How long does it take before a crisis is truly over? That’s a question some communicators might be asking after news broke that comedian Louis C.K. performed live for the first time since sexual misconduct allegations against him went public in November.
This could have easily have been a moment of crisis for JUUL Labs, manufacturers of the eponymous JUUL e-cigarette vaporizer, after The New York Times published a lengthy investigative report Monday detailing the company’s history of marketing its sleek, easy-to-use vaporizer to underage consumers. Instead, the fact that nothing nuclear happened to JUUL Labs this morning is a testament to the brand’s “proactive, not reactive” approach to reputation management.
Communicators know if your brand isn’t telling its story someone else will be glad to, and you’ll probably dislike what’s being said. In a case PR students likely will be studying for years, Papa John’s Pizza International is relating its narrative, but so is founder Papa John Schnater, the ex-chairman/CEO, who’s launched a website with a competing view of events.
A recent Grand Jury report detailed over 1,000 cases of sexual abuse by “more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years” by leaders in the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. Several Catholic bishops in Pennsylvania released statements immediately after the report was filed, but there was obvious disagreement among the responses. And Pope Francis didn’t release a statement until the morning of Aug. 20, a full six days after the report came to light.
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.”