Tag Archives: Strategic Vision PR Group

Crisis Response: A Higher Loyalty

Former FBI Director James Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty” comes out on April 17th.  Comey is planning a massive media blitz and multi-city book tour to promote the book.  ABC is airing a primetime interview with Comey and George Stephanopouloson Sunday, April 15th.  Tickets to Comey’s book events are reportedly sold out.  “A Higher Loyalty” is already sold out on Amazon with many expecting the book to offer bombshells about President Trump. Comey is known to raise the President’s ire and has hinted the book will prove the President a liar.  All of this comes at a time when the President’s poll numbers are actually on the rise.  So far, the White House has been quiet about the book and says it is planning no response to it and what is expected to be non-stop coverage of Comey. But in this twenty-four/seven social media driven world can the White House totally ignore Comey and his book? And if not what should their crisis communications response be?

Quite simply, the White House must respond to Comey and the accusations he makes in his book. Failure to do so would be totally out of character for this Administration and be seen by many as an admission of guilt by the President.  The media would play up the accusations in the book and the silence from the White House in the worst possible way for the President.  Beyond that, silence from the President and his surrogates would go against the Trump brand.  Love it or hate it, the Trump brand stands for feisty defensive attacks against any who attack it.

So how should the White House respond to “A Higher Loyalty”?

  1. Go through the book and point out any discrepancies and mistakes in the book from what is the official record.
  2. Point out places in the book where Comey’s version of events is contradicted by other participants especially Democrats, such as former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
  3. Highlight previous Democratic attacks on Comey’s credibility, including Hillary Clinton who can’t stop blaming Comey along with Trump voters for why she lost the election.
  4. Have surrogates like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and others who are not considered diehard Trump backers out defending the President rather than his usual surrogates. This will give more media credibility to the White House response.
  5. Let Trump be Trump including on Twitter.People expect Trump to hit back and failing to do so gives Comey and the book additional credibility. Additionally, Trump’s tweets and statements have a way of becoming the story and pushing the accusations to the background.

“A Higher Loyalty” is expected to cause political fireworks, as is everything associated with President Trump. While some might advise ignoring Comey and his media blitz would be the smartest strategy, it is one that would go against the Trump brand and actually lead many to believe whatever Comey says in the book.  In this case, the best crisis response for the White House is a strong offense.

 

Advertisements

PR Lessons From 2017 To Use In 2018

Two thousand and seventeen is drawing to a close.  What a year it has been.  It has been a year that has seen some major stories with serious public relations lessons that will be applied going into 2018 and far beyond.

What were the major stories and the public relations lessons that can be learned from them?

  1. The #metoo movement with stories of sexual harassment and assault and how organizations respond to these allegations. From Harvey Weinstein to Charlie Rose to Matt Lauer and numerous other prominent men, 2017 saw their careers come to an end with sordid stories of sexual harassment and assault.  For the organizations that had employed these men, the public relations challenge was, how do you address the allegations when made against an employee, how do you reassure shareholders, and how do you let the public know that no such conduct will be tolerated and if such things happened the culture of the company has changed.  This calls for a public relations strategy of being proactive and getting in-front of such stories, highlighting the company culture, and navigating social media.
  2. United Airlines. The videos of a United Airline passenger being forcibly removed from a flight sent stock shares of the airline plummeting and made United the butt of every late night comedian and countless memes on social media.  The airline was further hurt by its initial response to the situation.  Social media brought this story to the forefront and fueled public outrage.  It again showed the power of social media and how it drives narratives.  This will only increase in 2018.  In fact, social media often reports on a crisis before traditional media.  Organizations need to be conscious of this fact.  They must ensure that they monitor social media as they do traditional media and address social media in a consistent way with all other modes of communication employed.
  3. Equifax data breach. The Equifax data breach is still being felt today by consumers.  Bad as the breach was, the credit reporting giant’s response to the crisis worsened the situation and caused even additional harm to the once mighty brand.  The company waited weeks before reporting the breach and even when it finally admitted to the breach did not get all of the information out at one time.  Rather Equifax released information in installments and allowed the media often to reveal information before the company would admit it.  The lesson for any organization or individual from Equifax is to be proactive, transparent, and get everything out at one time during a crisis.
  4. The NFL and the take a knee movement. Donald Trump calling out NFL players who kneeled during the playing of the national anthem led to even more players taking the knee.  Yet the public did not support the NFL or the players in this stand as seen by declining attendance at games and television ratings.  The reason was that many fans felt that the protests went against the NFL brand and did not understand what the players were protesting.  The lessons from this are – be consistent to your brand and fully explain actions that the public might not understand.
  5. Donald Trump. Donald Trump dominated the news in 2017 for good or bad.  His policies and statements created strong passions.  From this, consumers came to expect brands to take stands on political and social issues.  Brands have often been reluctant to do this fearing they will alienate a sector of consumers.  But today’s consumers in the age of Trump expect a brand to take a stand on the issues and brands are being forced to do so.  This trend will accelerate in 2018.

