Monday, December 12, 2011

There Are No New Crises -- Just New Lessons From Old Events

I  don't want to run this message into the ground -- but, oh why not?

There are no new crisis.  You do not have to reinvent the wheel.  Just pay attention to what worked and what didn't and copy the part that worked.

Toyota did it all pretty much the wrong way.

Chevy's Electric Volt with its suddenly bursting into flames seems to have done it right.

Toyota didn't talk, and when it did it made excuses.

Chevy has talked, but even more significantly Chevrolet offered free loaner GM vehicle until the issue of the unexplained Volts burning battery is resolved.

Chevy's experts not only talked but explained the fires were not spontaneious. They came up to three weeks after  the accident that caused the damaged vehicles to be parked and taken out of service.

When you're business is facing a crisis, look at what worked and what did NOT work for your competitors, and then use the stuff that works and ignore the stuff that did not.

Recovery will come much quicker, almost every time.

Friday, December 9, 2011

You Think It Could Not Happen Here? Think Again`

The death toll is at 89, mostly patients, at the Kolkata, India hospital where a blaze broke out in a storage area in the basement and spread, while some hospital administrators reportedly fled the scene.

Satyabrata Upadhyay, senior vice president of the AMRI hospital company, said the loss of life was "extremely unfortunate and painful." Upadhyay also said the compensation that would be given to families of those killed would be 200,000 rupees (about $4,000 US$).

Where to begin.

Can you imagine hospital administrators fleeing in a vain attempt to avoid responsibility in any other part of the world.  I can.

Can you imagine a health care provider, in many other parts of the world, taking pride in offering $4,000 in compensation for the death of your mother, father, child or spouse.  Settlements are a releative thing, and only in America would the lawyers already be salavating over the millions of dollars they would expect to bank in such a case.

Just coincidentally, I was in a very good hospital near Louisville, KY lastThursday and Friday for spine surgery.  I was cared for by some of the best nurses and technicians you could ever hope to have.  I also had a surgeon who has a reputation for being good as a surgeon, but a little long on ego and short on bedside manners.

Now is the perfect time, if you are a hospital administrator, manager or nursing supervisor to review every aspect of your facilities operations, storage, evacuation plan and training and emergency access to your building's access points and service entrances.

Do NOT put it off a single day.  If you do, put this phone number in your wallet or purse because you'll need us before you know it:  1-502-587 0327.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What Was Jerry's Lawyer Thinking?

Former Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky is consistent, at least.  Allegations of his initial sexual assaults on young boys set off two waves of strong reaction.  First, his former boss Joe Paterno and other PS administrators were shocked that he was being accused of such things.

Then he told NBC News he didn't do anything wrong.  The outrage was greater when he finally defended himself.  Then it occurred to some so-called leaders that blaming potentially sexually abused children for their mistreatment was not gonna work.

Then Sandusky agreed to do a four-hour interview with the New York Times, reiterating that, in his mind, he didn't do anything wrong.

And the uproar was even greater.

At least once a day, someone calls and asks what advice would ICM give Penn State, or Jerry Sandusky.

The answer has been consistent.

Never say "no comment" or any variation on that term or concept.

However, there is one response that is appropriate and consistent with the "no comment" advice.

"This is an issue that is likely going to be resolved in the court of law, and  responses to those kinds of questions will best be answered in the court of law and not in the court of public opinion."

That IS an answer.  It is NOT a "no comment" and no lawyer or communication consultant could harm their client with that advice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Crisis Communication Training -- Register Now

The new year is fast approaching and participants are beginning to register for the Institute for Crisis Management 2012 Crisis Communication Certification Courses in  Louisville, KY.

You should register as soon as you can for the intensive and thorough two-day crisis communication training and the optional third day of media/spokesperson training.

There are still openings in all four sessions of the 2012 ICM Crisis Communication Management Certification Course.
Feb. 7-8 & 9, 2012
May 15-16 & 17, 2012
July 17-18 & 19, 2012
Sept. 11-12 & 13, 2012

For more information go to:

If you are part of a management team, and particularly if you are on the crisis management team, you will find ICM's crisis training extremely valuable.

Whether you are responsible for internal or external communication or not, the ICM crisis training will be worth the trip. And even if you are not normally the designated spokesperson, the third day of spokesperson training will be helpful. The more you know about the media and how to "use" the media in a crisis or any other time, the easier it will be for you to do your job, regardless of what your responsibilities may be.

There is no company, organization or non-profit, no matter how big or small, that will not benefit from crisis communication planning, training and media/spokesperson training.

Friday, November 18, 2011

An Old Threat Still Hangs Over Us

The Institute for Crisis Management has been warning clients and anyone else who will listen that every business, no matter how small or big, every organization -- for profit or non-profit--needs to have a Pandemic Crisis Plan.

Ten years ago I was speaking to groups all over the U.S., Canada and South America urging them to develop a crisis plan for the next Pandemic.  Some listened, some pandemic plans were begun, but many blew it off. 

The attitude was and still is, that isn't gonna happen.  Medicine has advanced so much, doctors aren't going to let that happen.

This week The World Health Organization (WHO) hosted an international conference and  issued a strong warning that another deadly pandemic is "a matter of when and not if," according to WHO Assistant Director-General of Health Security Keiji Fukuda.

In 1918/1919 50-million people died worldwide, with half-a-million of those deaths in the United States

There have been two smaller worldwide pandemics since 1919. The next one was in 1957 when the Asian Flu killed 70,000 Americans and the most recent was 1968, when the Hong Kong Flu killed 34,000 Americans and thousands more around the world.

In spite of the medical advances and the worldwide surveillance for signs of pandemic type infected birds, the experts at WHO still maintain the terrible disease, borne by birds that travel from country to country, is a significant threat.

Besides, we have argued, the Pandemic Plan is just a specialized part of any organization's crisis plan.  Particularly that part of the crisis plan that deals with how your business or organization will respond to someone else's crisis.

An example:  You're Ford Motor Company and you have this wonderful, modern plant in Louisville, KY that makes the new Ford Escape.  The pandemic strikes the U.S.  You depend on scores of plants around north America and Mexico to supply parts that ultimately go into making your new Escape.

The pandemic hits some of the communities with suppliers that you depend on.  Half of the employees at six supplier plants are out sick or dieing.  You can't get enough parts to build vehicles and then you realize 30-percent of your workforce is out sick or dieing.  Do you have a plan for that?

PR Can't Prevent Or Fix Bad Managment

The Penn State Football "crisis" has become a public relations problem for the University, but it started as a failing leadership/management problem.

I always say, "Doing the right thing is almost always the right thing to do."  That may seem trite, but consider the whole Penn State dilemma.  If the Head Coach and the Athletic Director and the Chief of the Campus Police and the President of the University had each done the "right thing" to begin with, there would have been a relatively smaller PR problem and the bigger problem -- sexual abuse of young boys -- would have been stopped sooner.

