Tag Archives: Social Media

Planning Is Indispensable In Crisis Management

Dwight Eisenhower famously said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” The same could apply in planning for a crisis.  A crisis can happen at anytime.  It can affect any brand.  A crisis doesn’t care about the size of the organization.  With social media and the 24/7 news cycle, a crisis that might never have gotten any attention several years ago or only localized coverage can be splashed across the networks and make national headlines, destroying years of positive brand building.  What is worse is that much of the damage could have been avoided if the brand had done some crisis management planning.

When the first media call happens or first negative social media post goes live, most brands are still scrambling on how to respond to the crisis.  They are determining who will speak for the brand, what stakeholders need to be addressed, what the response should be, and the legal implications.  By the time they have determined all of this, the crisis is engulfing their organization, they have lost several news cycles, and social media is exploding.

That is why as Eisenhower said, planning is indispensable.  Effective planning will address the importance of moving quickly under pressure; not losing critical news cycles and allowing social media to run amok. It also allows for potential regulatory and political impact to be evaluated immediately.

Planning allows the brand to know what stakeholders need to be addressed.  Often in a crisis, the concern is with addressing the public and investors, with vendors and employees forgotten causing great damage.  It allows for a company procedure for when the media calls and for employees to know who to refer the call to without getting caught in a gotcha moment with a reporter.  Planning allows for a coherent social media strategy to coincide with the traditional media response.  Far too often, brands forget the social media component as they are scrambling to deal with the traditional media.  This mistake can be avoided with some planning.  Finally planning can help develop the empathy that will be essential in a crisis.  Just think of United CEO Oscar Munoz’s initial response to the passenger being dragged off the plane, had he shown some empathy with his response much of the ongoing damage could have been avoided.

Planning won’t make a crisis go away but it will lessen the impact of the crisis.  That is why it is critical to have a crisis management planning session and to incorporate it into your overall public relations plan.

 

Crisis Communications In Today’s Polarized Society

 

For years, businesses have known that a crisis could arise from an accident, product defect, or random statement by a company spokesperson. Now in this highly polarized political environment many businesses are finding that a crisis can arise from advertising on a polarizing show or sponsoring events that are politically charged. Social media not only goes after shows or events they consider wrong but against the advertisers and sponsors. Just see how JP Morgan Chase was forced to temporarily halt their ads on NBC News because of the Megan Kelly interview with Alex Jones or the hits that Bill O’Reilly’s advertisers took before they pulled their advertising.  As a result, businesses are being forced to rethink their approach to crisis communications.

So what should businesses be doing in this new era of political divisiveness and crisis communications?

  1. Do a risk analysis of all sponsorships and advertising that could potentially cause a public backlash among the right or left. In this analysis review all social media and traditional media mentions.
  2. Develop a prepared response in case your businesses is targeted because of its various sponsorships and advertising, and have it ready.
  3. Engage with activists on social media. Remember, that social media drives narratives not merely on social media but in traditional media as well.
  4. Remember all of your audiences – internal and external.
  5. Stay consistent on the message and response that you have decided for your business.

In today’s charged environment anything can cause a crisis for businesses.  More and more many businesses are finding themselves in a crisis due to indirect association.  That is why crisis communications is more essential than ever before in any overall public relations plan.

Crisis Management Lessons From United’s Debacle

United Airlines continues to generate bad publicity days after a man was violently dragged off a Chicago, IL to Louisville, KY flight due to the flight being overbooked and room being needed for 4 flight crew.  The entire incident was filmed by other passengers with their smartphones.  The man was bloodied as he was dragged on the floor from his seat.  Compounding the damage was the tone deaf response from the airline, particularly its CEO, Oscar Munoz,  to the incident.  The entire story provides several lessons that business leaders can learn from and apply during a crisis.

  1. The CEO of the company is the public face of the company and his or her words reflect on the entire company. Following the incident and the ensuing media coverage, United CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement merely apologizing for any inconvenience passengers may have experienced but never addressing the specific incident nor apologizing to the passenger directly.  That statement alone was viewed as insensitive but then Munoz added to the media firestorm by sending a letter to United employees praising them for how they handled the situation and labeling the passenger as belligerent despite video contradicting this accusation.  Munoz’s statements became the public face of United Airlines and has drawn condemnation and ridicule from the media, the public, and Hollywood.  It has angered the Chinese market (the passenger was Chinese) which is United’s key growth market and driven down the airline’s stock by over a billion dollars.    Munoz came across as uncaring in his response and as a result all of United is now perceived that way.
  2. Apologies Matter (and how they are worded even more). What should have been a one day media story has now been spread across several days and counting, due to Munoz’s lack of apology.  If Munoz had offered a strong apology for what happened and condemned the actions, the media would be moving on by now.  Rather by failing to issue a strongly worded apology and blaming the passenger, Munoz has kept the story alive in the media causing more days of bad press for United.  His response has become a bigger story than the original incident and is overshadowing the original report.
  3. Everything can be recorded with a smartphone. Think of any television show (Chicago PD, Law & Order SVU, Chicago Justice, The Catch) where the police make an arrest or rough up a suspect and all of the bystanders are recording it with their phones. This isn’t just the stuff of Hollywood, it happens every day.  Part of the reason this story got the amount of play that it has (besides United’s poor crisis management) is that fellow passengers were able to video the entire incident with their smartphones.  The video images brought to life the episode in a powerful, emotional, and impactful way and created a readymade story for the media.  People often forget anytime an incident happens people begin recording with their smartphones.  Every occurence is now just not reported upon but has video accompanying it due to bystanders recording it.
  4. Social media drives narratives. This point cannot be stated enough.  Social media is driving this story with the hashtag being #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos (#NeedCrisisManagement should be United’s hashtag in this crisis). The result is the traditional media is reporting on the social media outrage.

