Five days of silence, then a Post on his page, then an interview on CNN.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg has finally broken his silence and addressed the numerous scandals his company has faced recently, culminating in the Cambridge Analytica data breach. (See our previous post for detailed info on what a rocky six months it has been for the social media giant)

Here’s a clip from CNN last night where Zuckerburg gave his FIRST real (if canned and nervously delivered) apology.

 

Now a Confession- I set up my Facebook account in 2006 to be able to track down the teenage friends of recent victims of crimes, auto accidents or some other peril that was destined to lead our newscasts that night at Channel 4 in Washington, D.C. It was a great tool – you could find most everyone right there on one website and by going through their page learn A LOT about them in a short amount of time. 

Fast forward to today, that data (and more) that I so easily found, is being used in much more manipulative and some would say nefarious ways. Which brings us to baby faced and seemingly innocent looking Mark Zuckerberg — who in his mea culpa opportunity with CNN and others — failed the most basic PR principle when addressing a crisis; respond quickly and apologize. I believe FB’s customers deserved both immediately and perhaps even back in 2015 when they first learned of this breach.

Had I been inside the FB corporate bubble these past five days I would have deployed my best persuasion techniques to encourage the company to be very public and transparent about the problem and the new privacy change fixes that  Zuckerburg so easily put in his Wednesday “post”. 

As many companies have found, United Airlines, Equifax, Chipotle, in a crisis you rarely have the luxury of sitting in silence and waiting for all of the facts – guess what? you’ll never that luxury of knowing all of the facts, that much Zuckerburg even admitted later in the CNN interview.

Waiting merely allows others to quickly fill the void with speculation and brand damaging opinion. As this clip from one of our training sessions shows, we ENCOURAGE speaking up at the first sign of a crisis. Let’s put that fire out before it grows into an inferno! 

The Facebook community is more like a country – 2 billion strong – failing to address a crisis ‘in the moment’ is a failure of leadership. Hiding from crisis as Mr. Zuckerberg has learned makes you part of the problem and damages the public trust you’ve worked so hard to build.

Sound PR practices applied to handling any crisis – that is the solution and is the sign of a true leader. Hey Mark, you helped me with those searches more than a decade ago, give us a call, we’ll return the favor when your next crisis hits. (and we fear, it’s just around the corner)!

If it takes Twitter hashtags (#WheresZuck, #DeleteFacebook) to finally go in front of a camera and make a statement defending your brand in the midst of a growing crisis – you’re doing it wrong.

There’s no argument Facebook is going through the biggest crisis it has ever faced. The allegation that data on 50 million users of the social media network had been taken from the company and used by Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm used by the Trump presidential campaign will no doubt lead to massive change in the companies privacy policies (again!) and could also lead to federal regulation. Three states and the FTC have launched investigations in the past few days.

All of this comes on the heels of the “Fake News” revelations late last year and the admission by the internet giant that Russian trolls’ weaponized the platform to cause divisiveness among users and interfere in the 2016 election.

Yet CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, the two very public “faces” of Facebook have remained silent. Only today has word come out that Zuckerberg will make a statement “.. sometime Wednesday”. Axios is reporting that Zuckerberg’s remarks “will aim to rebuild trust.”

Well, guess what Zuck? Too late for that. The prolonged silence exacerbated that damage and made the company look unorganized at best and guilty of hiding something at worst.

This didn’t help either – prompted by numerous media inquiries a Facebook spokesperson released this written statement late Tuesday:

“Mark, Sheryl and their teams are working around the clock to get all the facts and take the appropriate action moving forward, because they understand the seriousness of this issue. The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens”  

Already playing the Blame Game?

According to a CNN report even some top-level executives are frustrated by the lack of transparency and accountability from Zuckerberg and Sandberg.

“These things have so much nuance in them,” a top-level executive said. “Every answer has tradeoffs.” The public rarely gets insight into the behind-the-scenes conversations at Facebook, even when the decisions made during them could impact a significant portion of the population. “We want to tell the public more…tell the hard story more. If we don’t tell it, people write it for us,” he added.

THAT IS EXACTLY what we tell our clients here at FRMediaTrain. “If you’re not telling your story, you can bet someone else is!”

Axios, which first reported Zuckerberg’s “plan”, said the CEO wanted to say something meaningful rather than pushing out a comment quickly. At first glance and thought understandable, but definitely the WRONG strategy. What is prevening you from doing both (meaningful and quick) ?? According to the report Zuckerberg has been speaking to engineers about how to make its website more secure, and make people feel their data is safe. Sorry Mark, that horse has left the barn.

It will be interesting to hear his comments later today – especially considering Facebook has been under   pressure to explain why they didn’t notify users that its data been used in a way that violated its terms of service — since it learned of the violation in 2015!

 

It’s been called a “Train wreck” and “tough to watch”. Even the White House is “alarmed”.  The headlines and tweets were merciless.  Already described by many (in both parties) as unqualified for the job of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos did herself no favors while being grilled by Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes”.

 

 

Unprepared. For “60 MINUTES”! The premier destination for television interviews not just in this day and age but in American history!!! My first thought, this was akin to playing in the Super Bowl without practicing the week prior but after watching the interview multiple times – it’s more like starting the season without a playbook!

(we’d love to post the entire 12 minute interview but CBS has placed a copyright on it)

The shame of it is – throwing gasoline atop a mountain of fervent criticism was avoidable – with just a few hours of preparation! DeVos said she was “…committed to a process that’s fair for everyone involved”  and “…committed to giving students an opportunity to learn in an environment that is conducive to learning”

She needs to commit to a few talking points – quickly.

For example, this exchange touches on the ONE area where DeVos should be well versed. She’s been an advocate for School Choice for years and in fact, it’s the platform that got her appointed:

DEVOS: Well, in places where there have been — where there is — a lot of choice that’s been introduced — Florida, for example, the — studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually — the results get better, as well.

STAHL: Now, has that happened in Michigan? We’re in Michigan. This is your home state.

DeVOS: Michi — Yes, well, there’s lots of great options and choices for students here.

STAHL: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

DEVOS: I don’t know. Overall, I – I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.

STAHL: The whole state is not doing well.

DEVOS: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this — the students are doing well and –

Oh man – at least know what’s happening in your home state, know a few numbers. Pick a school any school, spin it! Cite the actual study in Florida, cite any real study! Have an argument- ONE talking point,ONE! Please. 

The only thing she really had going for her was honesty. When asked if she had visited any under performing schools she admitted, she hadn’t. When asked what her confirmation hearing was like she gave her best line, “I’ve not had a root canal but I can imagine having one might be more pleasant than that was”. Great analogy! She even opened up about the constant criticism “hurting” at times and you could tell she was feeling it right then and there.

We can’t help but think some of that honesty, infused with a few simple facts may have given her a passing grade – or at the very least upgraded the interview from “train wreck” status.

We’d like to know who exactly is counseling DeVos? Are any communications professionals on staff, any experts/advisors there to help? Anyone? Secretary DeVos give us a call! Your reputation depends on it!