It doesn't matter what your organization does -- make millions playing football, manufacture widgets, provide a service or sell those widgets -- doing the right thing as soon as you discover someone in your organization is not, will save you potentially thousands if not millions of dollars in lost business or support and legal fees and settlements.

We have been called by potential clients in crisis and want us to fly in a fix it.  I always ask what the organization is doing, or going to do to fix "it."  And I often get this reponse -- "we're not sure, but while we decide what to do, we want you to come in and do your thing."

Our "thing" is to help leadlership explain what they are doing to their internal audiences, first, and then to all the important audiences outside.  We can't, really we won't, cover for a poor or indecisive leader.  We WILL help a management/leadership team identify what the real problem(s) are, and suggest steps they can and should take, and how to explain what they have decided to do or not do.

But, in most cases, when you see a business, hospital, university or other organization in negative news  headlines, the crisis was probably smoldering for weeks or months or in the case of Penn State
for years before it figuratively blew up in their faces. 

We call those "smoldering crises" and two-thirds of all organizational crises are the smoldering type.

They start out small and are undetected or ignored, and as a result they get bigger and potentially more dangerous and then, inevitably they explode in public view. Causing much more damage than they would have had they been dealt with when they first were discovered.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Who Tells The CEO He Can't Be The Spokesman In A Crisis?

A recent study raises a question about whether the CEO is a good or bad choice as spokesperson in a crisis.

To begin with, the Institute for Crisis Management has always pleaded with clients to identify spokespersons other than the CEO.  The CEO of any company in a crisis has more on his/her plate than any one person should be expected to manage and being the on-going spokesperson is almost a full-time job in itself.

Plus, if the CEO misspeaks, there is no one left who can step in and fix it!

There IS a place and carefully controlled situation when the CEO must step up and speak for the company, but not in an on-going spokesperson role.

But, if you won’t take our advice consider the new survey from the Public Affairs Council and conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

The latest survey of public opinion about the honesty and ethics of business leaders and lower level employees turns that whole thing upside down.  The lower an employee is in the chain of command the higher he or she is considered as honest and ethical.

86-percent of Americans found non-managers ranked average or highly honest and ethical, while the same survey found only 50-percent of Americans rate the honesty and ethics of CEOs as average or high.

So, if you put the CEO out front in a crisis, you are starting at a 50-50 disadvantage with key audiences already doubting that spokesperson’s credibility.

It’s not hard to understand the results of the survey.  Most people don’t live like a CEO and most don’t even know a CEO in person.  However, they CAN identify with the “working man and woman.” They believe that people like themselves are honest and ethical like they are.

But that same survey found another reason why CEO’s are held in such low esteem – outlandish pay and bonuses.  Even if the company is doing well, Americans do not like executive bonuses. And when times are bad, 87 percent oppose bonuses for top management. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Penn State a Smoldering Crisis for 17-Years

“It’s not about Paterno or football, it is about making sure processes are in place and individuals are held accountable so Penn State’s name is never shamed again,” Paul Silvis, a member of Penn State’s board of trustees said shortly before veteran coach Joe Paterno confirmed he would be retiring at the end of the season.

Well, this post is not about Paterno or football or even Penn State.  It is about any organization – business, charity, not-for-profit, public school or university having a plan in place to manage and communicate when something as big and smelly as the assistant coach molesting young men and boys blows up in your face.
First of all, this was what we at the Institute for Crisis Management call a smoldering crisis.

Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was temporarily jailed last weekend and charged with sexual assaults or advances on at least eight boys starting as early as 1994.  Someone or several someones have known about the smoldering crisis for years.  And someone could have started the process of shutting down the “problem” and beginning the process to both take care of the victims AND prepare the Administration and Head Coach to minimize the damage. 

“This is a tragedy,” Coach Paterno, said in a statement released today by his public relations agency. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

And the school’s Board of Trustees issued a statement saying it was “outraged by the horrifying details” in the grand jury report about the Sandusky case.”

The statements are okay, but are 17-years late!

Every organization should have what we call a MEWS, or Management Early Warning System in place. Everyone in the organization should be educated and encouraged to pay attention to what’s going on around them and not be afraid to report potential problems to someone up the management chain. Even when it impacts your  money making football or basketball program and its star coach.
The boys themselves may or may not have been telling anyone about what the “Coach” had or was doing to them...but very likely one or two did tell someone.  If that person had only told someone else.

Well, a graduate assistant DID tell Paterno about Sandusky assaulting a boy visiting  the Penn State locker room in 2002, but nothing was done to fully stop the molestations nor to take the appropriate steps to make it public, take care of the victims, apologize and begin immediately repairing the athletic department and university’s reputation.

Once again I appeal to leaders of all organizations to plan for every possible thing that can go wrong, from the building blowing up, blowing away or getting damaged by the stench of misbehavior by someone that works for you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mr. Cain Continues to Set An Example

It’s not the right example, but it certainly is a teaching moment, not only for politicians, but for executives at every level of a business or organization.

GOP Presidential Candidate Herman Cain now says he told a friend of Presidential opponent Rick Perry back in 2003 about a charge against him while he worked for the National Restaurant Association in the 90’s. And, as a result, Cain is blaming the Perry staff for leaking the allegations of sexual harassment against him.
That raises the question:  If he knew it was out there, why didn’t he have a prepared response?

When you have something that can be used against you or your company or organization, you must anticipate that it will come up at some time, and be prepared to make it a one-day story, not drag it on for days with denials, then half-truths, lame explanations and then blame the competition for stirring up the stink.
NBC News White House Correspondent Chuck Todd says, Cain has “evolved his explanation so much that it’s confirmed some of the charges, making his denials on all of them harder to believe.”

Let me 'splain this again:  If you have something questionable or potentially damaging in your past, just assume that at some critical time in your career, your business or your campaign, it will come out -- sometimes accidentally, sometimes on purpose. Decide NOW what you can and will say, practice it out-loud, polish it, and be prepared.

At ICM we recommend you tell your side of what happened/or didn’t, say you made a mistake (if you did) and have been working to make it right (if you have) and say you’re sorry – and mean it.

It won’t always stop the damage from eating away at you or your organization, but most of the time it will be a one-day story and then disappear.  It’s when you are not forthcoming, your enemies/opponents can and will keep chipping away at your integrity, reputation and name.

I know, you want to know what we would have suggested Mr. Cain say when the issue first came up. 
How about something like this:
You’ve seen me speak and interact with staff and supporters and voters. Sometimes my attempt at humor succeeds and sometimes it doesn’t.  There were two co-workers at NRA that apparently miss-interpreted something I said or did.  At the time I said I didn’t mean to offend anyone, and I can say it again – if I offended either of those two ladies or anyone else, forgive me.  I love my wife, I don’t need anyone but her.

