Episode 8 – See all our previous  episodes on our YouTube Page!!
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“Initially, GM declined to be interviewed because of the pending litigation, but provided a statement that it held mandatory meetings and closed the plant for a day to have training for every shift.”  – CNN

GM’s Crisis Response, Broken Down

In 2017 it was United Airlines, in 2018 Facebook and now in the first month of 2019 we’ve already got an entrant in the “How Can We Make Our PR Crisis Even Worse” contest. 

 In an explosive report by CNN, black employees at a General Motors plant in Toldeo, OH detailed a slew of racist actions and language directed at them by fellow employees and supervisors over several months and years.

Nine employees have now sued the company alleging a hostile work environment.

You can read the article and view the TV report here.Suffice it to say there are enough examples described in the story to cause rightful public outrage, including hangman nooses, “white’s only” signs and the rampant use of the N-word.

Reaction to the report went viral instantly on social media. Many tweeting directly at General Motors. Some saying they would never buy a car from the company  unless the allegations were addressed and the corporate culture changed.


The crisis response from GM? To tweet back. Which isn’t wrong in principle – it’s actually good policy to engage customers and people who are upset.

However, in this case tweeting your regrets and using excerpts from a written statement tweeted out by a corporate suit is simply not enough. Here’s part of what VP of N. American manufacturing Gerald Johnson said, “I’m outraged that any of our employees would be subjected to harassment. GM’s stand is clear: We have zero tolerance for racist or discriminatory behavior. This behavior is unacceptable and we’re going to drive it out of the workplace.”  

It’s succinct, lawerly, state’s the company position, shows “outrage and zero tolerance”.

But HOW are you going to drive racism out of your workplace, Mr. Johnson? What exactly will you do? How long will it take? 2020? 2025? Until you have no cars left to sell? These are the things the outraged mob eventually wants answers to! 

What’s worse, that canned statement from a VP (apparently, CEO Mary Barra is in hiding after taking jabs from President Trump) came AFTER CNN aired the report. Here’s what CNN was initially told when they asked for comment;GM declined to be interviewed because of the pending litigation, but provided a statement that it held mandatory meetings and closed the plant for a day to have training for every shift.

Wait, what? Mandatory meetings and A DAY of training! Oh… well then! That’ll fix it.

Not by a long shot. That initial “response” as well as Johnson’s statement is currently being mocked all over the internet.


No doubt, GM made their PR Crisis infinitely worse with their terribly inadequate, short sighted plan. Tweets are good as a first salvo, but there better be some empathy and substance behind them. And a promise of more to come quickly. 

Lawsuit be damned – Mary Barra had better go the same clean up crisis response route United CEO Oscar Munoz and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg were forced into.

Own the crisis, get on camera, do an interview, express extreme remorse and tell people what you’re really going to do to fix the problem.

Media Training 101 folks – give us a call or contact us at info@FRmediatrain.com

We can make sure you don’t repeat this mistake!   




Something from the sports world caught our eye recently and serves as a great example when using social media statements to mitigate a crisis. 

The Miami Hurricanes have a proud tradition of winning ballgames and competing at the highest level. Sadly, for the program and their fans they have fallen on hard times. This twitter “statement” by Athletic Director Blake James came right after the teams embarrassing 35-3 loss to Wisconsin in the Pinstripe Bowl. Talk about adding fuel to the Crisis Communications fire!  

We get that James was trying to get out ahead of the negative reaction and wanted to empathize with the fans. The main issue? He said NOTHING about what he planned to do. The responses were predictable and pointed. 


College football writer Dan Wolken began things in fine fashion managing to sum up the first part of the problem nicely. The statement just confused people. (Update: A few days later, the coach Mark Richt “resigned”. Rumors are he was under pressure to make staff changes and refused.) 

The rest of the twitter comments are frankly, less polite and really illustrate what we advocate. Apology and empathy are fine, but every crisis communications response should have some “call to action”. WHAT YOU ARE GOING DO ABOUT THIS?

Initially, even something as simple as “we continuing to review the situation and will have more information in the next 24 hours” can work. James does say the ‘process is underway’ but that’s too vague and doesn’t give a time frame as to when there will be action. As you can see, Miami football fans are not shy with their opinions! 


Clearly, the prevailing sentiment was about trust, or lack thereof, and that something needed to be DONE! Now, this may be an extreme example and sports fans are the loudest and most fervent of critics but they are also “customers” in a sense, consuming the Universities product.