Two thousand and seventeen was an eventful year.  Its impact on businesses in terms of public relations will be felt far into 2018 and beyond.

What Brands Will Live, What Brands Will Die, Who Will Tell Your Brand Story

In the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton, the final ensemble is called, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”  It recollects that all the founding fathers were allowed to grow old and tell their stories, save of course for Alexander Hamilton who died young in the famed duel and that it fell to his wife, Eliza to tell his story for another 50 years so he would be remembered and revered for all that he contributed to our nation’s founding (and that without that story he would have been forgotten).  The same lyrics can also apply for brands today.  Today’s consumers expect a brand to do more than just have the best products, services, and prices.  They expect a brand to tell a story.  If a brand doesn’t have a brand story, it will die and be forgotten.  So who tells your brand story and what is it?

Ask yourself what is my brand story.  You may think that you don’t have a brand story but you do.  Your brand story is told by your website, social media, products, and services.  It is the basic DNA of your company.  It tells your vision and values.  It defines what separates you from the competition.  Just as in Hamilton, Eliza told Hamilton’s story, his values, flaws, sacrifice, and what made him so different and special compared to his political rivals, Jefferson and Madison.  The play also clearly defines that George Washington had a unique and special story that established the brand that history remembers him for and separates him from all of his compatriots even still today.

So who should be the chief storyteller of your brand?  As Harry Truman, famously said, “the buck stops here.”, meaning that it should be the owner, CEO, or President of the company who conveys the brand story.  Successful leaders are game changers.  They transform the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, vendors, Wall Street, and the media to act on their strategy, buy the latest product, or provide the latest assessment of their company.  Storytelling is essential to achieve this.  If the CEO or Company President isn’t able or unwilling to tell the brand story, it should be another key officer who is totally familiar with the brand’s DNA and convey the story to all stakeholders – employees, consumers, shareholders, and vendors.  Just as in the play, Eliza Hamilton was uniquely qualified and perhaps the only person possible to convey Hamilton’s story.

In today’s business world, a brand story is essential in the global economy.  Without one, your brand will die.  With one, it will flourish and be remembered.

Crisis Management In The Age Of Harvey Weinstein

It seems like every day a new sexual harassment or assault story is hitting the news out of the entertainment industry, the world of the media, or the political world.  The names of celebrities who have been named keep climbing.  For the organizations that employed these people or were associated with them the question arises, how should they handle the ensuring crisis.  What should their crisis management be?

How an organization responds to such a crisis will have a great impact on its future.  They need to think about all stakeholders in their response – employees, shareholders, vendors, and the public.  At the same time, they should be conducting an internal audit to determine if any other bombshells about to drop.

When responding to an employee’s sexual misconduct, these are tips that organizations need to implement:

  1. Get out in front. When scandals such as we have seen since the Weinstein story broke, an organization cannot wait as far as responding to such a story.  Delay in responding loses several news cycles and the social media onslaught that arises.  It creates the image of complicity with the behavior or worse guilt.
  2. Show how the company is handling the situation internally. Just condemning despicable and perhaps criminal behavior by an employee is not enough.  The organization must show and demonstrate how they are ensuring that such behavior will not occur again by any employee and how they are investigating internally to see if this was an isolated case or if other employees were involved.
  3. Don’t ignore social media. Social media drives narratives.  We have seen this especially in the sexual harassment cases that are dominating the news.  Often the stories break on social media first.  Make sure that your organization is monitoring social media and if an employee is caught in such a story, that you address the social media world in your responses.  Too often this overlooked.

