Posts Tagged ‘Crisis Communications


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.


When Big Corporations Act Like Little Kids, Consumers Lose: The PR Battle Between ABC and Cablevision.

That was a close one. Well, actually it was still late.

After apparently two-years of negations broke down and ABC pulled its signals from Cablevision the night before, executives from The Walt Disney Company, owner of ABC, managed to get the Oscars back on at Cablevision a mere 13 minutes after the ceremony began. Still soon enough for 3.1 million viewers to watch Sandra Bullock and the Hurt Locker receive their awards, but too late for consumers to have faith in these two corporate giants. And that’s just if they had the patience to wait.

Oscar parties were cancelled. People travelled to friends’ homes to see the broadcast. And viewership in general was probably down.

It was bad enough that the station broadcast was pulled in the first place. But the real clincher in all of this is the awful PR battle being waged. The following statements, from the Washington Post were repeated over and over in countless media stories.

“Now the only way for their subscribers to get ABC-7 is to ditch Cablevision and switch to a provider that cares about them,” Rebecca Campbell, president and general manager of WABC-TV, said in a statement.

Ouch, that hurts. Especially for those people who have no choice in their programming provider.

“It is now painfully clear to millions of New York area households that Disney CEO Bob Iger will hold his own ABC viewers hostage in order to extract $40 million in new fees from Cablevision,” said Charles Schueler, Cablevision’s executive vice president of communications.

Wow, that is just as bad.

My opinion is that the PR battle should have been waged without the public being hurt. Statements about their support for the community should have taken priority over “how awful the other guy is.” In this era of “turn off the TV and watch it on the computer” both Walt Disney/ABC and Cablevision would be better off trying to support their customers in lieu of letting them get hurt in a battle over who makes more money.

In the end we all got to see Sandra Bullock bring home a well-deserved award. So the night wasn’t a terrible disaster.

Here is a news clip on the issue:


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.


Savvy Communications: Utilizing Google to Counter Negative Press

hoki-1The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council found themselves in a “fishy” situation this fall when The New York Times reported that the hoki, one of the country’s most heavily farmed fish, was at risk of depletion due to potential overfishing.

As Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab points out, the seafood council, unhappy about this negative press, could have written a letter to the editor, issued a rebuttal press release or demanded the Times print a correction. They didn’t do any of that, however. Instead they bought Google ads (e.g., pay-per-click, site-targeted ads, etc.) for words such as “new zealand hoki,” “hoki,” and “hoki new york times.” Anybody searching Google for more news about this story would more than likely come across these ads and get the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council’s side of the story.


Another savvy move by the council – or should I say the council’s PR firm, CounterPoint Strategies – was to link Google ads back to a hoki-specific page within the council’s Web site. This link happens to be in the third paragraph of the Times’ article. After the article came out, the council revised the page from a general description of the hoki to a full-fledged rebuttal of the Times’ article. According to the council, 78,000 people clicked through from the article to that page.

How ingenious!

Rather than going back and forth in the press, as is typical in these situations, the council and their PR firm created a grassroots, viral campaign that I imagine hit much harder and was more effective. They reached readers at their main source of information – the Internet – and tried to squelch the negative news almost at the source and in real time by generating their own information.

This example hits on so many issues in regard to what is occurring in the news industry today. Everyday people, large and small companies, and communications firms can generate, control and manipulate their news without the use of a third party – the media. While the media still play an important role – don’t get me wrong – the way we disseminate information has been changing and will continue to change indefinitely.

I really connected with this story, as I feel strategies such as these are a gateway into what the future holds for our industry.

What savvy and/or modern PR strategies have you implemented or seen lately?

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