Chilean miners rescue has hallmarks of great PR
Oct 15 2010
This week’s rescue of the trapped Chilean miners has been hailed as a PR coup for the country (and president) of Chile and it really presents a counterpoint to the BP crisis which drew the same kind of global attention. Granted BP’s disaster was of epic proportions and the tentacles of issues were far more numerous than those in the mine collapse. But it was interesting to see both entities face many of the same challenges, yet handle them so differently.
What struck me most was in the willingness to lay politics and egos aside to find the fastest, “best practices” solution possible and to work together with others on solving the problem itself. BP had many offers from outside organizations and individuals who were all experts in capping wells, deep water issues, etc. but they were completely unwilling to accept these offers of help for either ego reasons, political or legal concerns, or some other ridiculous excuse. Chile, on the other hand, accepted offers of help from outside experts, including NASA, and it’s what enabled them to get a speedy, reliable solution to the problem that helped to fuel this incredibly positive outcome.
Another area where the two organizations diverged was in speed to respond and organization. BP labored under bureaucracy and recriminations and wasted valuable time in marshalling resources to fix the problem and its devastating effects. Chile, faced with a more visible or tangible sense of urgency – lives at stake – moved mountains, figuratively speaking, to get their crisis resolved in a way that would give them the best opportunity for a good outcome. They got organized and you saw the benefits of that in the absolutely seamless way in which those miners were rescued as they emerged one by one. They had thought of everything, including every possible challenge or issue that could arise, in preparing for this moment and it showed.
While you could go on and on in comparing the two disasters, suffice to say the lessons gleaned from watching this tiny country handle the biggest moment in its history were underpromising and overdelivering, being transparent, communicating often, anticipating every scenario and planning for it, and putting egos aside to focus on the problem at hand. Kudos, Chile. Hopefully the world will take a page from your book.
Discovery Channel crisis yields interesting lesson
Sep 2 2010
Yesterday’s tragic events at Discovery Channel’s headquarters will forever be characterized as the actions of a nutcase, thanks to the shocking manifesto he left on his web site and his prior efforts to get out his messages about saving the planet. If you dig deeper into his beliefs, however, you can just make out his point of view which I’m sure other, more sane, individuals harbor. The beauty of our country is that we can have differing viewpoints and actually talk about them under the free speech amendment. However, the passion he held for his beliefs was completely nullified when he let his words and actions venture into the realm of hysteria and extreme language.
As I read about his belief that shows like “19 and Counting” were sending a very disturbing message about the ramifications of extreme procreation and that “Planet Earth” (which I thought was great) might actually hold a counter consumerism message, it did cause me to ponder that point of view. Whatever thought-provoking reaction he might have had, however, was completely erased when he fell into the rantings and behaviors of a mad man.
For those who hold passionate beliefs and want to reach, and influence, large numbers of people with their ideological – and even business – messages, you must come from a place of credibility. That credibility is built on or earned by a track record of authenticity and sound reason. The minute you allow desperation to creep into your voice and behavior, you lose all ground that you gained.
Tiger's wife, Elin, takes the right road
Aug 26 2010
Tiger Woods’ wife, Elin, granted one and only one interview on the subject of her husband’s extensive infidelities and the scandal that resulted in the dissolution of their marriage. She spoke with People Magazine, which is viewed by many as the only “credible” tabloid and certainly is more respectable than News of the World or the Enquirer. This was a smart move on many levels:
1) She can control the situation visually. We’ve all seen the awkward or downright cringe-worthy moments in TV interviews where the subject is pinned down by the reporter and it’s clear that there is no way to emerge with any dignity.
2) She can get the whole story out in her words without the heavy-handed editing that goes with the TV territory
3) By making it clear that she would only give one interview, she pretty definitively shuts down the interview requests, and by giving an interview she puts to rest a lot of the speculation and hounding she’s been experiencing
4) She helps her own reputation by appearing to take the high road, thereby coming away with more dignity and class
Many will have little empathy for her knowing the size of her settlement but money is still cold comfort when you’ve been through the kind of very public embarassment and loss of the life and family as you knew it that she has been through. I have to give her credit for how she’s handled things.
Missed opportunity for egg distributors
Aug 20 2010
With eggs such a staple of the American diet, the recent recall affecting hundreds of millions of eggs has consumers alarmed and clammoring for information to protect themselves and their loved ones. GolinHarris is leading the charge for the egg producers and the FDA is front and center as the media face. The actual retailers are smart to let these two groups be the primary information channel in order to protect their reputations. Even though they do not hold any real responsibility for this crisis, they have an opportunity to be an important information channel which can actually help their reputations. In looking at a few sites for major stores like Ralph’s, which sold the tainted eggs, I was surprised to see that there was no mention of the recall and ways to get information about what to look for. They could have had a featured box on their home page with information about the affected brands and lot numbers, even a helpful FAQ piece and a link to the FDA web site where consumers could get more information. Often these companies get so worried about having their own brand tainted in the halo effect of a crisis, that they neglect to look at how they can turn a challenge into a true opportunity to improve their brand perception.
Can you comment?
Aug 13 2010
Welcome to The Gonsoulin Group blog. I hope to use this space to talk about all things related to reputation management and particularly to comment on current events in the news that have us all talking. As we watch these events unfold, I’m sure we all catch ourselves saying, “I can’t believe they said that,” or “They should have handled this by doing…” It’s certainly easy to armchair quarterback but that’s the beauty of the blog. We really can do that and I hope you’ll join me in debating how things could – or should – have been handled in order to protect a reputation or brand.
While my nearly 25 years in public relations has enabled me to work on all aspects of the PR discipline, crisis and issues management has been a continuous thread through the fabric of my career. It’s something I love, something I’ve worked at and something I feel I’ve come to do well. However, I don’t profess to know everything, which is why I welcome differing points of view. I think we all have wisdom – or at least commentary – to share from our experiences and our perspectives.
Crises or high-profile issues certainly attract media and dominate the news, and today we are seeing a significant number of stories that provide fascinating studies in how companies handle the challenges that occur in the course of doing business. From the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf and the PR nightmare that created to Toyota’s massive recall and the steps it took to mitigate damage to its well-respected reputation, we have a lot to talk about.
But this blog is not limited to companies. There’s enough fodder in the celebrity and government world to provide us with a wealth of topics to weigh in on. From Mel Gibson’s crazy rant to Blago’s daily courtroom antics to Shirley Sherrod’s racially-slanted comment that blew up in the press, I suspect there are a lot of opinions about how these melt-downs could have been managed, if not squelched.
I’m looking forward to the conversations ahead and hope you’ll feel comfortable in jumping in with your comments. After all, a blog really shouldn’t be a platform to pontificate on topics from “on high” – they’re meant to be a dialogue between two or more people. Let the debates begin!