Category Archives: crisis management

What CEOs know and don't know about crisis management

The Burson-Marsteller research report CEO’s views of crisis management strategies is one of the most interesting documents to come around in a while. Burson-Marsteller Crisis Mgt Study

It is as interesting for what it indicates CEOs don’t know about crisis management as what they do know.  One finding that is very interesting is that it takes 3.2 years for a company to recover from a crisis.  If that isn’t a justification for preparation I don’t know what is–especially when you realize that most crises are “smoldering” in the sense that the reputation damage can be largely averted by dealing with it aggressively early on. Here are a few other key findings about what CEOs think. These are rankings of strategies in order of importance:
— Quickly disclose details of the scandal/misstep (69%)
— Make progress/recovery visible (59%)
— Analyze what went wrong (58%)
— Improve governance structure (38%)
— Make CEO and leadership accessible to the media (34%)
— Fire employees involved in the problem (32%)
— Commit to high corporate citizenship standards (23%)
— Carefully review ethics policies (19%)
— Hire an outside auditor for internal audits (18%)
— Issue an apology from the CEO (18%)

For the most part, it appears that CEOs “get it.” I certainly question why only 18% believe that issuing an apology from the CEO is important–me thinks a blindspot there. But what is truly remarkable and demonstrates a level of ignorance about the instant news world and the importance of the internet for communication these days is this finding:

One of the more surprising findings of the market research conducted by the firm is that only 5
percent of senior executives believe that updating their website can be an effective tool in their crisis
management and corporate reputation turnaround strategy.

I can only conclude from this that either I and a lot of crisis management folks I know don’t get it and place too much importance on using your website for conveying information to the public, or we as an industry have a very very very long ways to go to get the word out to CEOs that their website and all the internet communication technology is critical in emerging from a crisis. Maybe they can even avert some or shorten that recovery time. Seems they’d be interested in the cost savings there.

This is what an online reputation attack looks like: Citgo

Here’s an email I just received from someone who normally sends me a lot of jokes. I’m guessing that’s a way a lot of these online reputation attacks go–from people who have a big list and are accustomed to sending things on. I’m not verifying that Citgo is indeed owned by Venezuela and this email is pushing the term dictator, but not of that is the point. This is what it looks like. If you were Citgo, what you would do if this really developed a head of steam? Tell Chavez to shove it?

Bet you have seen, but if you haven’t, worth knowing.

Venezuela Dictator Vows To Bring Down U.S. Government

The Venezuela government is soleowner of the CITGO gsoline company.

Venezuela Dictator Hugo Chavez has vowed to bring down the U.S. government.

Chavez, president of Venezuela, told a TV audience: “Enough of imperialist aggression; we must tell the world: down with the U.S. empire. We have to bury imperialism this century.”

The guest on his television program, beamed across Venezuela, was Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar activist. Chavez had as his guest Harry Belafonte, who called President Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world.”

Chavez is pushing a socialist revolution and has a close alliance with Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro.

Regardless of your feelings about the war in Iraq, the issue here is that we have a socialist dictator vowing to bring down the government of the U.S. And he is using our money to achieve his goal!

The Venezuela government, run by dictator Chavez, sole owner of Citgo* gas co. Sales of products at Citgo stations send money back to Chavez to help him in his vow to bring down our government.

Take Action

Please decide that you will not be shopping at a Citgo station. Why should U.S. citizens who love freedom be financing a dictator who has vowed to take down our government?

Very important. Please forward this to your friends and family. Most of them don’t know that Citgo is owned by the Venezuela government.

Apple and iPod labor complaint

Here’s a text book case in crisis management. The fact that it is not much of a reputation crisis is in my opinion is due to the rapid and effective management of the issue by Apple.

A few weeks ago a sensationalist UK Newspaper, The Mail, reported on harsh living and working conditions at a plant in China where Apple makes iPods. Apple responded by launching an audit of the factory to see if it met Apple’s standards for labor as published in its Supplier Code of Conduct. Apple then published the findings including a detailed record of what it found, including violations of the code related to how long some employees were working. It then aggressively distributed the findings via the mainstream media, and posted the findings prominently on its website under Hot News. I found the story via Newsvine, a news aggregator.

