Category Archives: crisis communication

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Crisis Management Quotables on…Nobody Likes a Lecture

Communication is a two-way street

Many of our Quotables come from celebrities or famous philosophers, but how about one from a man who’s been in the trenches of the crisis management field for decades?

Communication that isn’t interactive is lecturing — Jonathan Bernstein

Already reconsidering the value of your past crisis communications efforts? You’re not alone. This quote holds more weight than ever today, where social media has produced the widespread expectation of a constant two-way conversation.

Lectures bring back memories of mind-numbing hours in a dusty classroom, but interaction, ahhh, that’s a whole different, and far more exciting, avenue! Whether it’s providing a Twitter handle people can contact, an email address (that you’ll actually monitor and respond from), or a phone number where stakeholders can get ahold of a real, live person, allow for the possibility of interaction and watch as your communications serve their intended purpose more effectively.

The BCM Blogging Team
http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com

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We’d Take Mike Rowe on our Crisis Team

[Editor's note: A big thank you to frequent contributor Kim May for sending this case our way! If you spot a story you think would be a good fit for our blogs, email erik@bernsteincrisismanagement.com]

Whether you agree with his position or not, it’s undeniable that Rowe has natural crisis management ability

Many look at taking on the job of spokesman for an organization as just that, a job. What they often fail to realize is that by taking on such a role you attach yourself to the organization you’re representing, and, often, its troubles as well.

Take the case of Mike Rowe, host of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs”, who ran smack into a wall of controversy after providing a voice-over for a Walmart ad pushing the company’s goal of bringing manufacturing back to the States. Worker’s right group Jobs with Justice pounced on Rowe as a way to draw attention to their push for Walmart to increase wages, and published an open letter bashing Rowe’s choice, as well as his general support of the company’s initiative, and asked the public to do the same.

Rowe, to what we’re certain is the delight of Walmart execs, stepped up big time in the crisis management department, penning a detailed, eloquent, and distinctly human response on his personal Facebook page addressed to Jobs with Justice spokeswoman Ori Korin:

Dear Ori:

You’ll be pleased to know that my office has received your letter, and 5,048 others just like it. While I’m sympathetic to your objectives and sensitive to the needs of your members, I must say that your tactics have had the same effect as a flood of telemarketing calls during my dinner, or a bag of dog crap set ablaze on my front porch. Now, instead of overseeing scholarship applications and other Foundation matters, my already beleaguered staff must sift through a sea of robo-letters in search of legitimate correspondence from hard-hitting investigative journalists like Matt & Aimee.

It’s a little ironic, don’t you think? On the one hand, Jobs with Justice is concerned that everyday people are being overwhelmed by heavy workloads. But you don’t think twice about flooding an unsuspecting non-profit foundation with an endless stream of form letters. Anyway, my answer to you is the same as it was after I got your first letter a week ago. You guys are in a labor dispute, and my foundation doesn’t take sides between employers and employees. Another 5,000 form letters won’t change my position on that – though it just might inspire the nice woman who oversees my Foundation to throw herself out the window. (Her name is Mary, by the way, and her demise is now on you.)

Let me really spell this out though, so there’s no confusion at all. I care about the people you represent. That’s precisely why I set up a foundation and some scholarship funds. I’m trying to encourage hardworking people who are unhappy in their jobs to make a meaningful change in their life. A lasting change. And I believe this change is most likely to occur when people are willing to learn a skill that’s in demand. Happily, worthwhile opportunities are everywhere. Our country has a massive skills gap, and the chance to retool and retrain has never been better.

We’re not enemies, Ori. We’re just fighting different battles. You’re trying to wring out a modest increase for people who feel unappreciated by their employer and unhappy in their work. I’m trying to get those same people excited about possibilities and opportunities that go beyond their current positions. Frankly – and I say this with all due respect – I don’t believe that your strategy is in the long-term interest of your members, or for that matter, anyone who wants to improve their lives in a meaningful way.

Think about it, Ori. Many of the workers you represent have jobs that could very well become obsolete in just a few years. Automation, technology, automatic checkouts…the writing is on the wall. But the skilled trades are different. Welders, auto technicians, carpenters, masons, construction workers, healthcare…these opportunities are real, and the rewards go far beyond the minimum wage – whatever that might turn out to be. Walmart may have cornered the market on retail jobs, but the world’s a lot bigger than Walmart.

Anyway, I want to help. Please forward your members this link. http://profoundlydisconnected.com/the-mikeroweworks-foundation-scholarship-opportunities/

Surely, if you’ve got time to send five thousand identical letters to the same email address, you’ve got time to pass this on to your members. But do me a favor – just send it once. People hate form letters.

Is it a bit rough around the edges? Of course, but then so is Rowe. The man’s made a career out of representing the American working spirit, and his refusal to depart from that in order to reply to a crisis situation is not only refreshing, but also serves to cement his sincerity. His avoidance of becoming enmeshed in the ongoing labor dispute is admirable as well. He acknowledges, states his reasoning for not becoming involved, then shares what he’s doing on his own to help workers enter the workplace qualified for more skilled, higher-paying jobs.

While you may not like Rowe’s position on Walmart, it’s hard to argue his crisis management chops. If Rowe ever wants a second career in the field, we’d gladly take him on our team.

The BCM Blogging Team
http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com

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Social Media Crisis Management: When Do We Respond?