Another issue, James’ twitter account added nothing else until New Years Eve, just after the new coach was hired. An update may have helped his PR cause.

Crisis Communications is all about proper messaging, disseminating important information, relaying a plan of action and yes, mitigating public backlash. It can (and often times should) begin on social media but those statements had better include some relevant information along with empathy. Otherwise you could find yourself in the midst of a public relations Hurricane.   

For more Media Training Servicesand how we can help you navigate a crisis from first response to follow up clickhere, give us a call 206-900-6579 or send us an email info@Frmediatrain.com 





The ‘Trump Media War’ Escalates!


CNN and Acosta are taking the extraordinary step to sue POTUS over last week’s fiery news conference. According to the suit, CNN believes Trump violated its First Amendment right by revoking Acosta’s “hard pass” . Thereby hampering his ability to cover the White House.

Thoughts on the “Acosta/CNN vs. the White House” press pass debacle that just escalated the Trump Media War to the lawsuit level. And some tips for companies thinking of pulling someone’s credentials.

In our opinion, the White House blew this controversy way out of proportion by pulling Jim Acosta’s “hard pass”. Now they have an even bigger mess on their hands. Pulling a reporter’s credentials should be done as a LAST RESORT, only when a CLEAR violation has been committed. If that action has to be argued, especially in court, it was the wrong move.

To be clear, CNN apparently has no issue (and perhaps encourages, wink, wink, ratings) their reporters to grandstand, as the White House has pointed out. That’s especially true in Jim Acosta’s case. He has garnered a reputation and a following for injecting his personal situation/opinion into many a report (“my grandfather was a Cuban immigrant”, “the Caravan is not an invasion”, etc). He is widely seen as President Trump’s top agitator and does not shy away from hiding his PERSONAL feelings on any issue.

The fact is, in the last few years the line between ‘reporter’ and ‘pundit’ or opinion writer has blurred, to the detriment of journalism everywhere. Reporters and news organizations should NEVER become part of the story. However, in the struggle to stand out amid the social media/internet din sadly, this has become the norm. A ‘hot take’ is now ‘reporting’. 


That said, like most of their other PR controversies, the White House has handled this horribly. They simply have no sense or no regard, for the fallout after their knee-jerk reactions. The White House staff and the President could have diffused this in a number of different ways and you can do the same! (more on this in our brand media training or crisis communications training programs)


  1. The could have simply not called on Jim Acosta – a novel idea!  
  2. They didn’t have to hand over the microphone in the first place, they could have had someone else (like the infamous intern) hold it for everyone.
  3. Have some press conference rules to begin with – each reporter gets one question and a follow up or assign a time limit that every reporter must abide by.
  4. Answer a reporter’s challenging, annoying questions using proper MEDIA TRAINING Rules/Tools and move on (ie, the answer/non-answer, use a bridge to a talking point, deflections, etc.)
  5. After the presser pull the reporter aside or have a sit down with CNN to talk over the dispute and if need be, implement changes.

After those and other methods, if pulling a credential seems like the only option, give your reasons immediately and clearly. That  did NOT happen in this case. 

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders initially said Acosta had “assaulted an intern” by blocking the woman’s arm when she tried to take the microphone back. They said he acted unprofessionally. They reportedly used a doctored video from an unauthorized source to back up their claims. All of those responses inflamed the controversy.

Their response to today’s lawsuit was to say Acosta was “monopolizing the floor”. They added, “this was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters”. That’s a far cry from assaulting an intern. It’s not much of a First Amendment legal defense either.

What it boils down to is the President just doesn’t like Acosta’s style or the questions he asks. So, he pushed the Nuclear Button in this Media War and pulled his ‘hard pass’.

Former press secretary Ari Fleisher pointed this out on Twitter: Acosta “has access to the White House, the same every other opinion writer or op-ed writer has. He remains a member of the press corps and he can apply for a daily WH press pass. The only thing he lost is a hard pass, which clears him daily w/o need for a day pass.”

Fleisher has a point. (and apparently, an update!)

Still, none of it is a good look for the White House OR Jim Acosta/CNN.

The Trump Media War continues … stay tuned.


We can help you with press conference set up, credentialing rules and handling those ‘annoying’ reporters with their tough questions!
Give us a call at 206-900-6579 or send us an email at info@FRMediaTrain.com



Anyone worried about the volatility in the stock market, like I am? To understand it better I’ve been watching CNBC a bit more but I’m no finance/investment expert and sometimes I get lost. Not just in the numbers but in the language, the jargon.

