Tag

crisis communications

Social Media in a Crisis: How to Help the Search for Hannah Graham

By Crisis Communications, Social Media

The city of Charlottesville, the surrounding counties, and the University of Virginia community have been dealing with a crisis for the past week. On September 13, Hannah Graham, an 18-year-old second year student at UVa went missing.

Social media really lights up in a crisis, and can be useful for those trying to share a message, such as the tweet below from Charlottesville city government, encouraging witnesses to come forward.

 

People who may not normally pay attention to Twitter or Facebook are tuning into these platforms to try to get the most up-to-the-minute information. These platforms can be helpful for that, and it’s good to see the news organizations live streaming press conferences and sharing news updates as they are available. A couple of ways to stay on top of these are to follow the hashtag #hannahgraham on Twitter and to like the pages of local news organizations reporting on the unfolding story. https://www.facebook.com/NBC29 is one, and https://www.facebook.com/Newsplex is another.

In all crisis communications, one of the main rules is to refrain from speculation. Speculation can hurt a criminal case, it can distract from the mission at hand, and does not assist law enforcement in doing their jobs.

Here are five things you can do to help in the search for Hannah Graham:

  1. Share updates on Facebook from official sources to gather volunteers to search for Hannah, that share the WANTED poster of the person of interest in the case, and the tip line information to help make it accessible to anyone who might have a lead.
  2. Retweet sources announcing press conferences or other news the Charlottesville Police Department wants shared.
  3. Use the hashtag #hannahgraham to become part of the search stream on Twitter.
  4. Steer clear of fueling rumors or speculation about the case by staying out of online conversations about it.
  5. If you have something relevant to share, contact the police department, not the media.

Let’s all try to stay focused on helping the law enforcement professionals in this difficult case.

 

Transparency and the Crisis Communications Client: Five Questions to Inform Decisions

By Communications, Crisis Communications

As I’ve said before, I love crisis communications. There’s something about the challenge of taking a bad situation and getting the best out of it, that I enjoy. The opportunity to tell the story of a company’s good works in a community that has been hurt by it (think BP), to humanize a brand, or to help rebuild a reputation that has all but been ruined is a challenge I like.

But of course, sometimes that means engaging a client that people don’t like. Or that has done something to harm the environment, or people’s lives or livelihoods. It means defending, in some cases, the indefensible. In public relations, the BIG money often comes from the indefensible industries; tobacco, legalized gambling, chemical production, firearms manufacturing, and the like, all fairly unpopular sectors with a great many haters.

So how does a PR firm decide it’s worth taking on a client that, on the surface, seems to have NOTHING positive to say?

Here are five questions to carefully consider before engaging with a crisis client:

  1. Does the client share the same values as you and your firm? 
  2. Has the client demonstrated the ability to take and follow other professional counsel (e.g. legal counsel)?
  3. If the client has committed past sins, is that now over, and are you confident the client will not repeat the same mistakes?
  4. Has the client expressed true remorse and demonstrated a commitment to change, in both words and actions?
  5. Is there a benefit to your firm, either financially, from gained experience or as a future case study, to enable other crisis work?

If you and your firm aren’t satisfied with the answers to these questions, it’s probably wise to walk away, and allow other counsel to take on the work.

What other considerations are there when considering crisis work? 

Communicating in a Crisis: Chris Dumler’s Challenge

By Communications, Crisis Communications

Albemarle County Supervisor Chris Dumler was arrested on felony sex charges last week and now, local news organizations can hardly report about anything else. But what is there to say? Besides the news of the charges, Dumler has a need to stay out of the spotlight. Yesterday, the Newsplex reported that Dumler has canceled public appearances and the community waits to see if he will emerge to address his constituency, particularly in a board of supervisors meeting scheduled for November 7.

There is a distinct difference between a public figure and one who holds elected office, when crisis communications is needed. A public figure can remove themselves from society for a cooling-off period. An elected official will, at some point, be forced to address his or her constituency, particularly to either resign or express intent to continue in his or her public role. People think they have the right to know the truth in a crisis and demand transparency from those in the public eye. They  don’t always get what they want.

There have been notable examples of people (politicians and celebrities) who have successfully emerged, over time, with reputations restored or, at least, forgiven or newly accepted by the community. Robert Downey Jr., Charlie Sheen, Bill Clinton, Winona Ryder, Gary Hart, Sarah Ferguson — it’s a long list. It remains to be seen how Lance Armstrong will emerge from his own reputation crisis, but we’ll be watching that, too.

It CAN be done, but not without damage done, amends made and a debt served either publicly or in a judicial sense.

From last night’s broadcast:

http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/Christopher-Dumler-Cancels-Public-Appearances-One-Week-After-Arrest-on-Sex-Charges-175688391.html

 

Update: 10:37am Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dumler Releases Statement Saying He Won’t Resign

Nine Tenths of Crisis Communications is Stifling the Rumor Mill

By Communications, Crisis Communications

It seems the majority of the Charlottesville community is in violent agreement about the mishandling of the resignation of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan. I am continuing to focus on the communications gaffes; above all, the assumption that the Board of Visitors could “control” the message by releasing the news on a Sunday morning. As the lack of information perpetuates, now three days past the announcement, speculation abounds.

When releasing sensitive information to the public, it’s important to be clear, specific and as transparent as possible. The Board of Visitors’ failure to do this and satisfactorily provide the explanation of how the dismissal/resignation occurred and why has only served to fuel the collective imagination of the community. And boy do our imaginations run wild.

How much better it would have been, if the messages had been delivered in an organized, clear and cohesive manner. How much less damage control would University staff have to do, if clarity were employed, if planning of message delivery had been managed and a group effort was evident.

I’m not addressing here the obvious issue of the resignation not making a lot of sense . . . but rather the failure to appropriately communicate it to the world.

If you’re trying to avoid the extra work of putting out rumor fires, be up front with your information in the first place.

Find Your Brand’s Cheerleaders

By Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Media, Social Media

Bye Bye BirdieI’ve been having some really interesting meetings today and my head is spinning with contradicting thoughts. Most of them have to do with the nature of “marketing” as we know it, and I’ll admit I find myself wondering if I can ever advocate for it again.

Most of my colleagues would react with something like “what, are you TRYING to get fired?”

But before we go too far, what I mean is that I doubt I can ever really advocate for it the way it used to be, when it was all top-down messaging from marketing departments flush with quantitative research telling them what to say and how to say it. Words like “convince,” and “convert” seem somehow antiquated, as if the era of command and control is just over.

“Dude, what is WRONG with you?” my friends will ask.

What’s wrong with me is that in this era of social software and ubiquitous mobility, a period of ever-present content and messaging has meshed almost completely with daily life. The inexorable move towards technology and digital footprints among even the youngest and poorest demographics means that content sharing is like talking. Hell, it’s REPLACED talking at my house. Some people are even convinced it’s maybe, sort of OK for computers to start doing the messaging without much input from humans at all!

I’ll pass, thanks.

So what’s my point? I firmly believe that in order for commerce enablers to continue to succeed, they are going to have to get human again. They are going to have to use all their smarts, tools, and capabilities to find groups of people who share their values already, who have personal reasons for wanting to consume or advocate for their offerings. They have to seek out and find their cheerleaders, their true fans, and deliver more than those folks expect on a regular basis. They are going to have to enchant them, because there are too many inputs all day long for anyone to give a brand a second thought unless they do.

Sure, the era of Big Data is just beginning. But to what end? My opinion is that it has to be to find those cheerleaders and make them happy, because the era of big marketing to folks who don’t share your values is on the way out, if it’s not already gone.

Discuss.