“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”

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.

HERE’S THE FIX

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. 

A HURRICANE OF REACTIONS AND REPLYS!

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! 

 
CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS 101

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’. 

THE FIX

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

 

 

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)!

Chris Jensen Interview courtesy of @Intelivideo

For more tips and tactics like this send us an email or click below

 

Free Consultation!

 

Want to make sure you deliver all of your talking points? Want to have the “Last Word”? Here’s a simple and effective tactic used by Chris Jensen of Chase for Business in Denver, CO.  At the end of an on-set interview during Denver Startup Week, he realized he had one more thing to say so, when the thank you’s came from the hosts he quickly but politely interjected “… Can I say one more thing?”  they of course accommodated him and he made his comment relatively quick.  The host was right “that was a good closer!”                

Our only critique? Don’t ask! If you really want to get one final message or talking point across just say “and let me add one more thing…” OR  “..before we go, I’ve got one more comment to make…”

Unless the producers are REALLY pressed for time the hosts will almost ALWAYS let you make that final comment. If they don’t, they risk looking rude themselves. Most anchors don’t want to be seen in that light. So, go for it, have that last word!   

 

Why It Matters in Today’s Changing Media World

In this immediate Twitter age, this era of “Fake News” and cable networks that lean toward the political poles there is a supreme need to stand out. One way to do it is to be loud, be controversial, be.. well, polarizing. Of course, if that’s the case you’re probably only being heard by half the audience, the half that agrees with you.

However, if you want to be seen as a go-to expert, no matter the outlet on which you appear or how people perceive your credentials, prepare the way Jeremy Bash prepares!

During the Obama administration Bash was a Chief of Staff at the Department of Defense and before that the CIA. He’s a regular on MSNBC lending his perspective to various political and national security crises. Without a doubt, his ideology leans left and he is critical of the current administration. But, dare I say, no matter the political bent his comments would work on ANY network because they are delivered so colorfully and to the point. The reason is simple, he’s prepared and practiced.    

Take for instance, this exchange with Brian Williams, after a Washington Post report was published alleging the President gave highly classified intelligence to the Russian foreign minister during his Oval Office visit. It’s simply soundbites gold!

In his opening sentence, Bash immediately captures the audience (and set off a Tweetstorm of reaction) with his “face palm” analogy. Then, he outlined his reasons why, stating two distinct and clear points for the audience, tying everything together. He actually counted, “1” and “2” keeping everyone engaged. Don’t think for a minute this came off the top of his head! Sure, Bash is paid for these types of provocative comments but in just about 40 minutes of preparation, he clearly thought about the message he wanted to deliver and exactly *HOW* he would phrase it.

Even after the second question Bash used a PREPARED comment, adding even more perspective to his previous opinion with another example of why he thought the news was so stunning and concerning. He held no punches, calling the Russians the “least trustworthy intelligence service on the planet” and throwing in another colorful term with the “golden jewels” description.

The first answer was :32 seconds, the 2nd answer was :22 seconds. In that setting, the perfect time frame which you can bet, was also pre-planned and practiced! Bash came up with a succinct, colorful way to deliver his points right off the bat using his own expertise and experience as a backdrop.

Bash gets a paycheck to deliver his opinion because he has expert credentials, having worked at the highest levels of government, but also because he’s never boring. Here’s a quick clip from the same show 6 weeks ago soon after the White House fired national security adviser Michael Flynn. It’s another example of a descriptive, splashy soundbite that went viral as Bash described how he saw the crisis and the response from Capitol Hill.

Ohh-kaay, He didn’t yell, he wasn’t attacking, he didn’t insult, he simply told a “story” as a way to deliver his expert opinion. Again, soundbite gold! Great examples that illustrate, regardless of whether you’re paid to give your opinion and no matter which side of an issue you lean, you can have an impact. Preparing to deliver your message will always make it resonate with an audience and FRMediaTrain can show you how!  

 

 

We’re often asked, “If I don’t like the way an interview is going, is it ok to walk away?” The answer, 10 out of 10 times the “walk off” will become the story, making it seem, among other things, like you’re hiding something! In the example here, Rep. Rod Blum, from Iowa sat down with a local reporter before a town hall meeting on the vote to replace Obamacare, he didn’t stay long. We’ll add that the congressman was right! The reporter seemed to have an agenda. What the congressman failed to prepare for – was delivering on his *own* agenda – with skillfully crafted messaging. That’s why it’s called media “relations”. We can cite numerous examples of an interviewees walking out on us during our reporting careers and bet nary a one would say after-the-fact, it was better to walk out than “face the music”. It gives such bad, brand damaging optics. Especially with dozens of kids gathered around!

Know going in, you won’t ever be able to predict all the questions you’ll get, which is why it’s imperative to have prepared key messages – goals in mind – to successfully navigate an interview that turns confrontational.

We can teach you how, so you’ll never have to entertain the Rod Blum “Walk Off”.

 

Click below to set up a free consultation!

 

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At FRMediaTrain we’ve spent more than 40 years as reporters, firing questions at all types of people- athletes, politicians, criminals, public servants, lawyers and regular folks on the street.

We know exactly what to ask to get the answers we want from our unsuspecting and sometimes uncooperative, interviewees. HOWEVER, those techniques really just boil down to SIX questions (hat tip to Brad Phillips for breaking it down in list form):

  1. A QUESTION YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER TO 
  2. A QUESTION THAT ASKS YOU TO SPECULATE
  3. WE’LL ASK FOR YOUR PERSONAL OPINION
  4. A YES or NO QUESTION
  5. “THIRD PARTY” QUESTIONS
  6. AND REPEATED QUESTIONS … REPEATED!

To learn exactly how to identify and deal with these questions (without a “No Comment”) in a way that won’t come across as evasive, defensive or rude – send us an email – the consultation is free!

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