Then when asked about it again, simply be prepared to say:  I answered that question yesterday (or when ever) do you have anything you want to ask me?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An Invaluable Lesson From Herman Cain

If Herman Cain accomplishes nothing else in his career, he is providing an invaluable lesson in how to respond to allegations of misconduct.

He was accused of sexually harassing two female employees while he headed the National Restaurant Association in the 90’s.

The first public statement on behalf of the Republican Presidential candidate came from his chief campaign aide Mark Block, who told MSNBC that Cain “never sexually harassed anybody. Period. End of Story. And he added, I am not personally aware of any settlement.”

In a later interview on FOX TV, Cain said, “If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn’t even aware of it, and hope it wasn’t for much.”

In a still later interview Cain’s story changed.  He said, “Yes, there was some sort of settlement or termination,” in an interview with Greta Van Susteren.

Then on PBS, Cain said, “I was aware that an agreement was reached. The word settlement versus the word agreement, you know, I’m not sure what they called it.”

So on the first day Cain began with a declaration there had been no sexual harassment. And finally he concluded that one woman might have incorrectly interpreted something he said as being inappropriate and a settlement of agreement was reached.

Political pundits immediately began to ask “Can he survive this?” 

That’s not the question to ask.  The question to ask is why didn’t he respond truthfully and adequately to end the story on the first day, rather than draw the story out over several days, leaving potential voters to wonder what really happened and why didn’t he answer the question to begin with.
If you, or your company/organization are accused of something “wrong” answer as thoroughly as you can as quickly as you can, and then every time the question comes up again, simply respond with “I’ve already answered that, do you have any other questions?”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Phone Camera Warning

If you are an HR Manager, a police officer, emergency medical technician, factory foreman, even a doctor or nurse working ER, always be on your best behavior, in addition to doing what you are trained and expected to do.

Phone cameras -- capable of recording both still photographs and moving video – are everywhere. If you “lose your cool” you will very likely show up on the local evening TV newscast at the very least or YouTube forever.
On the other hand if you do something above and beyond the call of duty, you may show up on the same TV newscast and YouTube in a favorable light.

Most often, the phone cameras catch people at their worst.
The police officer that over-reacts to an unruly demonstrator or drunk or mentally unstable person, caught on video swing his/her nightstick or spraying Pepper Spray in their face.

Or, the company representative that encounters demonstrators at the front gate, and after being verbally abused, over-reacts with a shouting spree response, caught on camera by another demonstrator.
I’ve been in some of these kinds of “heated” encounters.  I once was riding in the front seat with a police officer.  He picked up a 15-year-old at a community fair. The boy was obviously from a well-to-do family, but he was “drunker than a skunk” as they used to say where I grew up.

He was scared to death and could not stop talking and crying. The officer ordered him to shut up, but after a short drive, he had more than he could “take” and pulled a “black jack” out of his pocket and started to backhand the young man riding behind him.  I automatically reacted. I stretched both of my arms out and yawned as big as I could, blocking the officer’s arm from striking his prisoner.
Needless to say, he was mad as all get out with me.  But I reminded him about all the paper-work he would face if he had hit the boy and the boy’s family filed charges against him! Besides the police car was equipped with a camera that recorded “inside” as well as “outside.”

Sometimes it is very hard to maintain your composure but you must, and every organization should be teaching and advocating appropriate responses from all executives, managers and staff/employees.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Social Media: A Crisis Waiting To Hit

Do NOT ignore social media!

Not only are the various social media great tools for reaching OUT to your employees, customers/clients/patients/students, financial supporters, suppliers, and others, those same social media can be used to launch an attack on your reputation, your service, product, mission, integrity, business, organization – and if you are not on guard and ready to react immediately, you will lose before you even get started.
A just released Ipsos Mori Reputation Council’s 2011 report found that only 59-percent of communications directors say they regularly pay attention to their company’s brand on social media channels. 

That’s down from 73-percent in 2010.
Perhaps, just as shocking in today’s communications environment: when asked to what extent they actively engage with stakeholders through social media, 41-percent responded “not very much.”

The old axiom about maintaining a relationship with the conventional media, is just as applicable to the social media.  When an organization is faced with a public crisis, you can respond and recover quicker if you already have a relationship with the key media that cover you.
The principle is built on the idea that reporters who know you, even a little bit, are more inclined to give you a break, or at least consider your “point of view,” than reporters who don’t know you and don’t care about you.

 If you don’t have a company presence using social media channels, and suddenly you are in crisis and “show up” you are starting from a much deeper hole that you have to climb out of.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Prevent Crises Or Live With Them For A Long Time

Planning and training to manage a business crisis IS important, but working to PREVENT crises is even more important and certainly more cost effective.

An example:  The Toyota “unintended acceleration” crisis. It was a smoldering crisis, with  unmistakable signs of a problem developing for Toyota, but ignored or unrecognized for months, if not more than a year.
There had been repeated indications of a problem with stuck accelerators and floor mats for more than a year before the first head-line grabbing deaths of a California police officer and his family.

There have been estimates that as many as 100 people died in Toyotas with accelerator problems.
So why am I bringing that up again nearly two years after the public became aware of the problem?

BECAUSE, this story is coming back to the top of the business pages of news outlets around the world, with the scheduling of the first wrongful death lawsuit trial in February of 2013.  This trial is about the deaths of a Utah couple, killed when their Toyota slammed into a wall almost two years ago.
There are hundreds of other similar lawsuits waiting to go to trial.  And, with the first one still more than a year away, Toyota will have to wait a lot longer before they can really put this crisis behind them.

Remember, our research repeatedly concludes that nearly two-thirds of all business crises are what we call smoldering crises.  They start out small, and if someone is paying attention, they can be spotted and fixed before they ever grow to public crisis status.
That was certainly possible in the Toyota accelerator case, just like it was with the Firestone ATX tire debacle in the 90’s, before it became a public nightmare for Firestone/Bridgestone in February of 2000.

Plan, train and prevent!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Finally, Someone Did It Right!

Monday morning, Sept. 26 someone or some group calling itself the “Syrian Electronic Army” hacked its way into the Harvard University home page, posting a picture of Syria’s president and a message that said,   “SyRiAn eLeCTronic ArMy WeRe HeRE.”

“This site has been breached to spread our message even if illegally,” the hacker added. There was more, but you get the picture.
Hardly a week goes by that some institution or organization doesn’t make headlines because of an intrusion into their website.  And there’s no way of knowing how many hacks go unreported.

Some just fix it and never say anything, others over-react, but the leadership at Harvard reacted about as well as any responsible decision maker could.
They acted quickly and said, “The University’s home page was compromised by an outside party this morning.  We took down the site for several hours in order to restore it.  The attack appears to have been the work of a sophisticated individual or group.”

