Archive for the 'Crisis Communications' Category


Managing Crisis Communications in the World of 24/7 Citizen Reporters

Old school public relations is no longer effective in the world of 24/7 social media information, so there should be no expectations that traditional media management will be effective in a crisis. However, until you are in the throws of a crisis, you never really know what or how much exposure you will be managing. Take this opportunity to learn from those of us who have been there. Our sleepless nights can be your handbook for future success.

Through managing recent crisis communication situations, we have compiled valued lessons to share with our fellow communication professionals.

1. The media cycles with the moon

The news may not sleep, but fortunately, reporters do. Unfortunately, however, when the sun is down in one country, it is up in another. Be prepared for the cycles of the media. Within the first four hours of a recent international crisis we could predict the media cycles and when the influx of calls would come. Europe was first to call, followed by the east coast and Canada. Not far behind were the Central, Mountain & Pacific time zones. Many of the national outlets had LA offices covering the shooting, so we knew what time frame they were working on. We also knew our deadlines for follow-up and how to juggle interviews based on the time of their news broadcasts.

2. Social media will kill a good plan every time

There is nothing like a media black out to be exposed by Twitter. In a recent case, it was celebrity visits that were leaked. The visits were uplifting and incredibly appreciated, however keeping these visits “quiet” was all but impossible thanks to our world of social media. Expect tweets and Facebook photo posts to trigger an onslaught of media inquiries and induce the media to show up for their own photo opportunities. Arguments with reporters suck, so be prepared with how to answer questions you “can’t answer.” It’s a terrible position for a PR person to be placed in, but it is guaranteed to happen.

3. There will be audiences you have not yet thought of

The best laid communication plans will include all potential audiences. What I have learned is there will always be others you have yet to anticipate. Audiences on the periphery of your circle will have different motivations, and can innocently and inadvertently derail your primary messaging. They exist because they have access to communication vehicles that were not part of the news cycle a decade ago. Once they begin their own campaigns, you need to have a communication plan that deals directly with their needs and determines how to appropriately manage these additional audiences.

A crisis is a crisis because it is difficult to manage. Communication professionals train to deal with the challenges and are invaluable during a crisis, but even the best of us will all be tested and tired until the worst has passed. Expect the challenges, the long days and a lack of sleep. Bring an extra phone charger, plenty of coffee and call in assistance when you need it.

If you are interested in hearing more about crisis management, Tracy Weise will be speaking at the Colorado Health Care Communicators event on September 26, 2012 and again at the PRSA Colorado Springs Chapter on October 11, 2012. Or feel free to reach out to us at or email Tracy at


Twitter: A Loaded Gun. Own Responsibly.

This week marked the fifth anniversary of the first tweet. For the past five years Twitter has grown by leaps and bounds. It continues to creatively showcase the incredible reach and power of social media. According to the official Twitter Blog, in the past year the average number of tweets per day has nearly tripled from 50 million to 140 million.  For the past month the site has averaged 460,000 new membership sign-ups per day. Twitter sustaines itself as a powerful tool to connect with others, grow business, share information and have your voice heard. The benefits and reach of this social networking platform are undeniable. However, with the good also comes the bad. There are numerous unfavorable incidents surrounding inappropriate tweets; risky and scandalous tweets have lead to loss of business, the displacement of employees and countless apologies.

Once you say something on Twitter, it moves fast and you cannot take it back. Many people and brands have suffered as a result.

In 2009, Meghan McCain (daughter of former presidential candidate John McCain) became the center of an infamous Twitter scandal. The young lady posted a revealing photo of herself clutching an Andy Warhol book. Although the wording of her tweet was uncontroversial, the photo definitely was not. It quickly spread and she encountered overwhelming response. Many saw her photo as a crude and distasteful cry for attention. McCain had to respond quickly and apologize for posting the inappropriate image. The negative impact could have directly reflected on the status of her father’s public service career. At the very least, it was a distraction from his campaign strategy. Perhaps she did not realize that her tweet would cause such a stir, yet the purpose of Twitter to spread a message fast, and this is why her photo became a campaign crisis within hours.

