Knowing how to respond and doing so without hesitation are vital when dealing with a public relations crisis.
Here are some of the ways we suggest if faced with a media crisis:
Remember that scene in the movies when Harrison Ford advises the President on how to deal with questions from the press. It went something like if they ask if he was a friend, you say he was a dear friend….if they call him a close friend, you say, lifelong friend. If you remember and follow that advice when you are faced with your PR nightmare, it will serve you well. Don’t make excuses or blame someone else, even if it is their fault. Stand front and center and stand tall. At the same time, have at least a ghost of an idea on how to make it right so you can hint at those plans or spell them out completely if you know the plan already.
Address the situation quickly and directly…
As fast as you can begin responding to the situation, you should be there. Even if you do not have any information yet, Get the word out you just learned and are waiting for further information. Assure people you will keep them updated … and make certain you do. Even if you have nothing new to report, especially in situations where people’s lives are at risk or have been lost. The silence for those waiting is unbearable and keeping in constant contact may be the only thing you can do for them in that time. You need to do it and be thinking of what you can do to help those waiting, so they have something of comfort or ease.
Lead the conversation – frame the story…
Be open and transparent, but be in charge of your story. Think fast on your feet. Is it better to let someone rant and look like a crazy person, or find a means to stop them in their tracks. If what is said is true, own it.
Crisis management will always be a lot easier if you have information prepared in advance. You may not know what crisis will arise, but you know the variables for most situations. Spend time with your team on a regular basis brainstorming what things might go wrong and what would be the best approach. Having that type of information already prepared allows you to hit the ground running and look like a star even in the middle of the crisis – and of course media training matters.
The more prepared you are for whatever the crisis is, the better you can control your message. If you have a list of experts or videos of experts, you can refer to those immediately. If you need to know who can get sandwiches, or blankets, or a gathering place and already have that at your fingertips, you can then focus on the real work. Then ferret out details and relay information in helpful and compassionate ways.
Infotainment has become the new normal in media consumption. The consumer public has spoken, denouncing news purists and industry critics resoundingly, again and again. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, “More Millennials get their news from Comedy Central than the networks.” Yep, you likely have. And, with more Millennials entering the consumerist time of their lives, you can bet PR and ad agencies are listening.
Recently, Stephen Colbert began his first week as the host of CBS’s The Late Show, a seat most recently occupied by the estimable David Letterman. What connection does The Late Show have with the media biz? They are one and the same these days. The line between talk shows and news programming has been entirely erased in the minds of the viewing public. They now expect to see politics mixed with entertainment at every stop on their proverbial TV dial.
One of the chief reasons CBS chose Colbert to fill its top Late Nite spot is because of the ad revenue he brings. Remember those Millennials entering the consumer market? They LOVE Colbert, and even though they understood his gruff, brash TV “Character” was fake, they tuned into The Colbert Report to get their news anyway. He was their window to worldview. And now he is on deck to reshape late night infotainment. For the networks, Millennials mean better ad revenue and a huge bump in viral social media content. Sure, Boomers and Xers may not watch their show from beginning to end, the same way everyone tuned into Carson, Letterman and Leno … even the target market likely won’t watch the whole program … but they will NEVER stop talking about it. And it’s those conversations shaping culture in today’s America.
Colbert’s ascension means something for the “traditional” news networks too. They will need to shift (again) to expand their diminishing (read: dying) market. That means more news that looks and feels less like Cronkite and more like Stewart. See, we didn’t even need his last name. You knew about the Other Guy, who did news that was not news too. Arguably the Godfather of Infotainment, John Stewart left his wildly successful Comedy Central show early this year as well. He also left his mark.
Neither The Colbert Report or The Daily Show garnered the sort of ratings enjoyed by O’Reilly or Megyn Kelly, but they did their job so well even the king and queen of TV news could not ignore them. In fact, Stewart’s feuds with Fox’s established heavyweights actually earned him time on their show, helping him reach a larger audience than Comedy Central could have dreamed.
All of this signals a definitive sea change in the way information is delivered to the consumer masses. Anyone wishing to reach those said masses better stand up and take notice … and adjust accordingly.
Hey manager! Stop complaining about your team. Start motivating them to become the people and the creative, productive force you need them to be.
Nothing is more frustrating for a manager than a team that just can’t get it done. They come close, but you never seem to get a win … or you never finish anything without a series of unnecessary complications or sidebars. Stop all that. While you may need some new people, it’s also possible you just aren’t doing enough to give your current team what they need to get it done right. Here are a few questions you need to consider.
Are you listening to specific complaints? Now, I’m not talking about that guy who always seems to have a gripe or that woman who perpetually melts down at the first sign of difficulty. Those people need professional help, not management coaching.
That said if you have competent, professional people who keep talking to you – or each other – about specific issues related to projects, workflow or issues within the office … LISTEN TO THEM. You hired those people for a reason. It doesn’t matter if you “think” they’re wrong if you haven’t really taken the time to educate yourself.