The secret to their public response was acknowledging it happened, but not responding in any way to create more conflict, or give the perpetrator credit by name.   Hacks are usually done for one or two reasons – just to be disruptive, or to get broader attention for their cause.

Harvard didn’t let the disruption last long, and did not sucker into a public debate about the hacker’s “cause.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Sell TV News Short, Yet!

Local TV is the only source of news to beat word-of-mouth as the go-to source for local information, according to a recently released Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation study.

In a nationwide survey of 2,251 adults, 74% said they turned to local TV news at least once a week to get information about their community.  That compares to similar research in the late 80s, when viewers watched local news at least four-times a week.

That old fashioned word-of-mouth came in second with 55-percent of those surveyed, radio with 51-percent, newspapers a shrinking 50-percent and the Internet with an increasing 47-percent, as a source of news and information.

Research shows that word-of-mouth grows in importance as the traditional media pay less attention to what's important to their viewers, listeners or readers.  A Brookings Institute study found that family and friends were the most popular and reliable sources of a lot of information today.

One example was education and school news.  When was the last time you saw a local television station cover a school board meeting when there was no big protest expected? 

The Pew study respondents said  if they were interested in weather, breaking news, politics or crime then TV news was the best source.

(Disclaimer here) I spent 35-years in newspapers and radio and television news, including about half of that as a newspaper editor or radio or TV news director.

It didn't used to be this way, but now local TV news ranks low as a source on such important things as business, schools, government and cultural events.

THE LESSON HERE:  When you are facing a crisis or managing a crisis, after you are clear what the crisis is, the next step is to identify your key audiences, and before you start "communicating," identify the media that will best reach the key audiences that are important.

TV news mostly appeals to an audience over 40.  Younger audiences tend to get their news and information from digital sources such as the Internet and mobile phones.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Who Do You Think Is Doing A Good Job?

It certainly isn't the oil companies, managed care (HMOs) or health insurance companies.

A new Harris Poll measuring what you think about 22 of the nation's largest industries, concludes you don't think very kindly about some of the industries that we all have to depend on.

The poll is done every two years, and the most recent one was done in August, with interviews of 1,956 adults.

One "improvement" from the 2009 survey to this most recent one, found consumers think the automobile industry is doing a much better job with a 36-percent higher "positive,"  but in contrast, 27-percent say the airline industry is doing an awful job.

At the other end of the good job/bad job scale, supermarkets are ranked best with 90-percent of those surveyed giving a "good job" rating and only 10-percent a "bad job" rating for the nation's big food stores.

At the bottom of the list of 22 industries -- the oil companies with 33% of the respondents giving them a "good job" evaluation and 64% a "bad job" rating.

Tobacco companies were next to last and on-line search engines  were 2nd from the top of the list. Hospitals were third with an 82-percent favorable rating and 16-percent bad-job rating. Two-percent were not sure.

Computer hardware and software companies were 4th and 5th, online retailers ranked 6th, Internet service providers were 7th and packaged food companies ranked 8th.

Car manufacturers were 9th and electric and gas utilities came it at 10th with a 70% favorable rating and a 29% unfavorable rating with one-percent undecided.

Telephone companies were 13th, banks 14th, drug companies 15th, cable companies 16th and airlines 17th.

Why does this matter?  Dollars and cents is why it matters. Although most of us have no choice but to do business with many of these kinds of companies, where there is a choice, the business that treats us better than a competitor is more likely to get our money.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beware of Whistleblowers!

Not only should you plan for fires, explosions, natural disasters and workplace violence, but you MUST anticipate and be prepared to manage a WHISTLEBLOWER crisis.

The U.S. Government has reported a steady increase in whistleblower cases since 2005, and one of the nation's largest labor law practices has had an increase of 25-percent in whistleblower and retaliation complaints from 2009 to the present. They recently created a stand-alone specialty Whistleblowing and Retaliation Practice.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has seen an increase of 2011 whistleblower cases already totalling 2,339 as of last week, and that compares to 2,319 for all of last year and 2,010 for all of 2009.

So, you need a section in your crisis communication plan for a whistleblower sparked crisis and a response for a whistleblower who isn't accurate.

ICM had a relatively small company client with less than 200 employees. They had fired an employee for cause.  That employee set out to "get even" by making whistleblower charges with a number of federal agencies and offices.  The employee finally got a government lawyer to listen.  It was likely the lawyer had political aspirations and saw an opportunity to use this case.

The company was well run, had a great reputation, and a number of government contracts.  The only two people in the world who wanted to hurt the company was the fired worker and one government lawyer.

The company had ignored or missed a technical record keeping step and the whistleblower "got 'em" on that.  The company paid a million dollar fine and the whistleblower got a couple of hundred-thousand dollars of the penalty.

By comparison, Bank of America was just ordered to pay a whistleblower $930,000 in interest and back wages and reinstate the employee. OSHA concluded, "This employee showed great courage reporting potential fraud and standing up for the rights of other employees to do the same."  BoA was found to have used illegal retaliatory tactics against the whistleblower.

Several legal experts agree the increase in whistleblowing is a good thing, unless you are a company that is cutting corners, operating illegally or otherwise not operating in the public interest.

We recommend two things:  1.  Don't do that!  Doing the right thing is almost always the right thing to do. And, 2. Maintain a crisis communication plan, just in case you make a mistake and someone blows the whistle on your organization.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Workplace Safety Still Requires Planning

While the Institute for Crisis Management's annual Crisis Report continues to conclude that "sudden" crises, such as fires, explosions, natural disasters and workplace violence still make up only about one-third of all business and organizational crises, it doesn't mean that you can let your guard down nor take steps to continue to minimize those types of business disruptions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has just reported the numbers for 2010 and they say there were 4,547 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2010 -- four fewer than in 2009.

The number of workplace homicides was down significantly last year -- seven percent fewer than in 2009 with 506 cases in 2010 and down more than 50-percent from 1994.  The U.S. Labor Department had reported in some recent years as many as 700 workplace homicides, and thousands of non-fatal workplace attacks.

Returning to workplace injuries and deaths, the Labor Department says construction accidents account for more fatal workplace injuries than any other industry, with 751 deaths in 2010.

Some have argued that number is declining because there are fewer people working in construction jobs in the past three years, but the Associated General Contractors of American maintain the number is dropping because of planning and training efforts.

Deaths in the mining industry jumped 74-percent last year to a total of 172 fatalities.  Leading that category were multiple deaths at the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine in West Virginia and the 11 deaths on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Platform that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

Operational Crisis Planning and Crisis Communication Planning should not ignore the more frequent "smoldering crisis" types, such as mismanagement, labor issues, activist protests, product defects and the many human resources types of problems, but at the same time, never stop working to prevent the sudden type crises, and plan for ways to manage them when they cannot be avoided.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Cell Phone Could Put You Out Of Business

If you have a small or even medium size business, have you thought about how a single cell phone could destroy everything you've worked so hard for?

