it plans to ensure a similar crisis does not reoccur. Still, many brands ignore this advice. While it delayed for weeks, the University of Maryland did the right thing August 14, admitting legal and moral responsibility for a student-athlete’s tragic death.
Several airlines have been in the news recently for crises, many of which were criticized for how the situations were handled. Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary Horizon, however, seems to have learned lessons from these situations, as its communications surrounding this tragic incident were quick, measured and informative. Here are some takeaways for communicators from the Alaska Airlines situation.
In the digital age speed and agility have become key elements in crisis management. Hill & Knowlton Strategies’ U.S. risk and crisis communication chief Kevin Elliott offers tips to make sure your crisis-preparedness plan is ready for today’s always-on environment and will allow you to control the narrative around a crisis.
After having seen so many brands handle (and mishandle) PR crises, you might think executives would know to manage crises well. This often is not the case. We continue to see brands attempting to cover up miscues rather than being transparent and waiting too long to react or moving too quickly. Ashley McCown, president of Solomon McCown & Company, offers a brief video to PR News exclusively where these factors and others play into her picks of the top 5 PR crises at the halfway point of 2018.
For a brand, knowing when to react is crucial. Move too quickly and a small problem can become a crisis. React too slowly and you might create a crisis. Do brands hurt their reputation by reversing a position, as MoviePass and Facebook did recently? It’s at times like these when crisis management seems a mix of art and science.
Moviepass’ current woes are partly poor communications, and partly bad policy. It’s difficult to find an article today about MoviePass without also seeing descriptors attached to the brand such as “troubled,” “floundering,” “coming under renewed scrutiny” and “cash-strapped.”
A PR crisis often becomes a media feeding frenzy. When the crisis involves a media brand and a CEO, it’s a frenzy run amok. Media, like PR, usually abhors being the story. The sexual harassment allegations against CBS chief Les Moonves are far more than the story of a top media executive and his brand wishing to stay out of the news, though. Communicators will be watching closely to see how CBS talks about this crisis, although the network might not be allowed make all its own choices.
It hasn’t been a good week so far for cracker makers and food phobia sufferers. Two snack food giants, Mondelēz Global and Campbell Soup subsidiary Pepperidge Farm, have recalled iconic cracker products because a whey powder supplier has notified them that its ingredient may be tainted by Salmonella, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever, among other symptoms.
The distinction between misinformation and disinformation is at the heart of Mark Zuckerberg’s thinking about why Holocaust deniers’ material can remain on Facebook. He’s likely debated this thorny question with his senior team. Unfortunately, his comments this week and his subsequent walk back muddled the distinction. In terms of walking back, though, he had plenty of company from other prominent people.
Not all crises are created equal, and thus a crisis plan that was effective for one situation may not work well for another. Given how quickly new technologies emerge, news travels and opinions of communications strategies change in 2018, a plan that was crafted five years ago may be woefully out of date for a current crisis. As such, regular evaluation of your crisis strategy is crucial for success during a stressful time.