If you haven’t found yourself asking this question already, it’s coming

To respond, or not to respond, and how the heck are we supposed to respond anyways? This is a question posed by those faced with a need for social media crisis management on a daily basis, and one to which many unfortunately don’t know the correct answer.

In a recent post on the Crenshaw Communications blog, Dorothy Crenshaw passed on some critical knowledge on the subject:

Do respond. Don’t hide. In many cases, a lack of response will be seen as a validation of the criticisms, or at best, an information vacuum. The sooner the response, the easier it will be to control the situation. Yet, a speedy reaction is often difficult. In a high-stakes situation where the facts are unclear, say so, but refute any untruths, and pledge to get out the supporting information as quickly as possible.

But don’t dignify baseless rumors. One exception to the above is the case of an unsubstantiated rumor, where you risk calling more attention to it by responding. The same is true of an Internet troll. In that case, let the community handle blatant misbehavior, foul language, or abusive comments.

Let your advocates defend you. In that vein, if you have trusted clients or customers willing to comment in your defense, by all means, let them. The essence of reputation is what others say about you in public, so third parties, even those who are not 100% objective, are your allies.

Keep in mind that when talking about advocates, we don’t mean you should get your entire family to hop online and blast detractors. Use your non-crisis time online to interact with, engage, and generally make yourself useful to stakeholders. That way, you have a group of advocates who are connected to your brand by the fact that they like you, rather than any obligation or financial link, and as a result brings a lot more legitimacy when they come to your defense.

As far as spotting trolls amongst stakeholders bringing up genuine complaints, it can take a bit of an eye. Look at as many social media crisis management case studies as possible, keep close tabs on the typical tone and sentiment used by your own stakeholders, and you’ll find yourself developing the ability to spot the differences between someone who wants to resolve an issue and someone merely trolling to get a rise out of you.

Erik Bernstein
Social Media Manager
http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com

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Fake Online Reviews and Your Business

Could this case set a new precedent when it comes to online reputation management and the law?

No sooner did we finish discussing the fact that Yelp itself acknowledges 16% of the reviews submitted to its site to be fakes (which leaves, in our opinions, a significantly higher actual number as the reality), than we came across a very interesting case connected to unmasking those who leave negative reviews believed to be false.

Taking alleged false reviews to court

Virginia-based Hadeed Carpet Cleaning claims that seven Yelp reviews bashing their service, in detail, are completely made up. Not only do they claim the reviews are false, but that the posters were never actually customers at all. In response to each bad review, Hadeed Carpet has asked for more information in order to set things right, but judging from the fact that they asked Yelp to reveal the true identities of said reviewers we’d assume nobody was taking them up on the offer!

Of course Yelp refused, and the case went before a Virginia court, where Hadeed won, then again before the Virginia Court of Appeals, where the decision was upheld.

But posting your opinion is freedom of speech, right? Well…yes, but businesses have a right to be free from defamation as well, and if reviews are indeed completely falsified then that would absolutely qualify as “the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of a business.”

How did the court come to this decision? The Atlantic’s Rebecca Rosen reports:

The court turned to Virginia’s state law, which requires, among other things, that the plaintiff need show that the reviews “are or may be tortious or illegal,” or that Hadeed Carpet Cleaning has “a legitimate, good faith basis” to believe that they were the victim of actionable conduct. The court held that the lower court’s assessment was correct: “If the Doe defendants were not customers of Hadeed, then their Yelp reviews are defamatory.” Moreover, the court believed that Hadeed had conducted a sufficient review of its own corporate records to have “a legitimate, good faith basis” for believing the reviewers had invented their claims.

According to the attorney who argued against Hadeeds, the company attempted to match the psudonyms used on Yelp with their customer database and couldn’t pair them up, something that, to be fair, probably holds true for a huge number of Yelp reviewers.

What does this mean to my organization?

This holds a couple of implications for your own crisis management. First off, you absolutely must not “stuff the ballot box” by leaving good reviews of your own organization under false accounts, even if you feel your competition is leaving false reviews. Secondly, the tactic of leaving bad reviews, or asking friends to leave bad reviews, on sites belonging to competitors is 100% off limits. This was always unethical, but now the possibility of being caught, unmasked, and facing legal action is very much a reality.

In the end, if you provide the services you promise, treat your customers well, and do your best to resolve issues with diplomacy and humility, you stand a good chance of avoiding problems like the one Hadeed Carpet Cleaning is facing now. And, if you’d like to make sure you have plenty of good reviews to overshadow any bad ones, whether they were simply from an impossible-to-please customer or downright false, remember there’s nothing wrong with reminding happy customers to hop on Yelp and share the same positive comments they’re saying to you on the spot!

The BCM Blogging Team
http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com

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Crisis Management Infographic: The 3 C’s of Credibility

Not sure why your crisis communications aren’t having the desired effect? You could be missing one of these vital components.

It’s hard to read the headlines without seeing a crisis or two, and, except in rare cases, they all require a response. These responses take many forms – press releases, news coverage, Twitter post, YouTube video, and blog posts to name some of the most popular. Problem is, the vast majority of organizations aren’t doing it right. Defined by Bernstein Crisis Management president Jonathan Bernstein, the three pillars found in effective communications, what we call the “3 C’s of Credibility,” hold true for any crisis management scenario.

The 3 C's of Credibility by Bernstein Crisis Management - Compassionate, Confident, Competent

The 3 C’s of Credibility by Bernstein Crisis Management – Compassionate, Confident, Competent

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The BCM Blogging Team http://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com

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