A shame really, because to grow an audience, one would think outsiders need to get the message  Hello, MEDIA TRAINING!  Below are few examples from this afternoon’s Squawk on the Street.

 Ari Wald is the Head of Technical Analysis for Oppenheimer. He knows his stuff and is clearly personable and comfortable on camera but listen to his comments on the issue of Amazon’s price drop:


“Given the macro backdrop”, “shape of the yield curve”, “no support levels have been breached”, huh? 

That was so full of jargon Finance 101 for dummieswas my first google destination! – 34 seconds of “moneyspeak” to get to the last line “Amazon’s a winner, let it run”. 

Now, for comparison take the opposite guest, Gina Sanchez, CEO of Chantico Global.


She picked one side of an argument and delivered her opinion, backing it up in a way that anyone could relate to.  

Again, it’s clear Wald knows his stuff and I assume Wall Street and hardcore viewers understand what he’s talking about. Will the entire audience, a new audience?

You often find some of the same disconnect in Silicon Valley. Some Exec’s and engineers spew so much “Tech Speak” the message gets lost. If you want to masses to know about your product or service, that pitch needs to be relayed in language EVERYONE can understand.

Wald did a much better job in this clip about Snap, Inc. even getting in a great “falling knife” analogy. However, he was once again overshadowed by the second guest, Boris Schlossberg, who was quite convincing by comparing Snap to MySpace and finishing with, “…it’s a dead man walking!”

Unfortunately for Snap, Inc. I understood that completely!

Need some help moving from “MoneySpeak” or “TechSpeak” to language EVERYONE can understand? In just one four hour session, FRMediaTrain can make sure your message is heard loud and clear. Shoot us an email info@frmediatrain.com or comment below for a free consultation!

Here’s a clip we’re proud of:  William Bruzzo, an Orange County defense attorney and former Marine was asked by i24TV to talk about the legal strategy of President Trump’s newest lawyer, one Rudolph Giuliani. 

We love the fact that right out of the gate, he gave definitive answers and cited several examples (Nixon, his own experience) to back those points up. Not shy about blasting the administration, by our count he worked in no less that six great lines to get his point across. He was clearly prepared and delivered in context, grabbing the viewers attention quickly! 

How about this one, “Trump may own the circus, but the latest Ringmaster is Giuliani” or “It’s almost as if Giuliani was sleepwalking through this thing, or talking casually to his family at Thanksgiving dinner”,  “I’m not sure he knows what he’s doing”! Bruzzo does, well crafted, opinionated, well delivered. Bravo, Sir, Bravo!

(and yes, we helped refine that ability to answer questions AND entertain, media training works!) Send us an email if you’re interested in doing the same: info@FRMediaTrain.com


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!


What used to be called “Politics” is all the rage on cable news these days. From the moves (and tweets) coming out of the White House to the divide on Capitol Hill – nearly every night there’s something new for pundits to debate. 

One might think, at some point, the audience would burn out. But there seems to be no sign of that. Ratings rise like Amazon stock and the echo chambers are in control. Viewers enjoy – and have come to expect – hearing, like-minded commentary and spin, regardless of the issue. They tune-in in record numbers to validate their own opinions, branding the opposite side “fake news”. The networks are of course complicit because having a fervent, dedicated audience is a cash cow.  But that’s a topic for another post…  The point here is watching that nightly spin is often times monotonous and predictable, which is why it’s refreshing to hear someone on the other side of the aisle give a straight but also entertaining answer to a question that could easily have been another chapter in that spin cycle.

Take notes kids! During a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “11th Hour” Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist was asked about the Democrats big gubernatorial wins in Virginia and New Jersey and what it might mean for the 2018 mid-term elections. Listen to this! —>

Murphy broke it down in two minutes, reminding us of his political experience and adding flair to his answer by featuring 5 or 6 memorable phrases and analogies. From “he couldn’t deliver a pizza “, to “it’s like living in Sparta”, he had the anchor and the other guest laughing and nodding their heads. 

He absolutely STOLE a 10-minute segment on election politics with that single answer. It’s a big reason, along of course, with his credentials – that keeps the phone ringing and his calendar booked.

The lesson is simple: In today’s saturated political talk-fest it’s good to be an expert. But in order for your commentary to resonate you must be entertaining as well. 




FRMediaTrain can teach you how to be an “Entertaining Expert”.

Free Consultation!