A recent survey discovered that 32-percent of companies know or have evidence that distracted employees, using a cell phone, triggered an on-the-job crash.  That is a sure fire basis for a lawsuit.
And, if there was serious injury or death resulting from that crash, the financial loss could wipe out even a medium size business.

The survey by ZoomSafer found that 62-percent of companies have written policies prohibiting employees from using mobile phones while driving on company business.  That was relative good news, but the bad news--only about half make an effort to enforce that policy.

And of those who try to enforce the policy, 61-percent depend on after-the-fact disciplinary action.

Now for the really serious news --7.6-percent of the 500 companies surveyed have been sued as a result of an employee being distracted by a phone while driving. For companies with more than 5,000 drivers, 37-percent have been served with lawsuits.

71-percent of long-haul trucking companies, and 83-percent of local trucking companies have written cell phone use policies.  

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at any given moment, 11-percent of drivers are using their cell phone, and the National Safety Council estimates that one out of every four vehicle crashes involves a driver on the phone.

Remember, ICM research consistently reaffirms that nearly two-thirds of all business crises are preventable, and most of those driving while distracted wrecks could be prevented, if the driver was NOT using a cell phone.

A business crisis is still a business crisis, whether it was caused by a hurricane or a distracted driver.

Your liability is probably greater if the loss was caused by your employee, driving while distracted.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

9/11 Anniversary

Within 24 hours after the twin towers were leveled by hijacked airliners in New York City, we began to take a series of anxious telephone calls from companies and organizations all over North America.

There was no beating around the bush. Almost, without exception, all callers wanted to know if we could help them develop a terrorism crisis plan, and how much would it cost?

I made a quick decision that first day, and did NOT set out to take advantage of anyone.  It would have been easy, and financially rewarding, but, instead I was honest with each caller.

I said, "I cannot guarantee you will never need a 'terrorism crisis plan,' but the odds are very slim, if you do not live and/or operate in New York City, Washington, DC, or maybe a handful of other major media markets."

I assured them the Institute for Crisis Management could help them develop a terrorism crisis plan, but added, "you are far more likely to experience one of a dozen more likely crisis types."  And offered to
submit a proposal for a practical, custom crisis communication plan.

That was almost a daily conversation for nearly six months.

But as time passed, and the television news video began to lose its shock value, almost none of those organizations ever completed work on any kind of a crisis communication plan, let alone a terrorism crisis plan.

Nothing has changed. 

Businesses and other types of organizations, including non-profits, higher education, healthcare and even professional organizations still face the same kinds of disrupting events and still need to plan and train for them.

ICM research See the Annual ICM Crisis Report reaffirms, year after year, that about two-thirds of all crises are preventable.

Even crises that cannot be prevented, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, can be anticipated, and recovery will be easier and quicker if you have a crisis plan and have practiced with that plan before the real thing hits.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Planning Pays

Hurricane Irene took more than 40 lives, and left millions of people without electric power for hours or a few days, flooded neighborhoods, disrupted business, left thousands stranded for a few days in U.S. airports, damaged homes and business buildings up and down the east coast, and cost the late summer tourist industry on the east coast millions of dollars.

All on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

By contrast, more than 1,800 people died during or as a result of Katrina, and the estimated property damage was around $81-Billion.

The Institute for Crisis Management has been saying for years that two-thirds of all business or organizational crises are preventable, and those crises that cannot be prevented, like a hurricane, can be significantly less traumatic and damaging with the proper planning and training.

Irene has helped prove that point, again.

Those organizations that had an operational crisis plan were prepared to protect their property and their people.

Those organizations that had a crisis communication plan were able to inform everyone of what was happening, what to do, when to do it, and reassure them they would all get through it.

Those organizations that had a continuity and recovery plan were ready to get back to work, to school, to serving their constituents as soon as it was safe to do so.

There will be unbudgeted costs and losses, but for those who had a plan; had trained with their plan; and used their plan, the costs and losses will be significantly smaller than they could have been and life will return to near normal within weeks, rather than years, if ever.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Supply Chain: A Crisis Waiting To Happen

Did you ever consider your supply chain a “crisis waiting to happen?”

Do you have a supply chain vulnerability or risk assessment?
Do you have a crisis operations, communication and recovery plan for your supply chain?

Even if you answered “yes” to the first question, I would be shocked out of my socks if very many of you had an assessment of what could go wrong, and even more surprised if very many of your companies had an integrated operations, communication and recovery crisis plan for your supply chain.
Professor Alan Braithwaite at Cranfield University and LCP Consulting has written a very good White Paper, published by MissionMode Solutions, focusing on “overcoming operational glitches” – his tongue-in-cheek term for crises – in the supply chain.  And he uses the term “supply chain” in the broadest possible way.

Professor Braithwaite made his point using Bear Stearns as an example.  He pointed out they bought “bad” inventory in the form of worthless mortgage securities with no possibility of the supplier making good on them.
Even with the most basic concept of supply chains, manufacturers have dramatically increased their risk of supply chain “glitches” just to save a few dollars up front.  When you bought parts from a supplier a state away, there were certain risks, but when you began buying those parts from the other side of the globe, the RISKS increased substantially.

Six years ago I was flying home from a client trip and my seatmate was visibly agitated and after we introduced ourselves and she found out I was a crisis consultant, she told me about her crisis.
She was on her way to the corporate headquarters of a major retailer that operates some of the largest and most successful outdoor stores in the United States. 

She had to tell the CEO that the entire stock of the next season’s outdoor wear had been swept off container loading docks in Southeast Asia, and many of the factories where the apparel had been made had also been washed away.  It was millions of dollars of inventory that would never reach their stores.

Of course, that paled in comparison to the more than 230,000 people who were swept away by the same tsunami.
Every business, of every size, has some kind of inventory which comes from a supply source, whether its auto parts or office supplies, electronic components or cleaning supplies.

When you review your crisis plans, next time, don’t forget the supply chain possibilities.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Smoldering Computer Crises Erupt

Remember, we say two-thirds of all crises, on average over the past ten years, are preventable. And how many businesses or organizations are the victims of a computer generated crisis, almost daily now?

Our "down under" Crisis guy, Tony Jacques, tells the story of a Melbourne-based IT company that was the initial victim of a hacker. And the hack of the IT company knocked out the websites of 4,800 mostly small and medium size companies. The IT website host was forced out of business, and many of their small business customers may not survive.

That was purposeful, and might have been prevented or the damage minimized with better planning and crisis prevention.

Not too many years ago, we had a much bigger "host" company with several thousand customers, and a reasonable back-up plan for hurricane damage.  But a so-called "perfect storm" knocked the host site out of service for several days and caused significant damage to hundreds if not thousands of their business website customers.  The host company survived, and did the "right thing" by their customers, but not without considerable cost to the host and many of the businesses that depended on their company websites.

