Crisis Public Relations Animated

This week we are in the midst of a lesson in Crisis Public Relations at its worst from two major brands – Blackberry and Netflix.  While blackberry for three consecutive days has seen outages worldwide and users unable to connect, struggles with Netflix continue week after week.

Users worldwide are outraged at being unable to communicate instantly as they have grown accustomed to – and Blackberry spokespersons are communicating with messages like “Message delays were caused by a core switch failure in RIM’s infrastructure”. That’s not consumer friendly English which resonates with people, and few of us know (or care) what a “core switch” is.  We just want our damn blackberries to work. And to make it worse, they have communicated that the service works – only to see it fail minutes later again.

The very basics of crisis PR management involves communicating clearly, honestly and in language which resonates with consumers.  The brand – particularly with the imminent launch of the Apple iPhone 4S – needs to very quickly communicate much clearer – in addition, naturally to fixing the problem immediately.

Netflix is a brand which also is failing miserably at crisis PR. Following weeks of bad marketing decisions – from the price increase which consumers hated, to their decision to split the business, Netflix hasn’t had a shining few months for brand appreciation.  Today, Netflix dropped the ball yet again and lost points with an announcement via a blog post that they no longer intended to split business units. Yes, a blog post.  Did no one have the guts to stand up and face the music?

In times of trouble, brands have to apply a personal, human touch.  It’s necessary for brands to provide a face for crisis – with senior management directly involved, not a blog posting. The media will ask questions, customers will leave, and no interaction allows media to define the issues as they see them and create others without Netflix’s help. A press conference was the way to broadcast a concise and consistent message. Gathering the media together, presenting the same message to everyone, and answering a few questions was the right path.  Amazingly, Netflix is a company that succeed as Blockbuster disappeared and didn’t address issues of importance to their core consumer – convenience, time, and cost.

The Chief Financial Officer of Netflix, Barry McCarthy has said in the past “We have benefited enormously from the rapid growth in word of mouth (publicity). It has taken us to levels that we thought we would not soon see.” In bad times, the company needs to apply these lessons as well, not just in good times.

As Warren Buffett has said “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.

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