Creating a crisis with hamfisted media handling
When Mike Elk, reporter for In These Times, headed to an event to question Honeywell CEO Dave Cote on labor issues, the last thing he expected was to be caught in an incident worthy of prime-time TV.
Let’s give you the lead-in first…here’s a YouTube clip of Elk’s initial questioning, done with a valid press pass at the “Revitalizing America: Encouraging Entrepreneurship” forum, hosted by Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) . Note, the man grabbing the mic is a senior adviser to Rep. Scott.
Treating any member of the media like this is a HUGE crisis management no-no. You can be absolutely guaranteed that any reporter worth their salt will come back with ten times the effort after such an incident.
Unfortunately for Honeywell, Elk saw his opportunity immediately after the panel ended, where he followed CEO David Cote as he made his way out of the building. Here’s Elk’s own account of what happened next, from his In These Times article:
I saw another fire exit that was nearby and ran through it to find Honeywell CEO David Cote in a room behind the set of doors. Upon seeing me, Cote and his entourage immediately began to run away and quickly exited through another set of doors. I attempted to follow Cote through that set of doors, but was blocked by the same unidentified man and another man, whose nametag identified him as Honeywell External Communications Director Rob Ferris.
Ferris barricaded me in the room for several minutes and atferwards had the Capitol Police detain me. They released me after 10 minutes when they realized I had done nothing more than try to follow a CEO down a hallway. Indeed, Capitol Police asked me if I wanted to press charges against Ferris for false imprisonment for barricading me into the room, but I declined.
The Communications Director of a massive company (allegedly) physically bullying a reporter for asking some tough questions. Worst. PR guy. Ever.
Treated right, and the media can be one of your greatest allies. At worst, you should aim for the proverbial “agree to disagree,” and leave it at that. Make them your enemy, and the media will gleefully create a crisis management nightmare for your organization whenever possible.
The BCM Blogging Team