Category Archives: Media coverage

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.

Congressman Wexler video on how to lose an election

One of the more popular videos on YouTube right now is a replaying of Congressman Wexler’s interview on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Colbert tells the Congressman since he is unopposed in the election he can’t lose, but suggests some things for him to say that could lose him the election if he was opposed. So on camera, and with considerable coaching, he gets him to say, “I enjoy cocaine because it’s a fun thing to do,” then “I enjoy prostitutes because it’s a fun thing to do.” Yes, the good Congressman, with a slightly uncomfortable smile actually says those things.

But that’s not what the YouTube posting is about. It is about Fox News’ coverage of the statements. Clearly the video poster is outraged that Fox News would cover this and then demonstrate their extreme rightwing bias by actually editing the Colbert Report video to skip the prompting and coaching. Colbert asks the question and Wexler answers.

My comments. First of all, it is pretty funny and Colbert shows his ability to entertain through the outrageous. Second, it was a very silly thing for the Congressman to do. Of course, when you go on Comedy Central you want to go along with the fun, but certainly he ought to be media savvy enough to know that anything captured on video tape can and likely will be used completely out of context. That’s why one of the first lessons of media training is when the cameras are rolling and the mike is on, don’t goof around. Reagan’s offhand comment about launching the missiles ought to be warning for everyone.

Third, what a hopelessly naive young man who posted that video and commented about Fox’s coverage. His complaint was that they edited it. Well, duh. That’s what news people do. Do they edit it in ways that shows the story they want to show? Of course, that is their business. Is Fox the only one who does this? Yeah, right. Is this only done against Democrats by right wing media? Yeah, right again.

The real lesson is this video poster may watch news coverage all day long and not notice the bias and storytelling that is at the heart of all edited news coverage until it conflicts with his own political leanings. None of us are unbiased, none truly objective. But our viewpoint almost always is, we are the balanced, objective, truth-only ones and anyone who doesn’t see it our way is either ignorant or malicious. This interesting clip tells far more about the outraged young editor who is attempting to unmask Fox than it says anything about Fox or the rest of the media–including bloggers.

Princess Cruise on a roll

If you’re in crisis management and you do drills for things that can go wrong, you often wonder how the media would report your story if things went terribly wrong. Look at the coverage of the Crown Princess incident off the coast of Florida.

Interesting first to see how uninvolved people such as myself get the news. My son called at about 10 pm asking me if his grandparents, my parents, might be on that ship. What ship? The one that almost capsized, he said. No, they were on a cruise ship in Alaska, not headed to the Caribbean. He doesn’t have TV so got his news from a website. That’s how I first found out.

I watched the 11 pm news. They interviewed by phone Seattle area residents who were on the ship, honeymooners who described the horror and a ruined honeymoon.

Then the newspaper reports and other web reports this morning. The AP story shown on newsvine is a great example. First the bare facts. Then several paragraphs of recollections, selected primarily because of their vivid descriptions that describe the horror of their experience. A quotation from the Port Canaveral CEO. Finally, and this is my point, a brief comment from an unidentified spokesperson from Princess Cruises. The obligatory “we’re very sorry, inconvenience, reimbursement, etc., etc.” Nothing wrong with their statement, really. But the company seems strangely in the background. Why are they not out front? Where is the CEO? Why, in the stream of video from frightened passengers is there not at least one senior level executive seen actively dealing with the situation, involved with passengers, talking about addressing their concerns.

One cardinal rule for crisis communicators is to avoid discussing cause. The lawyers make certain of that and no doubt prematurely identifying causes can cause huge problems. But it is one of the first questions reporters ask. Here is a great example. The cause apparently was a steering problem. Oh boy, that raises concerns. I’ve been on a few cruises and now when or if I get on board again I am going to think about their steering systems. Are these ships so poorly designed that some computer glitch or a loose bolt gets caught in a cable and the whole dang ship tips over? Come on. If you want passengers to have some assurance, you better come up with a much better answer than this and in a big hurry.

And the hurry again becomes the point. This story will be off the news by this afternoon. But the impact of the coverage will linger for a long time. Sure, people will continue to take cruises, but with a stronger sense that things can go horribly wrong without any clear explanation. And that if things do go horribly wrong, the Coast Guard, the Port that ship came from will be involved, but the cruise company itself will send out some attractive cruise director-like “spokesperson” to simply say how sorry they are. Fellow communicators, we need to do a lot better than this.