All too often flawed responses to PR crises needlessly keep disasters in the news. Here are several examples that resulted in additional negative media coverage or, at the best, didn't help the situation.
Arthur Solomon (Aug. 8, 2013): Ron -- I appreciate your taking the time to reply to my column. Needless to say I disagree with your comments, but your views and the time you put into expressing them are appreciated.
Rather than justify all of my examples, I'll reply just to a few of your comments: Despite its brilliant TV ad campaign, the media is still writing negative stories about problems in the Gulf caused by BP. Exxon is still regarded as a bad corporate citizen when stories are written about oil spills. Unfortunately for our business, good advertising and PR doesn't make the problems of companies disappear.
Re Benghazi: Making statements before all the facts were knows only provided more attack points for the GOP as new information was received. Bad strategy to think you have to get out a response ASAP. It's from the PR Crises Playbook written before you and I were born (maybe?) and is used by people who play it safe by not thinking out of the box.
Re Gun control: The NRA and MADD organizations prove that one organization is more effective than many. That's why many years ago the AFL and CIO joined together. Mayor Bloomberg speaking as the leader of all gun control groups would certainly have more clout than various spokespersons. Having crazies in the NRA certainly hasn't hurt their pro-gun campaigns.
Re: Crises specialists: Of course there are brilliant ones, but that doesn't mean that there aren't brilliant ones who would approach a problem differently. Let's be realistic The most effective crisis strategy is having a knowledge of how the media operates and using common sense. It's not brain surgery. Question: What makes a person a crises specialist? Answer: The title given to them by their agency.
Ronald N. Levy (Aug. 9, 2013): "What makes a person a crises specialist," Art says in the last paragraph, is "the title given them by their agency."
But if you think about it,In truth, it's the money given them by clients and--vastly more important--it's the ability to save corporate lives and protect brand value.
"It isn't brain surgery" Art says but it is. You have to get into corporate brains--the minds of corporate executives who (a) may have made a bad decision, (b) don't want you to say so even to other corporate execs, and (c) have the power to fire you.
You win by operating on not just the communications part of the brain
but on the thinking part eager for your ideas on how to survive the crisis.
You win by showing the public three realities:
1. What was done wrong was done wrong by INDIVIDUALS who are gone, not by the whole company which has many admirable, God-fearing people who do good things.
2. Top management has zero-tolerance for the error made and has created a top-level review process to prevent recurrence.
3. Whether the complaint is that the company endangered the public,
made too much on the public or was unfair to a group--the "big three" of crisis causes--the company is now doing five things to do just the opposite and PROTECT public safety, economy or dignity.
It's brain surgery and like brilliant surgeons, some in PR are thrillingly skilled at it.
Bill Huey (Aug. 8, 2013): This is a fine piece, and the last point is the most salient to me.
So, Ron: not only do you want a free editorial pass, you also want hair? It's outrageous. It's like Putin asking for a free trip to Disney World.
Veep (Aug. 7, 2013): Well said. The NRA response to Sandy Hook is truly baffling.
Ronald N. Levy (Aug. 7, 2013): Art Solomon is exceptionally bright and an excellent writer but compare some of his crisis PR ststements with reality.
ART: "The truth is that people interested in most PR crises are the media."
REALITY: The most interested people are not the media but
members of the public who stand to get hurt by one of the three
things that accusers almost always charge--that the accused
has charged the public too much, endangered the public or
lied to the public.
ART: Democrats should have said "we will not make further comments
until the investigation of the situation is complete."
REALITY: The public will think you are guilty as hell if you
say that because falsely accused people say "bullshit" or at
least "baloney." Then falsely accused people tell WHY the
accusation is false, what the TRUTH is, which top doctors or
other experts agree, and ask whether the public deserves a lot
more honest accuracy from the accuser.
ART: "If Chrysler believed that the Jeep was safe and should not be subjected to a recall, they could have launched a public relations campaign highlighting the safety of the vehicle."
REALITY: Never get into a squirting contest with a skunk
because you can't win no matter how much you sqirt the skunk. If
you get into an argument with the government over whether a car
is safe, sales will plunge! Better to do the recall and
repeatedly communicate the "positive opposite," car features
that protect lives seven ways!
ART: "The pro gun control forces would have had more clout if they had orgaized under one banner."
REALITY: This sounds true but in a public policy fight the
other side would LOVE to show the public that under your banner
are all kinds of crazies and weirdos. It's better to show
emphaticaly how many people are being hurt and how many MORE of
us may be hurt if selfish people on the other side have their
ART: "It is better to make one statement and not continue an 'apology tour.'"
REALITY: It is better as Exxon and BP have done to apologize
repeatedly, each time pointing out what you are doing to make
the public SAFER than ever before--and without destroying jobs.
The public cherishes public benefactors and doesn't want the
government to to anything harmful to those who are now
protecting the public.
ART: "There is no such thing as indisputable expert advice."
REALITY: There are brilliant crisis management experts who come
damn close. I'd gladly interview one for a column if Kevin
guarantees he'll run my piece with editing he does well and not
sit in judgement of whether my work is good enough for this
newsletter. And I'll want a mug shot with at least as much hair
as he shows for Art Solomon. Use Photoshop.
Joe Honick (Aug. 7, 2013): Arthur's real middle name should be "Sage" for his always astute reading of reality.
Re: the Benghazi tragedy, it should not be forgotten how Reagan got away fairly easily with the slaughters of 240 unarmed American military/Marines in Lebanon. He declared it a major tragedy we could not tolerate, appointed a bunch to check out and was never taken to task really....nor was he even spotlighted for turning over billions in arms, intel and money to Saddam Hussein when the latter was in conflict with Iran but promptly hit on Israel for knocking out Saddam's nuke operation as provocative. Ron had excellent crisis handling who made more than ample use of his "actor-ship" and ability to deliver a line.