United Airlines serves as a lesson on what not to do during a crisis.  Hopefully other companies will learn from United’s mistakes.

Is Your Brand Ready for A Social Media Crisis Based On Today’s Politics

Social media drives narratives.  That cannot be said enough.  Social media can also create a crisis where none existed.  Many brands are finding this out firsthand in the current politically charged and polarized environment.

Today’s consumers expect brands to tell a story and share their values including their political values.  Many brands have for years avoided taking stands on political issues and politicians as they knew such a stand would antagonize some consumers and cost them sales.  Yet more and more brands are finding that they can’t sidestep political issues.  Consumers are taking to social media demanding to know where a brand stands on an issue or political personality.  We have seen this just recently with consumers taking to social media to demand of brands where do they stand on FOX News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly and stories of sexual harassment.  This social media outrage has led numerous advertisers to pull their advertising from his show.

Very often brands are caught unprepared for the social media outrage that creates a crisis for them.  They need to be proactive, especially in this socially media driven world where a tweet on Twitter can be more powerful than the best devised public relations campaign and lead to numerous negative media stories.

What should companies do?

  1. Identify potential issues that consumers care about and might demand to know where the brand stands on the issue.
  2. Identify potential activists, antagonists, supporters, and media that would be involved in such a media crisis.
  3. Practice stimulations of a potential social media crisis driven by the brand’s stand on a particular issue.
  4. Respond at once when the crisis erupts.
  5. Engage on social media. Remember brands are all about engaging consumers on social media about various positive news items.  But too often, they fail to do that when a crisis hits.  That is a mistake.

A crisis can happen at any time.  In today’s polarized world social media often both creates and defines a crisis.  To survive such a crisis, a brand must be ready.

 

Brad’s Wife and Cracker Barrel: What Not To Do During A Social Media Crisis

Social media creates news – both positive and negative.  Businesses of all sizes are finding out that social media posts can create a crisis where one did not exist.  How a business responds to such a post can determine if it becomes a crisis or not.  The saga of Cracker Barrel and Brad’s wife is a vivid example of what not to do when a social media crisis erupts.

A Milltown, Indiana man named Bradley Byrd claimed his wife, Nanette, was fired from the Cracker Barrel in Corydon, Indiana on his birthday after 11 years of service. Byrd posted a question on Cracker Barrel’s Facebook page asking, “Why did you fire my wife?”

From there, the internet took over.  Visitors to the Cracker Barrel Facebook page are unable to post on the wall, so they’ve turned to the company’s posts to find out what happened and to show their support for Brad’s wife. Some of the comments are quite funny.  #JusticeForBradsWife and #BradsWife are trending.  The media is reporting on the social media outrage.  Yet Cracker Barrel is remaining mum to the growing story both with the traditional media and on social media.  While companies will not state why an employee was terminated, Cracker Barrel is not even acknowledging the comments and is acting as if nothing is happening as it continues to post advertisements on social media.  That hasn’t stopped the social media outrage or other businesses from jumping in and making use of the tagline Brad’s wife.

Cracker Barrel is coming across as uncaring, unresponsive, and ridiculous all at the same time.  Consumers are angry at a lack of any response or acknowledgement from the company which results in even more outraged posts.  That is a place where no business wants to be.

So what should Cracker Barrel do?

  1. Acknowledge the posts on its Facebook page. A simple statement saying thank you for your post.  We appreciate hearing from you and while we value your opinion, employee records are confidential and something we cannot comment on.  Such a statement would at least demonstrate that Cracker Barrel is paying attention to what people (many of them customers) are posting.  By ignoring them, the company is basically sending the message that it doesn’t care what people (customers) think.
  2. Post testimonials online from employees on what a great place Cracker Barrel is to work for and how the company cares about its employees.
  3. Post online how much the company values its customers and their opinions.
  4. Depending on the reason for the termination, Cracker Barrel should rehire Brad’s wife and even use her in advertising.