And if those examples were not bad enough, this past weekend, the  Hacktivist group Anonymous launched an attack on the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit System. BART was targeted after the transit system blocked mobile telephone service in part of its service area in an effort to thwart an anticipated protest and demonstration against BART.

I can go on and on with examples, but we still see so many business and organization decision makers that think the only kinds of crises their organizations face are fires, explosions and natural disasters. We are living in a world where computers have become such an important tool in how we do business, and at the same time one of the most powerful tools that can be used to disrupt business or even destroy a business or organization.

When you assess your most likely risks -- crisis origins -- make sure you put computers and the Internet near the top of your list.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Finally, Someone's Doing It Right

It may have taken the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service two weeks to take action, but once Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation was identified as a likely source of Salmonella Heidelberg contaminated ground turkey, they wasted no time initiating a voluntary recall of nearly 36-million pounds of fresh and frozen ground turkey products.

One person has died and at least 76 others in 26-states have been sickened by contaminated turkey.

Cargill immediately posted information about the recall on its website and linked readers to its news release page for the latest information .

Cargill operates four turkey processing plants, but  has only shut down operations at the Springdale, Arkansas plant. Cargill President Steve Willardsen is quoted on the company's website announcing, "...given our concern for what has happened, and our desire to do what is right for our consumers and customers, we are voluntarily removing our ground turkey products from the market place."

Not only has Cargill used its website to provide information to consumers, but it is working with its grocery store and supermarket chain customers to inform the public about the potential risk and offering full refunds for any of their ground turkey products packaged between Feb. 20, 2011 and Aug. 2, 2011.

To top off all of those actions, President Willardsen added his own personal apology, "It is regrettable that people may have become ill from eating one of our ground turkey products and, for anyone who did, we are truly sorry."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Another Reason To Have A Crisis Plan

A relatively new San Fransisco  business that brokers rental properties....helping travelers find homes to rent, temporarily, or helping home owners to find temporary renters....found out the hard way why they should have had a crisis plan.

Airbnb is the company that helped a San Fransisco woman find a temporary renter for her home.

When the woman returned from her trip, she found her temporary renter gone, along with her camera, laptop computer, iPod and her birth certificate and social security card.  They had been locked in a closet, but the closet was broken into.

The woman took her awful experience on-line, and it became a national story.

The woman talked to Airbnb several times, before she went public with her experience.

Company CEO Brian Chesky ended up doing the "right thing" for his client and his business, but not before significant negative publicity did it's damage.

Eventually he issued an "unconditional apology," and in a company blog, he wrote about the woman, "we let her down, and for that we are very sorry."

He added, "We should have responded faster, communicated more sensitively, and taken more decisive action to make sure she felt safe and secure."

". . . we weren't prepared for the crisis and we dropped the ball.  Now," Chesky said, "we're dealing with the consequences."

San Francisco Police have a suspect in custody, and Chesky now insures his clients for up to $50,000 in damages and losses.

It doesn't matter how small or big your organization may be, or whether its for profit or a non-profit, it should have a crisis plan, and key members of the organization should be trained in using the plan.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Social Media: Friend or Foe?

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get one to 20 blast e-mails telling me how my business could really take off if only I hired someone to show me how to use Facebook and/or Twitter to grow my client base.

On the other hand, there’s hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear about a Tweet or Facebook incident that blows up in some organization’s face.

Symantec Corp. recently completed its 2011 Social Media Protection Flash Poll, and among the results they found many organizations had suffered through as many as nine “social media incidents,” in the preceding year.  “Incidents” included such things as employees posting confidential company information on publicly accessible social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

The report estimated 94 percent of those with “incidents” suffered negative results, such as damage to their reputation, data and revenue losses and loss of customer trust.

I am not a big fan of Facebook or Twitter because, no matter how effective they may be for your organization, there is an equal chance that critics or activists will over-run your Facebook site and turn it into a club to attack you or beat you to a figurative bloody pulp.

Last year Nestle had the distinction of being one of the first companies to have their Facebook site turned into a weapon, first by Greenpeace UK and then by other critics who took the Nestle logo and used it to poke fun and criticism at the company.

Apparently a Nestle lawyer took issue with that, and someone from Nestle posted a warning reminding Facebook visitors to be careful, because the Nestle logo — which many of them were defacing in their Facebook attacks — was a trademark.

CNet’s Caroline McCarthy called it “the first time that we've seen such a massive blow-up in the comments of a Facebook fan page.” And PRWeek observed the incident was “quickly becoming a social media crisis” for Nestle.

Now, if that is not enough to make you leery of using a Facebook site for your business or organization, there’s another reason.

Symantec is reminding us that if you get sued or otherwise involved in some kind of legal action connected to your Facebook page or Twitter account, you must have a system in place to be able to retrieve and store all that stuff, like you do e-mail and other digital data, and just like you should have been doing already with all your hard-copy letters, documents and records.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

About Those Corporate Apologies

Microsoft UK has used another of those semi-non-apology, apologies in England, after being called out for taking advantage of singer Amy Winehouse’s unexpected death.

Microsoft’s British PR department drew the ire of Winehouse fans with a tweet suggesting they remember her by buying her latest recording “Back to Black.”  The on-line universe erupted with Twitter replies accusing Microsoft of being “crass” and “vile” in an effort to make more money off her death.

Someone at Microsoft United Kingdom responded at tweetbox360, “Apologies to everyone IF  (my emphasis) our earlier Amy Winehouse tweet SEEMED purely commercially motivated.” The tweet added, “Far from the case, we assure you.”

How many times, in recent months, have we seen an executive or spokesperson for an organization issue an apology “if we offended . . .”?  If an apology is appropriate, just apologize and get it over.  Don’t put a qualifier on an apology. And, if you don’t mean it, don’t say it!

 It was a couple of days later before Microsoft UK finally tweeted what should have been part of their initial public statement, "With Amy W's passing the world has lost a huge talent. Our thoughts are with Amy's family and friends at this very sad time."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Next for News Corp?

The question of the day is:  Will the readers and viewers of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspapers, television news networks and the Wall Street Journal continue to turn to those media outlets, or go elsewhere?

While the world has been watching the “voice-mail hacking, London police pay-offs, and British politicians courting News Corp executives” drama, many of us have been waiting for the other shoe to drop in the U.S.  Ten people have been arrested and two key executives have resigned, including the Publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
Until Sunday that was the closest the drama had come to Murdock’s adopted homeland.

News America Marketing is a relatively small subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, and Sunday a New York Times investigative story reported that division, alone, has paid out at least $655 million to make embarrassing cases of corporate espionage and anti-competitive behavior disappear.
The voice-mail hacking story was broken by British competitor The Guardian in 2009 and according to the New York Times, News Corp spent $1.6-million trying to put a lid on that issue.

