We’d Take Mike Rowe on our Crisis Team

Jonathan Bernstein crisis communication, crisis communications, crisis management, crisis public relations, Crisis Response, Erik Bernstein, internet crisis management, internet reputation management, Jonathan Bernstein, online crisis management, online reputation management, PR, public relations, reputation management Leave a Comment

[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. https://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

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