In recent weeks there have been a number of similar instances. Earlier this month, Chrysler fired its new media agency  as a direct result to an inappropriate tweet. The tweet contained profanity and discourteous comments directed towards Detroit drivers.  This was particularly offensive because Chrysler is headquartered in Detroit and has a commitment to the city and its workers. The tweet was meant to be sent from a personal account; however, it was mistakenly sent from the official Chrysler page. The mistake of this team member had irrevocable results. The agency fired the team member and lost the Chrysler account.

One of the more entertaining examples is former Aflac spokesman, Gilbert Gottfried. In the face of recent disaster, comedian Gottfried posted distasteful tweets about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan — a market that accounts for 75 percent of Aflac’s revenue. Although this information was posted to a personal account, it directly implicated Aflac because of its association with the comedian. Aflac did not take these insensitive comments lightly. They fired Gottfried as spokesperson for their brand and made a formal apology for the comments. In response to the event Gottfriend responded, “I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families,” however his sympathies were too little and clearly too late.

The lesson learned from each of these stories is clear. Twitter is a loaded gun. Handle with care. Tweeting tasteless and inappropriate remarks can result in loss of business, jobs and credibility. Agencies and companies should be particularly cautious in moving forward with social media marketing campaigns. Implementing tweet policies to employees, ambassadors and spokespeople could save your company from detrimental embarrassment and negative feedback.

Think before you tweet!

If you need assistance in creating a positive social media marketing campaign or want to share how your business has begun to incorporate tweeting policies, tell us about it here. Or share with us on Facebook at Weise Communications. And be sure to follow @Weise_Ideas on Twitter.


You Want to Put Your Mouth On My What? Communication Principles in Practice at Your Hospital.

At the Side Note Blog we can’t really let a nipple sucking doctor get by without comment, now can we?

The story is rather offensive. A 20-year-old woman went to the doctor for a breast exam because of fluid seeping from her breast. The male doctor decided to “diagnose” the fluid seepage by obtaining permission to suck  her breast. Yes, he sucked on her breast. Unfortunately the Finnish court let the doctor off of sexual solicitation charges brought by the patient because the doctor  asked and obtained permission from the patient to suck on her breast.

Are you kidding me?

What was the patient supposed to say?

I am sure her “permission” sounded something like “uh… uh huh?”

I never went to medical school, but even I can come up with numerous ways of extracting a bodily fluid for testing that does not include anything unhygienic or overtly sexual.

I think it’s time to send med students and physicians back to school for additional communication courses. We are taught from a very young age to trust physicians. To do what they tell us to do. When they prescribe a medicine, we take it. When they order a test, we get it. A 20-year-old women worried about her health, seeking the advice of a physician, probably didn’t know HOW to respond to the physician’s offensive request.

I have had the pleasure to work with many wonderful physicians over the years. They all know that they leverage power over their patients. The good ones don’t abuse that power. The good physicians embrace this power and use it to inspire hope, increase confidence and decrease fear.

What are your physicians saying to their patients? How does their power of persuasion impact the healthcare provided by your institution? And what communication training do you use to ensure there is no offensive behavior at your organization? Tell us your stories here.


Lack of Social Media Planning Spells Disaster for Capri Sun

Will Capri Sun recover from the negative press it is receiving about the mysterious growth found in an individual juice pouch purchased from BJ’S Wholesale Club in Homestead, Florida? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, the lack of a social media plan has damaged Capri Sun.

It started on Memorial Day when Melissa Wiegand Brown posted this picture of a globule of gunk extracted from her son’s Capri Sun pouch on her Facebook page. Within hours, the FDA in Orlando was contacted, the picture went viral and the wild speculation began.  The gunk was sent to a lab for testing and it appears the first time Kraft Foods, Capri Sun parent company, got involved was asking for the results from the lab.


After a week of non-response, Kraft issued the following statement, “We recently received word from a consumer about an issue with a Capri Sun pouch. We understand that some of you are concerned. Now that we’ve tested the material, we’ve confirmed it was mold. While unpleasant, it is not a safety issue.”

