2014 Crisis Communications: The Year in Review.
Interesting article and recap of the worst crisis in 2014 by David E Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC. — Pete E Cento
2014 Crisis Communications: The Year in Review
By David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision, LLC
The days are dwindling down and soon 2014 history. This year has been filled with numerous crisis communications stories with a major aspect of each story being that when a crisis hit, there was no crisis communications plan in place. This lack of a crisis communications strategy became as much of a story as the crisis itself. This year we had Malaysia Airlines; Donald Sterling and the Clippers; the General Motors recall; the NFL; Bill Cosby, and the Target / Home Depot security breaches to name a few.
So what were some of the lessons that we can learn?
1. Social media drives narratives. This year saw social media front and center as various crises broke. The allegations that iconic comedian Bill Cosby may have raped a number of females over the years became a major story because of the power of social media. When a comedian posted on Youtube about the allegations, the viral response was enormous forcing the traditional media to cover a story it had largely ignored. Likewise with the NFL and Ray Rice saga, social media outrage embroiled the NFL in a controversy that it has yet to recover from and led the Baltimore Ravens to cut Rice. Social media is becoming as much of a player in a crisis as traditional media. It needs to be monitored and any brand that fails to incorporate social media in its crisis communications planning does so at its own peril.
2. Get all the information out in a timely fashion. Target and Home Depot were among several retailers that had security breaches that caused consumer credit cards to be hacked. Both companies relayed the news piecemeal to consumers. In the case of Target it kept increasing the number of consumers that had been affected. Had the retailer stated in the beginning of the crisis that the number might increase as investigations continued, the brand would not have suffered such an immense loss of consumer confidence. Malaysia Airlines became the butt of late night comedians because of the way it relayed information on the still missing Flight 370. In today’s 24/7 news cycle and social media driven world, the public expects full disclosure of what is going on. Failure to do so will result in a loss of consumer support or worse.
3. After issuing an apology go silent. Donald Sterling outraged fellow NBA owners; fans, and his own team, the LA Clippers over racial comments that he made that were taped with a smartphone. The NBA moved quickly to suspend Sterling for life and forced the sale of the team. Sterling issued an apology over his indefensible remarks. Yet then he kept giving interviews that reinforced the issue that he was neither sorry nor not a racist. After apologizing go silent.
4. Non-mainstream media can drive stories as much as mainstream media. In the Sterling case it was the gossip site, TMZ that broke the story as it did some others during the year. For too long, PR practioners have been ignoring such outlets believing that they carry no weight. That is no longer the case as the Sterling case and several others demonstrated. All media outlets can be the source of a major news story.
5. Have a public face to deal with the crisis. General Motors CEO, Mary Barra became the public face of the auto giant during its recall crisis. She assumed full responsibility and also connected with consumers, employees, and dealers in a human approach. That did much to help General Motors. Likewise NBA Commissioner Adam Silver became the public face of the NBA during the Sterling crisis and was praised for how he deftly handled the crisis. Target’s and Home Depot’s CEOs were largely AWOL during the security breach when they were needed to allay consumer concerns. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the public face of the NFL was largely nowhere to be seen as the NFL crisis hit. By the time he held a press conference on the NFL’s handling of players too much time had passed for him to be effective. People expect a public face to address a crisis.
A crisis can happen at anytime and anyplace. How serious the crisis is, depends on how rapid a brand responds to it. Incorporating lessons such as these can help avoid many disasters as we head into 2015.