But here in the States, the tab for settlements and lawsuits began to mount. Minnesota state government accused News America of unfair trade practices and the company ended up paying “costs” and promising to stop falsely bad-mouthing competitors.
Next, in 2009, Floorgraphics took News America to court, accusing them of “hacking” into their computers and stealing proprietary information.  The trial began, but it didn’t take News America long to see where the case was going and settled for $29.5-million and a few days later purchased the whole company.

The next year Valassis Communications filed suit and settled for $500-million.
That’s just the settlements we know about.

If General Motors or Bank of America paid a half-billion dollar settlement in a lawsuit, don’t you think the U.S. media would have reported that?  Did you ever read or hear about the News America payout to Valassis?
Now, to the question that began this post:

Unless there are worse revelations yet to come, I suspect News Corp will continue to do business as usual and the people who currently buy their newspapers and swear by the political point of view of Fox News will continue to do so.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rupert Murdoch: "We Are Sorry"

Just a few days ago, the head of News Corp., Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and News of the World in London, Rupert Murdoch, said his company had made  only "minor mistakes."

That didn't help.  Two of his top executives resigned, including the Publisher of the Wall Street Journal.  That didn't appease his critics.  He gave up his effort to acquire full ownership of British Sky  Broadcasting. That did not quiet his critics.

Finally, Mr. Murdoch took out full page advertisements in several British newspapers with a heading, "We are sorry."

In that ad, bearing his signature, it declared, "We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected."

It appears Murdoch tried the BP approach to crisis management.  He began by claiming it wasn't all that bad. Then he offered an apology to anyone that might have been offended, and finally, he came right out and said he was sorry. 

British parliamentarian John Prescott said Murdoch's apology isn't enough. "This is a man desperately trying to save his company and ditching everybody else in the process." 

Friday, July 15, 2011

"We Report, You Decide"

Can you believe and trust the people who bring you the news of the day?

It's getting harder and the free world doesn't need that.

I spent 35 years of my working life as a reporter, editor, anchor and radio and television news director. It was never a "job." Rather, it was a calling. I took the responsibility seriously and there are still days when I wish I was covering the "big story." But those days are fewer and farther apart.

The company that operates newspapers and a radio and television network that repeats the phrase over and over -- "Fair and balanced" -- appears to be neither fair nor honest.

We're in the second week of almost daily revelations of unethical and possibly illegal behavior at one or more of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp newspapers. A former British executive of News Corp has been arrested, and a trusted Editor in London has resigned.

And, News Corp. has hired a New York public relations agency.

Almost every day this past week I've been asked to rate how Murdoch and company are doing as crisis managers. I'm always reluctant to judge a company in crisis.

However, we teach PR folks to never stand in front of a burning building and ask a reporter,"What fire?"

Allegations that Murdoch's News of the World Sunday tabloid paid for information from London police officers and hacked the private cell phone of a murdered 13-year-old girl and possiby many other persons, brought this response from the head of the company, "...recent allegations of phone hacking and making payments to police. . .are deplorable and unacceptable."

At first I thought he was doing the right thing and expressing his regret for the behavior of his employees. But, then I read the statement again. It wasn't the action of his newspaper he found deplorable, it was the allegations he found unacceptable.

Frequently, here in the US, corporate executives apologize in the wake of some kind of scandal or wrong-doing and say they are "sorry if they offended someone." They're not sorry for what they did or said, they're only sorry if it offended someone. There's a big difference.

A lot of Americans still don't realize that Rupert Murdoch now owns the venerable American business news publication, The Wall Street Journal.

The scandal that is still rocking London raises a terrible question, "Has the Wall Street Journal been spying on Americans and paying bribes to news sources in this country?"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Digital Crisis Communication Planning

A new study of corporate perceptions of crisis communications in the U.S., Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America concluded that 79 % of business leaders surveyed believe their organizations are less than a year away from a likely significant crisis.

Executives from almost every industry, small or large, say a digital crisis is looming just around the corner.

Despite that confession, the majority are nowhere close to being prepared to prevent or manage a crisis that starts in the blogosphere or elsewhere in the social media. Almost half do not have even a basic social network monitoring system.

International public relations company, Burson-Marsteller, released the study at the beginning of July 2011, and it should get the attention of corporate leaders.

But, I fear, the old attitude, “nothing bad will happen on my watch” will prevail. Even with the admission that digital crises are looming over businesses of all kinds and sizes, less than one-quarter of companies surveyed, have any type of crisis communication plan for digital crises.

Advocacy Groups Are Gearing Up

Another recent survey sounds a clear warning – 74% of global advocacy organizations use Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to attack those corporations and recruit volunteers, activists and donors.

Since March of this year, at least a dozen major organizations have come under attack, and most were slow getting out of the gate to respond.

Among the “victims” – Sony Playstation Network, RSA Secure ID, Fox TV Network, Citigroup, Inc., Lockheed Martin, PBS, Google, Sonybmg, Nintendo, Turkish Government websites, Spanish National Police, International Monetary Fund, U.S. Senate, and the CIA.

There is no excuse, except denial, for any organization to fail to monitor the social media and watch for crisis warnings. There are more than 20 free or inexpensive monitoring tools available as well as thorough and effective mid-priced and high-price social media monitoring services..

The digital attack is no different than any other type of public opposition, except, it hits faster and spreads quicker. Any delay in heading it off, puts you deeper in the hole, before you begin to climb out.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Another Lesson: Don't Do This!

Every organization and business, other than Transocean: Do as I say, not as Transocean does!

It's been 16 months since the April 2010 explosion on a Gulf Of Mexico oil rig that killed eleven men and dumped a ton of crude oil into the ocean.

Except for the eleven families, and many Gulf area businesses, most people have quit thinking about the disaster and oil spill.

So, Transocean reminded everyone this week, and, once again, blamed BP. Transocean said BP used a poor well design and failed to properly assess the risks and failed to alert Transocean to the dangers.

BP reminded the public that it had "stepped up to its responsibilities..." and added, "...Transocean continues to take every opportunity to avoid its responsibilties."

I know, I know, the lawyers made them do it.

Their lawyers are not worrying about Transocean's reputation, nor future business. They are concentrating on saving Transocean as many billions of dollars as possible and BP lawyers are trying to spread the cost of capping the well, cleaning up the damage and paying claims to families that lost loved ones and others who lost their livilhood, to as many others as possible.

It has been estimated that the total bill will exceed $41-billion, including $4-billion to $5-billion in fines.

So far, BP partner Mitsui & Co. has agreed to pay $1.1-billion and Weatherford International will cough up $75-million to help BP recoup some of its loss. Meanwhile BP is pressuring Transocean, Halliburton and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. to help with several billion dollars each.

The first of hundreds of spill-related lawsuits are expected to go to trial next February.

