Tag Archives: online reputation management

Failure to Plan Increases Risk of Reputation Damage in High-Profile Lawsuits–Guest Post

(I don’t often invite guest posts from promotional releases, but I did request this from Greentarget as their research into the 20/20 hindsight of litigation-related crisis communication was very interesting. In litigation, lawyers often take the lead in directing communications. Some are very good at it. But most, if not all, do prioritize the risks in the court of law higher than the risks in the court of public opinion. That can lead to very damaging results. What it does lead to almost always is a more conservative approach to managing communications than is best for the company. That, it seems to me, is what this research points to.)

By Larry Larsen, Greentarget

In today’s 24-hour news environment, most senior legal officers across corporate America acknowledge the importance of communications with stakeholders during high-profile lawsuits.  Yet the majority have outdated strategies or no strategies at all to direct communications outside of court, according to a new survey conducted by Greentarget.

This lack of preparation leads to overly conservative communications, the survey shows, with decisions and actions that are often impulsive and governed by the fear of negative media attention. Ironically, these instincts can compound the likelihood of reputational damage.

“The fact is that most senior legal officers can name the top two or three lawsuits they never want their companies to face,” said Larry Larsen, senior vice president of Greentarget and head of the firm’s Crisis & Litigation Communications Group. “They should take some level of control and prepare for what’s to come.”

Here are the steps to take in preparation for likely scenarios. Giving some level of advanced thought can save precious time when a high-profile lawsuit is filed and the questions start pouring in.

  • Crisis response team. To save time and limit confusion, have a team in place with one leader and key representatives from decision-making functions within the organization – legal, external communications, internal communications and marketing.
  • Decision tree and likely scenarios. Because it’s vital to know when to active the crisis team and alert senior management, we typically recommend a tiered system on which to gauge the severity of a crisis.
  • Trusted outside counselors. A firm should have key outside advisors — legal, financial, public relations, etc. — on call to assist and strategize as situations dictate. Large firms should consider multiple advisor relationships in each category in case of conflicts.
  • Training and role-playing. If your organization’s leadership doesn’t have experience with the media or in crisis situations, drills and media training sessions are invaluable for driving home the critical steps and the resulting responsibilities.

Online reputation management–quick fixes?

Thanks to Patrice Cloutier’s very handy delicious list of crisis comms articles, I came across this on online reputation management.  I’ve heard these ads on the radio, of all places, for companies that will fix your online reputation problems. I always thought it was a little trickier than signing on to some website or some remote service. But there seems to be a whole new industry growing aimed at throwing a bunch of good stuff at the search engines in order to bump the bad stuff that may have cropped up down the rankings a ways.

Now it looks like they are even going to subject this to algorithms or automated processes through a dashboard. The dashboard for monitoring and reviewing all the comments and reviews about you online is much needed and available from multiple vendors. This promises to go further than monitor and report. It promises to: “help our clients make sure that the positive reviews and constructive feedback shows up when our clients are searched, and that the false and inflammatory comments are suppressed in searches so no one can find them.”

I’m getting uneasy about all this. One thing that is helpful on the Internet is the ability to quickly find out what others are saying about a company. And sure, when I do that, I take it with a grain of salt knowing there are a lot of cranks out there and sooner or later the best company is going to thoroughly tick off someone. But, I have some confidence in my ability to filter through all of that and get a good general idea of the company and whether or not I should put my confidence in them. Knowing now that the bad reviews can be “suppressed” and the good reviews elevated by algorithms designed to manage the algorithms of the search engines, well, I’m getting a little queasy about the whole online reputation management thing.

What concerns me is not only that I will be able to trust the Internet less and less to tell the truth about companies, brands and reputations. But I’m also bothered by the quick fix notion that these online reputation management companies are peddling. Hey, if I provide thoroughly crappy customer service and everyone who does business with me hates me, no worries, I’ll buy one of these reputation dashboard thingies and it will fix the whole thing.

I consider myself a reputation manager for my clients to some degree. But this is not the way I would go about fixing bad reviews. I’d try to get to the source of the problem, find out what’s going on to generate those bad review, try to rectify the situation with those affected and try to make certain that the customer service or product failings that generated them are fixed.

I’m thinking that many are going to opt for the quick fix.

Chevron and Alaska both taking a beating, but is it fair?

Around here Alaska Airlines is a typically much admired company. An Alaska-originated airline now hq’d in Seattle that has been growing and performing quite admirably in the often cloudy skies of the air transport economy. But lately, it’s been taking a real beating.

First, there was the story that went crazy on Facebook about how they mistreated a Parkinson’s patient, with one witness calling Alaska employees “the worst of humanity.” Then, passengers on a flight noted a piece missing from a wing, but reassuringly, there was a message next to the damage that said “We know about this.” Hmmm, not so reassuring. Then the story hits the news about a $1 million fine levied by FAA for installing the wrong rivets.

The media, in quite typical fashion, has had a bit of a hay day with all this bad stuff. But, Alaska has a very solid reputation around Seattle and that shows in this remarkably even-handed (IMHO, of course) blog on the Seattle PI.  In each case of bad news, things are not what they seemed or often reported.

The bad treatment of passenger? Turns out the man had late stage Parkinsons, couldn’t understand directions, did not respond to what he was being told. The law requires the disabled to self-identify and he didn’t, and employees (sadly) concluded he was drunk. Big lesson, but not “the worst of humanity” as the errant Facebooker reported. Wonder if the guy knows any history, like say, maybe Hitler or Stalin?

The message about the damage was to let the pilots know that the maintenance crew was on it. Not the smartest thing to do however and I’m guessing some maintenance crew training is in order.

And the fines. Turns out in the statement provided by Alaska that they installed rivets that were acceptable at the time, but after minor problems detected the FAA decided they were not OK and fined them.

That’s the problem with the way these stories are told in the media and often social media. The nuances are left out. Stories are simplified into good and bad with little in between, but we all know life is more complicated than that.

As for Chevron, they are taking a real whipping over the refinery fire near San Francisco. I won’t repeat what I commented on on emergencymgmt.com except to reiterate how ugly it is out there when things go wrong. Are they being treated fairly? It’s clear they have many enemies in the community and around the nation (can’t wait to see what Rachel Maddow does to Chevron). But I keep thinking, I’m guessing these people buy gas. That’s no justification for accidents, but sometimes people seem to forget that these companies are made up of good people, just like them, trying their best to do their jobs.  The worst of humanity? Reminds me of an old story about the pot calling the kettle names.



How Circuit City went MAD and recovered–a great case study

Here is one of the best case studies of crisis management in the instant news world that I have ever seen. Published in PR News, it is not only a great example of a company mistake quickly corrected by immediate and appropriate action and communication, but the case study as presented with timeline is outstanding. Great job to all involved (except the employee named Barron–note the two “r” spelling–no relation!)