Are your team members working well together? I’m not talking about communication here. I’m talking about occupational chemistry. Do you have the right people working on the right jobs and the right people working together? Is everyone on your team paired with the worker who best complements his or her skillset? Have you ever considered how each person and job in your department works together to create the finished whole?
Are you learning from your mistakes … and are they? If you have people who are doing the same wrong things again and again, make them stop. Don’t perpetuate a losing cycle. Make it right. Nothing is sacred in business but success. “We do it this way” is never a good excuse for failure.
Are you missing an important skillset? Is your team complete or are you essentially playing down a man? Do you have everything you need to succeed or are you just trying to make do?
Are you employing shady jerks or good people? This is a vital question. If you have someone who turns in good numbers but doesn’t work well with other people, that might work well for a time, but he or she is not a team player. Hire people of ambition AND character and you will go farther than you can with a bunch of self-important jerks.
You’ve finished the heavy lifting of founding the company and making it profitable. Now comes the even harder part of keeping it going and growing? How could management be tougher than building a business? For one thing, you’re probably not as good a manager as you are an entrepreneur. You do so much of the “creative” stuff intuitively, but the day-to-day operational stuff requires thought and planning and … work!
I get it. I understand how transitioning from visionary can be difficult. But it’s not impossible, and, you know what, you may even enjoy it.
More to the point, this transition is necessary to your continued success. Nothing kills more businesses than an owner who can’t manage once the customers start coming. You need to be able to give your employees and your business a strategy to map out what success will continue to look like going forward.
First, while you still need a vision, you also need a mission. A clear mission. Sure, you have a great idea, a new thing to offer or a better way to do an old thing. But that won’t be new forever. Besides, people are often not that jazzed about “new and improved”. Convincing them requires more than a vision. It requires a well-planned and well-executed day-to-day mission.
Next, get good with the details, or hire someone you trust who can. If you are great with big picture stuff, but can’t manage details, that doesn’t mean you get a pass. The small stuff will kill you, so it needs to be mastered. Plus, understanding the details of your business and place in the market will enable your entrepreneurial brain to work on ways to improve that standing and introduce more New and Better into your market. “Details” may even give you an entirely new product line.
Finally, don’t get so innovation crazy that you break a good thing. If your business is working, let it work. Stop tinkering. Work on ways to do what you do well, precisely and mistake free. That will take all the time you have and keep you from tinkering so much you break something already working perfectly.
Life is very bad for National Jerk of the Week, Jared Fogle. The former Subway pitchman lost his gig back in April when police conducted an investigation into ongoing child pornography activities that included a visit to Fogle’s residence. Then, last week, it was revealed that Fogle was being charged with child porn as well as sex with minors and soliciting sex with minors. While reports vary, the stories are legion. Bottom line for every lede: Fogle is a monster who needs to be caged.
You’ll get no sympathy from me. Throw the book at him, then pick it up and smack him with it repeatedly.
But, Subway now, those guys have a mess on their hands, not of their creation. Of course, really it is…though it probably isn’t their fault. Nearly two decades ago now the marketing folks at the sandwich chain heard the story of a college kid who dropped an entire human in weight (and then some) eating “only” Subway sandwiches. When they investigated, glory be, it turned out to be absolutely accurate. They could not get Jared on film fast enough.
Every year up to this April, Jared was at the forefront of Subway’s ad campaigns. Sure, they did some other stuff, including the cloyingly addictive five-dollar foot long commercials, but they always came back to Jared. And can you really blame them? He was the perfect combination of miracle story, and Joe Average Makes Good.
Unfortunately for Subway, Joe Average is very evil. Now they are stuck with a big PR problem. Problem 1, how do they replace what was, pretty much, the entire face of their brand. Problem 2, how do they stop the general consumer public from saying stuff like: “You know, Jared the Subway guy who’s in prison for raping kids.”
That risk underscores the inherent danger of making any single “face” definitive to your brand. Jared will never be Jared without Subway, but, Subway has to become Subway without Jared as soon as possible. They need an aggressive all guns firing all hands on deck PR campaign to launch yesterday. Something as connective but very unlike the Jared campaign. It’s a tall order, but they have no choice.
That’s what happens when you hitch your wagon to a mule who wants to drag you into a ditch.
Who is Ronn Torossian:Ronn Torossian 5WPR CEO, Author of best selling PR book “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations”, and a regular contributor to Fox News, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Insights Wired, Everything PR and more!
Ronn Torossian at the NY Observer
Ronn Torossian at Everything PR
Ronn Torossian at Wired Innovation Insights
IN THE PRESS:
5W Public Relations is based out of 1166 Avenue of the Americas in New York City. 5WPR has offices in Los Angeles and Colorado. Let us help your brand generate results, get in touch with 5W PR or Ronn today @ info@5WPR.com