Finally, Capri Sun has released a well done FAQ on the Kraft Facebook page to address consumer concerns. However, the Capri Sun’s lack of activity has not prevented the story from going mainstream, it appears in today’s Chicago Tribune.

There are four key elements to a social media crisis plan, let’s evaluate where Capri Sun fell short in this crisis for each of these elements.

1.    Build your network before you need your network.
You can’t start social media crisis communications in the middle of a crisis. Capri Sun’s lack of social media planning meant they were seeking people to join their social network instead of communicating with an already established network.

2.    Communicate quickly; acknowledge awareness and accept responsibility.
Capri Sun simply let too much time go by before communicating with the public on the story.  Speculation from human body parts, to animals, to questioning the production locations for Capri Sun were mentioned without response from Capri Sun. Acknowledging the concern as soon as possible, even just to day ‘We are investigating’ would have been a better approach.

3.    Communicate often; provide regular updates to stem the tide of rampant speculation.
Capri Sun allowed too much information to go unchallenged. When the hysterical comments are flowing, someone needs to answer them. It gives the appearance that Capri Sun does not take food safety seriously.

4.    Authenticity matters when speaking to customers, prospects, interested parties and the general public.

Even though they missed the timing, the latest communication from Vinay Sharma, director of Capri Sun Beverages expresses authenticity. “We appreciate that our Facebook community is so engaged and willing to share their point of view. Whenever you have questions about one of our products, it’s important that you’re in the know about what we know. It’s also important that you have the most accurate and up-to-date information from us.”

Capri Sun was only successful with one of the four social media crisis planning keys.  It will be interesting to see the impact on Capri Sun sales and the rehabilitation attempts Kraft implements to repair its image.

In the meantime, I’ll only be drinking 100 percent pure Florida orange juice.

Since we are building our network before we need it, check out Weise Communications on Facebook and “Like” it for future updates and follow us on Twitter.


Is Social Media our Industrial Revolution?

Yesterday, I was watching a report about the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  I was surprised to learn that the spill was larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster. I was even more surprised to see how many reporters and analysts were ready to offer opinions on how to clean up the spill, how the U.S. government should be involved and the restitution BP should pay to the American people.  There was instant reaction by bloggers, Twitter and through other types of social media.

I was struck by how social media journalism has become mainstream.  I wasn’t watching objective journalism reporting the events of the day; I was on a roller-coaster of emotion.

The media industry used to be shaped by journalists. Today, enthusiasts, analysts and zealots masquerading as experts join them. Social discussion, opinion and advocacy journalists are filtering the news I see today.  This is a transformative time as we are able to participate in the news and information being disseminated. We are no longer only consumers of information.

Social media has evolved to influence the information we obtain. It is increasingly becoming the preferred method for the acquisition and spread of knowledge among common people.  Is social media our generations’ version of the Industrial Revolution?

In business terms, it is redefining how marketers respond to the marketplace.  It is increasingly important for businesses to have a social media strategy.  Without it, companies are missing important customers, stakeholders and influential opinion makers.  There are conversations taking place about your industry, your company and your market. You need to participate in those conversations to ensure the most accurate information is being disseminated. You need to listen to those conversations to understand consumer perception.

Most importantly, if you are active in social media, your influence in those conversations increases.  This has additional business value:

  • Improved search engine rankings (SEO)
  • More traffic to your company website
  • Ability to quickly respond to crisis situations

Participate in the conversation, by posting a reply to this blog. If you need to improve your social media prominence, contact us at Weise Communications. Check out Weise Communications on Facebook and “Like” it for future updates.


If you are about to make a lot of people mad, consider your message and how you deliver it

When you really, truly need to hire a PR person….

I have a hard time believing the advice of Tiger Woods’ publicists has been “make a statement on your Web site and say nothing else to anyone, anywhere.” But that has been Woods’ mantra the last two months. And this has resulted in Woods receiving a lot of negative press, not just for his self-titled “indiscretions,” but also for his complete lack of communication with any media outlet.