The sexual harassment and assault stories show no signs of abating.  Hopefully this will lead to a change in personal conduct.  But for businesses, as these allegations continue, it is essential that they know how to address such actions by members of their organization.

Equifax: An Epic PR Failure

Equifax’s crisis communications strategy dealing with its security hack has been an epic fail.  And the credit reporting giant continues to make the situation worse.

The story of the security hack at Equifax is well known.  The breach lasted from mid-May through July of this year with hackers obtaining the personal information of 143 million people. This information included people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, driver’s license numbers. Compounding the problems for Equifax three officers of the company sold stock shares worth a combined $1.8 million just before the breach was detected.

Successful crisis communications requires:

  1. Being proactive. In this Equifax failed as they waited 6 weeks before revealing the hack.  This delay has raised questions of why did they wait and raised suspicions of a cover up.  This was worsened by the revelation that company officers had sold stock just prior to the detection.  Had the company got out in front of the story, particularly during the slow news period of August, it would have earned kudos for being honest and would have drawn less coverage than it is now when reporters and the public are back from vacation.
  2. When a crisis hits, it is essential to be transparent which means getting the good and the bad out.  Again, Equifax failed.  The full story has been coming out slowly with each day a new revelation.  The latest is that Equifax did not implement a security patch in March that could have prevented the hack.
  3. During a crisis, it is critical to show empathy towards those who have been affected. Equifax has done the opposite.  Rather than getting its CEO out as the face of the company who could express empathy and apologize for what has happened, the company has hidden behind press releases.  Its offerings to help victims have fallen far short and appear in the fine print designed to avoid litigation.  The company and its employees have been tone deaf.  This goes all the way to employees in the company’s call centers who have been reported to be rude and flippant to consumers.
  4. Social media. Social media drives narratives. Equifax seems to have overlooked this fact.  It was acting on social media as no crisis was at hand, immortalized by its infamous tweet the day the scandal hit of “Happy Friday”.
  5. No Solution. The final aspect of successful crisis communications is a solution on how an issue will never happen again.  In this too, Equifax has failed.

So, what should the company do now?

  1. Get all the information out immediately. No more slow drip.
  2. Have the CEO become the face of the company, offer a sincere apology and address all stakeholders – consumers, vendors, policymakers, stockholders, and employees.
  3. Offer a solution on moving forward.

Equifax has failed crisis management 101.  Until it takes corrective measures the company will continue to suffer and offer an example of what not to do during a crisis.

 

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.

The Difference Between Public Relations and Advertising

One of the things many people ask about public relations is what is the difference between public relations and advertising.  It is a common question that is asked time and time again.  Yet the two should not be confused.  Here are the differences between advertising and public relations:

  1. Advertising is paid placement. The company pays for the advertisement that is seen in the print publication, heard on the radio, or appears on television. The public knows that the advertisement is paid for by the company.  Public relations on the other hand is free and is earned by being included in a story or interview.  It provides an implied third party endorsement of a company’s product or service by the media.
  2. Message control. With advertising, the company pays for the message, controls what, where and when it will appear.  In public relations, there is not the control over the message.  The reporter determines what if anything they will report on.  If a company knows how to make its message timely and compelling, the chances are that the reporter will cover it.
  3. Consumer Perception. With paid advertising, the customer knows that the provided the message with the intention of trying to sell them something—be it a service or a product. When someone reads a third-party article written about a company’s service or product (or sees/hears coverage on television or radio), the message is perceived as non-biased and an endorsement by the media.
  4. An advertisement lasts as long as the company pays for it to run.  After that the advertisement disappears.  With public relations, the story lasts forever thanks to the internet leaving a viral footprint that is discovered time and again.  One client appeared in a newspaper article in 2006 discussing online shopping and that article still appears as a top search engine item for the client.  A television appearance can last forever thanks to YouTube, the television outlet’s archives, and also the transcript of the show.
  5. Point of contact. With advertising a sales representative is the main point contact when fulfilling an advertising campaign. With public relations, the point of contact are reporters, editors, and producers.
  6. An advertisement will never appear on the front page of a newspaper or be the lead on the nightly news.  In public relations, a news story can be on the front page and be the lead story on the nightly news giving a company extra weight in the court of public perception.

Can the difference between advertising and public relations be confusing?  Yes.  But the key to remember is that both are essential for a successful marketing program.