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?

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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 & Chairman of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently owned PR firms in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth and vision, with the agency earning accolades including being named a Top 50 Global PR Agency by PRovoke Media, a top three NYC PR agency by O'Dwyers, one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces and being awarded multiple American Business Awards, including a Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations executives. Throughout his career he has advised leading and high-growth businesses, organizations, leaders and boards across corporate, technology and consumer industries. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications. He has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly in the media and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. Torossian's strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, a Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a recipient of Crain's New York Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Outside of 5W, Torossian serves as a business advisor to and investor in multiple early stage businesses across the media, B2B and B2C landscape. Torossian is the proud father of two daughters. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of multiple not for profit organizations.