Vanity Fair seized the opportunity (very quickly) to write a cover story about the situation in the current issue that exploited some Woods’ early, and quite frankly crude and rude, sexual remarks. If Tiger had come out and made a public address, would things be different? I don’t know. Maybe. But this is now a crisis-communications-gone-bad case study.

Woods has hurt the golf industry. His sponsors and the PGA TOUR will lose money over this scandal. A lot of people will lose money over this scandal. Woods would have done himself well to have been more publicly cognizant of the ripples of his actions.

But just “speaking to the media” will not get the job done. Take this weeks’ example of the ex-Tennessee football coach, Lane Kiffin. He abruptly resigned after 14-months on the job. If you know SEC football, you know the passion that exists with alumni and fans for their teams. Kiffin ignited a furry of passion on Tuesday night when he resigned as head coach for the Tennessee Vols and took his top staff members with him.

The PR problem he made only got worse when, in his hastily-called press conference, he made no apologies for leaving, he was arrogant in his statement and he refused to take questions. See the press conference for yourself:

His comments to the press sparked riots in Knoxville and ignited a flurry of online hostility. An article in American Chronicle illustrates that the online reaction to his departure included videos, tweets and Facebook pages.

Among the Facebook pages created in Kiffin’s departure is one called, “Dear Lane Kiffin, We hate you. Love, the Vols.” It has 36,402 members.

Another is, “I was betrayed by Lane Kiffin.” It has 12,904 members.

The lesson we need to learn from Kiffin and Woods is when you are about to make a lot of people mad, try to be humble in doing it. Try to show compassion. Try to act human. If we have learned nothing from politicians, it is that you can make mistakes and people will forgive you – if you admit the mistake, if you are regretful and if you promise to try to do right by your constituents. Many people don’t know how to craft these types of messages. And it is OK to admit you need help, because sometimes you really should just hire a good PR pro to do this type of work for you.


35% of the U.S. population uses Social Media to research health conditions!

This statistic is according to a recent research study conducted by Manhattan Research. It means that approximately 80 million consumers are reaching out to their social networks. Furthermore, these consumers are frequently internalizing, sharing and contributing health-related information via “health blogs, message boards, chat rooms, health social networks and health communities, and patient testimonials.”

Patient desire to consult their online network for medical advice creates an opportunity for healthcare communicators to join in on the conversation, and to encourage the spread of credible information. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been using many well-known social media applications, including YouTube, to educate the nation about H1N1 (swine flu). As of today, the CDC has posted 19 videos discussing all things related to the H1N1 virus; with some videos reaching much more than 1 million views. But the CDC doesn’t stop there. They are offering advice and consultation on multiple medical conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS/STDs and disaster response and preparedness.

Overall, I think the CDC has done an adequate job using YouTube to educate the general public. However, I do have one criticism. The CDC has disabled the comment feature on the videos. *I was looking forward to reading what other users thought about their videos to get a better idea of the general public’s perception of the CDC’s videos.

The main takeaway today is this, whether medical professionals like it or not, consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet and social media to search and often self-diagnose their conditions. Providing easily accessible, relevant information to your audience will not only enable them to find accurate information; it will also improve the likellihood that your healthcare organization will be top of mind when they decide to seek professional care.

Do you know of other providers in the healthcare industry that are using social media as a means to educate their community? Please share them with us by posting a comment below.


Celebrate After a Crisis

Another great lesson learned from SHSMD 2009:

In June 2008, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was overcome with a devastating flood. Mercy Medical Center, in the heart of Cedar Rapids, did not escape without significant damage. The flood was a crisis for the city, residents, hospital, hospital staff and patients. There were many things the hospital staff did right and did well during the crisis and immediately after the two-week cleanup. But what I like most about their advertising and marketing is what they did a year a later, after the crisis was over and things were back to normal.