While the lawyers have their responsibility to their clients, my advice would be to stop pointing fingers, and settle every claim quietly and out-of-court. I'm not a financial expert, but I bet it will cost a lot less in dollars and added reputation loss, to pay whatever it will take to resolve all the claims and end the public spectacle.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What Do Delta Airlines & Rep. Anthony Weiner Have In Common?

They both did things without thinking about the consequences.

Then one took action quickly, and the other equivocated for days before taking belated action.

Delta Airlines, looking to milk every last dollar out of its paying passengers, put a $200 per bag fee on checked luggage for all passengers who could least afford it in economy class. That fee netted $2,800 in extra profit for Delta earlier this week when 14 U.S. soldiers on their way home from fighting in Afghanistan each had an extra bag and were hit with the $200 fee.

They loaded a video on YouTube to tell the world how Delta was treating American servicemen and women.

Within hours, Delta posted a blog apologizing, saying they had made a mistake, and were revising that policy, and working with the soldiers that had to pay it.

Then there's Congressman Anthony Weiner the Tweeter.

He got caught sexting to some women on Twitter. First he denied it, then days later, in a tearful media encounter, he apologized and took responsibility.

Delta's already out of the headlines and Rep. Weiner is still making new headlines.

The lesson for every organization and individual in the public eye is to always do the "right thing." Consider the consequences of your business or personal decisions BEFORE you act on them. When something does go wrong, and you do blunder, suck it up, take responsibility, control the revelation, apologize if it’s appropriate and then get back to doing the "right things" again.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Message From Our Sponsor

Just a reminder, the next Institute for Crisis Management Crisis Communication Certification Course is July 12-13 & 14 in Louisville, KY and there are openings in the intensive two-day crisis communication workshop and the optional third day of media/spokesperson training.

The two-day training includes examples and case studies of the four kinds of business and organizational crises you face: sudden, smoldering, bizzare and perceptual. It includes how to identify your vulnerabilities, or as some people prefer your "risks" and how to prevent up to two-thirds of all potential crises.

The training includes what to include and how to get started on a crisis communication plan, and spends time talking about the digital crisis team, the importance of testing your plan and the other two major crisis plans every organization should have.

And, there is always a table-top exercise to give you a feel for what managing a crisis is like.

Attendees come from all around the globe and include folks from public relations, human resources, corporate counsel, risk management, and other upper level executive positions.

Attendance is limited to ten participants and there are still openings for the July course.

The optional third day of media training, is not limited to crisis training, but broader spokesperon training and includes three on-camera exercises.

For more information call 1-888-708-8351 or e-mail

Friday, June 3, 2011

Meet Erika

In case you missed the recent announcement, Dr. Erika Hayes James has joined the Institute for Crisis Management, bringing with her a new and expanded set of experiences and services for our clients around the world.

Dr. James brings a broad range of talents and skills to add to the services already offered by ICM.

She is a highly respected business professor and published author in the management/business field, allowing ICM to strengthen our crisis leadership services and broaden our capability to include "thought leadership" in the area of crisis management and leadership in general.

Thought leadership implies knowledge creation, including research capability, knowledge translation -- turning research into practice, developing crisis management/leadership tools and assessment, and knowledge sharing -- consulting, leadership training as well as crisis communication training, and coaching.

I have worked with Dr. James at the Darden Graduate School of Business, University of Virginia since 2003. We hosted an international conference on Crisis Leadership and co-authored/edited a book on Crisis Leadership.

And she has co-authored a brand new book, Leading Under Pressure: From Surviving to Thriving Before, During and After a Crisis.

Learn more about Erika's new book and what she can do for your company or organization at

You Don't Have To Be A Politician

New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has been the center of titillating media attention for a week now, because a picture of a man's "bulging" underwear was Tweeted to a college coed.

Weiner would not confirm nor deny the picture was of him, but he has been consistently adamant he didn't post it.

So, what if that picture was purported to be sent by the CEO or President of your company or your university, or your hospital, or the Superintendent of your school district? It could happen to someone like that just as easy as it could for a politician.

The irony of the Congressman's dilemma -- just a year ago, he married an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton officiated. Now Rep. Weiner's failure to admit if the picture is of him, is being compared to Clinton and his infamous statement about "the definition of is" during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

I ask again, what if this was your guy, or gal? How would you have them respond?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Things Can Change So Fast

Within weeks after Harris Interactive completed the field work on their 12th annual U.S. Reputational Quotient Survey, some of the companies they praised so highly, took it on the chin.

In a news release, Harris Interactive said, “After falling to unforeseen lows amidst scandals, recalls and self-inflicted demonization economic crises, the American public’s perception of the reputation of corporate America appears to be on the rise.”

Harris reported, “Overall corporate reputation is experiencing rehabilitation as the American public gives high marks overall to corporate America…”

Google took over the top spot in the Harris survey, pushing Berkshire Hathaway to 4th.

Johnson and Johnson ranked 2nd, 3M Company was 3rd, Apple moved into 5th followed by Intel Corporation at 6th, Kraft Foods at 7th, to 8th, General Mills at 9th and Walt Disney Company 10th.

Now, here’s the problem. Google, the search engine giant, is trying to cope with a series of anti-trust investigations, some privacy issues and regulatory challenges

Johnson and Johnson has been making headlines for months because of massive product recalls. Defective replacement hips is one of more than 50 voluntary product recalls that J&J has issued just since the start of 2010, covering brand names that read like an inventory of the family medicine cabinet. Tylenol and St. Joseph Aspirin were recalled for foul odors people said made them sick. Benadryl and Zyrtec were recalled for botched amounts of ingredients. Rolaids were recalled for containing bits of wood and metal.

Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway made negative news after revelations that one of his top lieutenants, David L. Sokol, bought $10 million of shares of Lubrizol while negotiating an acquisition of the company.

Apple was accused of tracking their phone users’ locations and storing the data for up to a year. The company never admitted it tracked individuals, but did concede their phones were storing some location data up to a year because of a software bug. It promised a fix to reduce the duration of the storage.

Amazon’s EC2 “Cloud” Web-hosting service crashed and took down scores of on-line operations that depend on Amazon to host their services.

Sony was not in the top 10, but Harris said the electronics company had scores indicating it had an excellent reputation. That was before April 20 when Sony shut down access to its PlayStation Network and waited seven days to tell its 77-million customers some of their personal information had been stolen then two weeks later Sony Online Entertainment announced another 25-million customers’ on-line data may have been high jacked.

Microsoft, the number seven ranked company the year before, fell to 16th in the results from the January-February 2011 survey.

There is a mixed message in the survey report.

1. Your reputation and public perception can plunge almost overnight, while it takes a lot more time to recover.
2. A big hit to your reputation and public perception may not automatically mean your company is toast!

To make that second point, consider BP is ranked 59th out of 60. And in spite of the mounting lawsuits and continued negative publicity, the company’s profits soared in the year since the explosion that killed eleven workers and polluted the Gulf of Mexico.