Can crises kill companies?

Of course. Here’s the latest–Topps, until a short time ago the nation’s largest provider of frozen hamburger. I guess the question is, what could have saved Topps from this? The economic problems I’m guessing stemmed from the huge recall and the loss of confidence in their customers or perhaps just the cost of the recall itself. Not certain if once the recall became necessary if any better crisis management could have saved them. If anyone has info, I’d be interested. This shows above all, better to make certain no e.coli gets in your meat–because if it does on this scale, the best c

What transparency really means, and why it can hurt

This really is the age of transparency as I and others have trumpeted for some time. But the transition is painful for many. A glass house will reveal a lot of ugly things.

This blogpost from 37signals (a technology company we admire a lot around here) provides some great examples of transparency and the pain associated with it. Interestingly, this focuses on transparency in mainstream media–a place where “coverup” is fed upon like mosquitos on a bald head, which demands transparency from government and everyone else it covers, and which has a hard time providing the level of transparency it demands from others.

It is encouraging to see this kind of transparency happening in the MSM. It needs to continue, go further and deeper, but it also needs to spread to government agencies and private organizations. Surely, no everything need to dragged out to the public view. But this age expects an unusually high level of honesty and openness. Those used to a different view of the world will find themselves the focus of intense questions about what they are hiding.

News is not only fast, it is instantly changing

Cameron in my office just sent me a link to a news story about the shooting of a University of Memphis football player. Since we are closely involved with university communication and notification, the story was interesting to both of us. Included in the story was this quotation: “After the shooting, students complained the Tiger Text emergency alert text messaging service did not immediately notify them of the shooting. A message sent just after 4:00 a.m. Monday morning informed students classes were canceled Monday.”

This is interesting because we try to communicate to those in the university community about the limitations of notification technologies following the frenzy relating to the Virginia Tech tragedy.

But when I went back to the link Cameron provided, the quotation was gone. I asked Cameron what happened. Well, what happened was the story was changed and the link, of course, remained. It was edited. Understandable, of course. He didn’t hit print and get a record of it as it was originally with the above quote, so it is gone (except, of course, I captured it here for you from his email.)

I talk incessantly about instant news–about how fast the news story starts. What I don’t talk about enough and this demonstrates is “instant news change.” That moment by moment the story evolves and changes. From a communication standpoint it means several important things:

– the bad news may go away quickly if it is replaced with something else (more bad news or some change in the original)

– good news, ditto

– sending a press release out every day or even every few hours doesn’t cut it–today’s crisis communications means a virtual constant flow of fresh information. Because if it isn’t coming from you it will be coming from someone else.

– real time, constant and consistent monitoring of all forms including blogs and online sites is absolutely essential. You need to know not just that your story is being covered and how it is being covered, but how it is changing moment by moment

– hit the print button if you want to capture a story as it is right now–or, capture the clip in the clip book and then monitor again.

The beginning of the end of blogging?

I read on the flight over to Irvine (where I am pleasantly sitting in the sunshine at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf) that 200 million bloggers had quit. Wow. The most I heard were blogging was about 70 million. But I guess it makes sense. After all, when I first got the blogging bug about a year and a half ago, I launched about five different blogs. Now, this is is the only one that gets any regular attention–and even that has been sketchy lately with all the traveling I’ve had to do. So maybe those four I abandoned make up part of that huge number. I also know that almost all of my family members blog but that the bloom is off the rose a bit and while none have stopped, the frequency of posts has definitely gone down.

The article I read commented that one blogger had given up her blogging life to focus on a book project. I’m guessing it is at least as hard to develop a solid readership for a book (assuming you have the good fortune of getting it published without being a big name already) as it is to build a sizeable blog audience.

So, does this mean it was all a fad? That it is bound to go the route of pet rocks and fedoras? Personally, I doubt it. I’m guess it is more like Starbucks. Being from the Seattle area, I watched this little upstart start selling cups of ridiculously intense, tiny and outrageously expensive coffee. Suddenly, little drive-in espresso places starting popping up all over.  I heard about one not far from home that made a lot more money than the grocery store in whose parking lot it sat. And I said: Fad! This will pass. These crazy people won’t keep paying crazy amounts for a cup of caffeine. I was wrong. My taste changed and I’m sitting here at Coffee Bean because I walked around for a while and couldn’t find a Starbucks. And that is amazing considering that they are everywhere!

I’m certain that when a lot of coffee fiends first discovered the glories of espresso and their own special fancy drink, they probably went crazy and got one every day or maybe even a few a day. Then they settled down to perhaps two or three a week. But, their life changed, their habits changed, their taste changed, new social patterns emerged, new ways to enjoy life emerged. And it won’t go away until someone out Starbucks Starbucks.

Blogging is here to stay–in ever changing and creative ways. Not everyone will hang in there and keep posting, but the change is permanent. Ain’t no going back.