What did Apple do right?

– It moved fast

– It acted–initiating an audit

– It admitted problems even while discounting the exaggerations of the press report

– It identified how it is going to fix the problems

– It acted to use a respected third party (Veritas) to continue to audit and assure performance to standards

– It had a set of standards previously established and referenced those as the guide to evaluating performance

– It posted the results, even those admitting problems, very publicly and prominently on its website

– It distributed its findings via the MSM, discounting the worry that by doing so they may increase the visibility of the story

– Without stating directly in any way, they encouraged objective observers to make a judgment as to who was more credible: Apple or The Mail

For those seeking to learn how to deal with a potentially devastating but still smoldering reputation crisis, this example is hard to beat.

A blog to feed on

Just want to draw my readers’ attention to a new crisis management blog: If you are one of thousands already subscribing to Jonathan Bernstein’s long running email newsletter “Crisis Manager” you will know that Jonathan is one of the most recognized names in the crisis management business. And he dispenses crisis management wisdom like few others in this game. OK, I’ll admit, I’m a big admirer of Jonathan and very pleased to be able to work with him on a number of assignments. Please check out his blog and subscribe.

(Of course I’m a little jealous he has 9 comments already on his first posting!)

Ixquick, AOL and the storing of searches

If you used AOL for searching, you probably know by now that your search history has been published by the company. Not your name, but an ID along with all the information about where you went on the internet looking for things. At least they did that to 650,000 of their users. The story.  

The reason for releasing it was to allow internet scholars and researchers to understand how people use the internet better. Perhaps laudable. But it reveals once again what everyone who uses the internet ought to continually remember, that what you do is really no secret. So if you are going to worship sites or gathering online with those who are praying for peace in the world, you’re probably not overly concerned. If you thought where you were going was completely your business and you are not particularly proud of it, yeah, you are probably a little upset about this. Rightfully so. AOL has apologized, said it was a mistake, the decision wasn’t properly “vetted.” (I hate that term–it implies lawyers are involved as it a common term in legal circles. The sad truth is that when people perceive that lawyers are involved they suddenly become suspicious about hiding things, protecting the company from legal problems, and then they think there is more to it than there probably is.)

What I find intriguing other than seeing how AOL is attempting to get out of this tight spot, is to see how a little Dutch search engine company is doing some very clever PR to make sure they are standing there saying “Look at us, we don’t keep search records, come search with us.” Here’s how it plays in this CNet story. Ixquick (they should have been as clever with their name as their PR) sees the opportunity and moves in. I’d love to see how this was done. I suspect they did their best to get the word out before and it so happens when this story broke, they were quick to alert reporters and key resources like CNet to show the clear differentiation. Good marketing for them. Bad PR for AOL.

Landis forgot an early lesson

Floyd Landis obviously didn’t learn or forgot a lesson most children learn very early. Once you start lying telling the truth gets harder and harder. I just heard on CBC radio (I live near Canada) that Landis admits that his previous explanations were bogus. He said that the whiskey explanation was someone else’s idea and the dehydration suggestion was provided by a Spanish attorney. Oh boy. He just admitted to telling two lies. Does he think blaming someone else for coming up with these ideas is going to somehow protect his credibility. It obviously does not. It shows that he is willing to take any bonehead suggestion from just about anyone and immediately grab on and see if anyone will believe it. He also admits in this that he is consulting attorneys and listening to them about what to say. That doesn’t do much for credibility either. Does he think the detail about it being a Spanish attorney is going to make us say, “Oh yeah, well is was a Spanish attorney, so no wonder it’s not true.”

I hope that Mr Landis is currently not getting any advice from a crisis manager in this case, because if he is it isn’t going to do our little profession any good.

I will repeat what I told Andrew Carter of the Orlando Sentinel in an interview about this: We don’t like cheaters. If Landis cheated admit it, say you’re sorry, and get actively involved in helping protect the  sport from cheaters like you. If he didn’t cheat, he had better find a rationale explanation in a hurry, find someone to switch the black hat to, and communicate, communicate, communicate because the world has already tried this case and judged him guilty. (Well, I have anyway.)