A year later, the time had come to celebrate all the wonderful things, some big and some small, that had happened at the hospital since the flood. I like this program because it brings the hospital together and recognizes that it truly takes the entire team to run a hospital when there is a crisis … and when there isn’t. The campaign also recognizes that the community is a huge part of the hospital’s success and was a huge part of the hospital’s survival during the flood.

The THRE3 6IXTY 5IVE campaign is a a sample of 365 great things that happened at Mercy in the 365 days since the devastating flood. Here are a few: Picture 2
#179 “Commitment to Community” fundraising campaign exceeds $184,000 goal
#183 Mock patient room created to focus on patient safety
#235 Mercy joins Twitter to provide electronic updates online
#241 Mercy pilots the upgrade of IV pumps to smart pumps
#247 All materials from demolition of the Family Practice Center were recycled

THRE3 6IXTY 5IVE shows that even though sometimes you need to mark the anniversary of a crisis, you can do it by recognizing the good things that have happened instead of remembering all of the bad things. It’s the best way to celebrate after a crisis.


A crisis communications plan using social media networks? Better get started now.

Franchises, hospitals, healthcare organizations, service or consumer companies, at some point you may have a crisis for the business to deal with. Some crises are harder to manage than others, and some organizations are better prepared to deal with a crisis as it arises. For all companies, knowing your plan of attack in advance is important.

Picture 10When I started my career, my first job was managing media relations for a large hospital. My boss had an orange laminated poster that said “MEDIA HERE.” That was our crisis communications plan – hook, line and sinker.

My, my, my how things have changed.

A recent Wall Street Journal article, “Entrepreneurs ‘Tweet’ Their Way Through Crises”, highlights the benefits of online communications, specifically for a crisis. From beverage companies to laundry delivery services, the article highlights communication issues that were managed effectively because of the use of online media, which enabled quick and immediate communication with their key audiences. What could have been a debacle for small businesses, ended up generating the two most important ROI measurements – good will and continued sales.

The key to their success started long before the crises. It started because the companies were already involved in an online conversation.

To quote the article:

“Entrepreneurs should bear in mind that Twitter is unlikely to be of help in dealing with a problem if it isn’t used regularly otherwise, says Shel Israel, …’If you just go to Twitter when you have a crisis, you will have no followers and no credibility’, he says. ‘The key to using Twitter effectively is to build trust with people who are relevant to your business’.”

Regardless of the type of crisis you may need to handle, get online now so you can build your communities, which will be necessary when you need to communicate the good and the bad.

If your crisis communications plan does not include a social media component, it needs to. Here are some things to consider while tweaking your plan:

  1. Do your online communication networks already exist? If not, what is the plan to get them in place?
  2. Do you know how to find your key audience segments? For example, if you are a community based-hospital, you don’t need to broadcast your information to everyone in the community, just to the appropriate new aggregates in your community.
  3. Do your employees know how to find you online? Do you have online portals dedicated to communicating with your employees?
  4. Do your customers know how to find you online, somewhere besides your Web site or e-commerce platform?
  5. Do you have your online spokesperson identified? Who is in charge of disseminating online communication?

What type of online vehicles are you using to help manage crisis communications programs? Tell us about them!


Kentucky Fried Chicken Executives Caught Making Prank Calls….Sweet!

El Pollo Loco (EPL) recently launched a simple, but not necessarily noteworthy, marketing campaign – a consumer taste challenge – against Kentucky Friend Chicken (KFC). But things got interesting when it was alleged that employees from KFC called the EPL consumer-hotline and pretended to be ordinary people impressed by KFC’s new grilled chicken – they seemed to forget that there may be a real person checking the messages.

Staff from EPL not only listened to the messages on their incoming hotline, but they also noticed the caller I.D. Low and behold, a 502 area code showed up. And while the person specifically said they were from California, area code 502 is for Kentucky, the same location of the world headquarters of KFC (YUM Brands). EPL staff was a little curious. “How could this be?” And we are curious, too. A little coincidental, don’t you think? Listen for yourself.

What do you think about this? If KFC was involved, a not-so-noteworthy marketing campaign for EPL could turn into bad PR for KFC.

For the record. I’m a life long fan of KFCOR.

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