What Cracker Barrel is doing is what no company should do when facing a social firestorm – nothing.  This allowed the story to go from social media to traditional media, making Cracker Barrel a butt of late night jokes and the object of consumer anger.  As a result of not having a crisis management plan in place for a social media crisis, Cracker Barrel has allowed Brad’s wife to get the last laugh and serve as a warning to businesses on what not to do during a crisis.

What Businesses Can Learn From This Year’s Political Conventions – Social Media Is King

The 2016 political conventions are upon us. Unlike political conventions of the past, the suspense is gone on who will be the nominee and no intense battles over party platforms are fought out at the conventions. The political convention in this day and age is in many ways an infomercial for the presidential nominee and their political party. Yet millions of Americans still tune into the convention. Yet the way they tune in to obtain coverage is one studied intensely by businesses so that they can copy the methods to reach the consumer.

Political communications leads businesses in new ways to reach consumers and position their brands. In 1920 and 1924, radio came of age covering the Republican and Democratic conventions. Businesses paid note of that and the increasing number of Americans who owned a radio. The result was that businesses began reaching out to Americans via radio – sponsored shows like Little Orphan Annie(the forerunner of product placements) and direct advertisements. In 1952, as Dwight Eisenhower and Robert A. Taft battled it out for control of the Republican Party, millions were glued to the convention proceedings on television that was just reaching its potential. Again businesses took note that a new way to reach consumers had emerged.

So what can businesses learn from this year’s political conventions?

Social media is king. The television networks have all cut back on their coverage of the conventions (a trend that has been going on for a while now with all of the suspense gone). Americans are paying attention to the conventions not with traditional sources of media (radio, television, or print) but via social media – Twitter and Facebook. This confirms something we have seen over the past several years – social media sets narratives. In fact a tweet or Facebook post often reaches more people than a television broadcast of the proceedings. Beyond that, people react to what they are seeing on social media. The takeaway from this convention season for businesses – social media is only growing stronger as are the ways to use it. A shrewd business leaders will copy what they are seeing at the conventions and use the methods.

Business always follows politics in terms of how to reach consumers. It has been this way since politics became the competitive and partisan profession it is today. Each election cycle offers business leaders lessons on new ways to reach the consumer and make their brand standout. The next two weeks will provide many examples of this – just stay tuned.

CEOs – Pay Attention To These Lessons From Donald Trump

Businessman and reality television star, Donald Trump appears to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016. This became all but official with the exit of Texas Senator Ted Cruz from the Republican presidential race following a devastating defeat in Indiana. Love Trump or hate him, he has shown on the stump some valuable public relations lessons that CEOs would be wise to copy. Trump demonstrated:

  1. Consumers will buy a brand that is consistent with its brand story.
  2. The power of social media.
  3. Stay on message no matter what.

When Trump entered the Republican race for president few took him seriously. There was much speculation that he was running as a publicity ploy and would not actually qualify. If he did run, experts stated he would need to refashion himself from the politically incorrect, Donald Trump that everyone knew from the tabloids and Celebrity Apprentice. Yet he did the complete opposite. He doubled down on his politically incorrect brand with his feud with FOX’s Megyn Kelly, calls for banning Muslims from entering the United States, and building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out. Corporate sponsors of Trump’s bailed in the wake of the controversy. Yet Republican voters loved it and catapulted him into the lead and eventually crowned him as the nominee. Contrast this with Hillary Clinton who has reinvented herself several times this campaign cycle and has yet to secure the Democratic nomination against Bernie Sanders and has created greater doubts among voters about what she believes. Being consistent to one’s brand is essential for success. Consumers buy into a brand’s story and Trump understood that. Business leaders need to remember that.

Everyone knows that social media has changed our world. Large numbers of consumers report getting their news from what they read on social media compared to traditional news. Trump understood that. He understood the power of utilizing Twitter to reach voters over the heads of traditional media. One tweet from Trump received more media coverage than television commercials combined of his top rivals. Beyond that, Trump utilized a way to connect with voters over the heads of the media and not through traditional advertising but rather via social media. This created a greater sense of loyalty and feeling of ownership with Trump by voters. Business leaders need to understand the power of social media that Trump demonstrated and harness it to reach their consumers and rely on it more than just traditional advertising.

Finally, Trump understood an age old communication lesson, keep your message to just several points and keep referring to it over and over again no matter what happens or what you are asked. Throughout the campaign, Trump has been consistent with his message to the exasperation of his rivals and the news media. In debates and interviews regardless of what was asked he referred to his main message points while his rivals were thrown off message consistently. Business leaders should remember stay on message regardless of what is asked and always make any question fall back to your main message points.

Donald Trump has reshaped politics in 2016 without a doubt. But he has also taught some valuable communication strategies that CEOs and business owners should study and utilize.