Tag Archives: Shel Holtz

Rachel Maddow considers crisis communicators “morally repellant”–and Shel Holtz defends us

Unlike Shel Holtz, I am not a fan of Rachel Maddow, nor any of the entertainers parading as commentators on the extreme ends of the political spectrum. So I didn’t catch her diatribe on her show on MSNBC on August 3 in which she throughly excoriated those of us in the crisis communication business. I haven’t quite got the stomach to watch the show in question so I’ll trust Shel Holtz’s summary of some her descriptions of us: ““disgusting,” “mercenary,” “open sewer,” and (my favorite) “the most morally repellant, indefensible thing out of American corporate culture,” words you used during a segment on your Aug. 3 report.”

I’m bringing this to your attention not to help Rachel gain ratings, but to encourage you to read Shel Holtz’s defense of the profession. In it, he eloquently (but with evident sadness and disappointment given his appreciation for Maddow) defends the crisis communication profession and, more importantly, gives some compelling and important examples of the high value that crisis communication can deliver when done right. Especially appreciated is the emphasis on how good crisis communication professionals can help companies take the right action in a crisis, often in contradiction to the action advised by attorneys whose sights are set on protecting the company’s legal position. Right on, Shel!

I have to tell you though, I was reading through this article on PR Daily when I unsuspectingly came across some very high praise from Shel. So much appreciated, but I was already determined to bring this article to your attention before seeing that and I almost changed my mind thinking that it would now be seen as self-serving. But, self-serving or not, here it is anyway.

As for my opinion about Rachel Maddow, that was set some time ago when I commented on her vicious treatment of ExxonMobil in the Yellowstone River spill. Certainly she plays to a specific audience, most of which I’m guessing (unlike Shel) participate in her obvious animosity toward big business. She and her ilk are what make building public trust in this media environment so difficult. Given her animosity toward business, it’s not surprising that she so dislikes those of us who try to help organizations do the right thing and help them communicate well.



Media manipulation discussion–sparks fly between Peter Shankman and Ryan Holiday

Here’s a fascinating video discussion found on Shel Holtz’s blog on media manipulation. I’m sending it your way for a couple of reasons. One, it is a recorded video using Google Hangouts which is a pretty handy way of easily creating and sharing discussions.

More important, this lively discussion features Peter Shankman and Ryan Holiday discussing the topic of media manipulation. Ryan just released a book called “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.” Peter works for Vocus who bought his operation HARO, Help a Reporter Out, which is used by journalists and sources to connect. Ryan used HARO to demonstrate how easy it was to manipulate the media. Which means that HARO was a focal point for the deception. Hence, this discussion unfortunately demonstrates some personal animus, particularly from Shankman toward Holiday.

Some light, in addition to the heat, was provided by Shel Holtz and John Jantch of Duct Tape Marketing.

Considering my post on Jonah Lehrer, I find it interesting to see this kind of discussion happening. Truth, trust and credibility are becoming rarer commodities. Personally, I am grateful that some of the dishonesty and lack of credibility in today’s media is becoming more of a headline because I believe that manipulation is much more possible and powerful with a gullible audience. And the sharp decline in trust in media is demonstrating that audience gullibility is declining.

But, it leaves the poignant question: who can we trust? Living in a group, a community, an office, a company, a nation or world without trust is not pleasant and it is far from efficient. Somehow, we have to figure out how to get it back. Unlike Shankman, while I do not appreciate Holiday’s methods, I do appreciate his efforts and I believe it will help bring these important issues forward.


BP’s Neil Chapman and I discuss spill communications with Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson

I was pleased to be invited to discuss the Gulf Spill communications with BP’s Neil Chapman. And particularly pleased to have a discussion with two top-notch communication thought leaders–Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson. Their long-serving podcast (didn’t Shel invent the idea of podcasting?) “For Immediate Release” is a great place to learn from communication professionals about what’s going on and best practices.

I’ve had the great privilege of working with Neil Chapman for many years, starting back in about 2001 or 2002 when he was a lead crisis communicator for BP in Houston and I was trying hard to convince him that he needed this new tool I had created called PIER. Somehow, with the help of the Coast Guard really saying good things about it, I was able to convince him. Since then, we’ve walked through a few major events together. Neil is not only one of the most experienced crisis communication professionals anywhere he is one of the wisest and most gentlemanly people I know.

The hour went by too fast. Shel and Neville had great questions, of course, and Neil as usual was insightful, open and eager to share lessons learned. I hope you have the chance to listen to this podcast. There is no doubt that the Gulf Spill will change crisis communication for many years to come. I was interviewed by PRWeek this morning specifically on that topic, as to how it will change things. Listening to this podcast will help give you some ideas as to how much and how far reaching those changes will be.

Social media-caused crises: Dominos shows the possibilities

I’m in LA consulting with clients all week but found the story about Dominos and their social media crisis fascinating. If you haven’t been following it two now former employees pulled a prank, posted a video on YouTube, which went viral generating over a million views. Twitter talk went crazy. The damage to the company’s reputation is significant.

What I also find fascinating is how quickly these events are now wrapped into content for conferences and consulting–guess shouldn’t surprise me given this blog. But Ragan Communications quickly integrated the inside story of Dominos response to their Social Media Boot camp program featuring internet communications guru Shel Holtz.

The pace of marketing quickens along with the pace of crisis and the necessary response. I’m feeling too old for this game.

Later Edit to this Post: As is now becoming increasingly typical, once a social-media crisis reaches critical mass (maybe someone can study to see how many YouTube hits or tweets it takes to reach that point) the mainstream media jumps in as well. Here’s the NYT story on the Dominos problem.

The mainstream media, particularly the big nationals like networks and NYT, LAT, etc. still carry the weight that makes their attention almost the definition of a full blown crisis. So, how to prevent that when it all starts with a couple of immature employees doing something they think is funny? Be fast. Be very fast. Even, then, I certainly am not saying all these kinds of crises can be averted.

I noted a few comments about my post about the Ad Age story that suggests these social media crises may not be as significant as some might think. I certainly did not mean to suggest that there is nothing to worry about (Dominos certainly shows that). But it does show that having someone involved in the crisis response who can reasonably assess what is going on, likely impacts, long term impacts, critical audiences impacted, appropriate messaging, etc., is critically important. You can’t respond to every social media attack or rumor run rampant as if the company’s future is at stake. But every eruption has the potential for being that future-challenging event–so knowing how to respond and how far to go requires the best information, judgment and experience. Other than that, be fast.