If there are any silver linings in the wake of natural disasters like the tornadoes that devastated Moore, Okla., this week, they often come in the form of community and organizational responses. Time and again, people and companies demonstrate support and empathy for the victims of disastrous events by opening their hearts – and their wallets – to help others rebuild.
CBS Monday pulled its season finale of the sitcom “Mike & Molly” because the plot involved a tornado strike set in the couple’s home of Chicago. Recognizing the inappropriateness of the episode in the context of the afternoon’s tragic events, acting quickly to reschedule its programming was a smart and thoughtful move by CBS.
Lovell client Walmart pledged $1 million for the Oklahoma recover in donations of cash and materials, including truckloads of food, water and other basic items. The company also sent associates from surrounding states to work in its stores in the affected area so Oklahoma associates could be with their families.
Verizon set up a mobile command center in Moore offering emergency phones and charging stations, while the Home Depot in Moore became a shelter for homeless pets, CNN reported.
And Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, speaking to the members of the press Tuesday about the state’s disaster response, announced that state employees who had lost homes or loved ones would receive 15 days of administrative leave to take care of personal needs and begin to get back on their feet. In a litany of expressions of gratitude and appreciation, Fallin also included a gracious thank you to the media for their assistance in providing information about weather, disaster resources, and search and rescue efforts.
In the last two months, we’ve seen two immense tragedies in the Boston bombings and Moore tornados, but we’ve also witnessed remarkable responses on both personal and organizational levels. What silver linings gave you hope this month?
I appreciate the regular surveys conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. They are like quick sound bites that create an up-to-date picture about what business people
believe is going to happen in the next six months.
The latest survey is comforting as it relates to cost-of-goods inflation worries, but it looks
like businesses are anticipating some labor cost pressures…and I’d have to agree.
What are you thinking about the next six months for your business? As it relates to sales, will you be better off? Worse? Or about the same?
All my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a variety of mentors and positive role models. Whether that’s been friends, teachers or coaches, I have always had someone I could confide in, and trust to give me the best advice to help me grow. In college, as I began my journey to becoming a public relations professional, I knew I needed someone to fill the
shoes of my professional mentor.
A mentor can’t be just anybody. The best type of mentor takes you under their wing, and gives you the extra time and attention you need to answer all your questions and lend advice. Throughout your career you may have one mentor, or many mentors, who are all equally important in helping you achieve personal success. In the beginning of your career you will have many questions that can be intimidating to ask a senior in the firm. This is probably the most important and beneficial time in your life to have a mentor. They know about the industry and situations you haven’t experienced, and having that personal advocate can get you a long way when you start out.
The mentor/mentee relationship is to be mutually beneficial, where both people can learn from one another. The mentor will draw from past experiences to help you anticipate things you may not be aware of, while the mentee can be beneficial in teaching the mentor new technologies or trends that the mentor may not be as familiar with.
I was lucky enough to find a life-long mentor in my college PRSSA advisor. She has been a great mentor to many students throughout her years at The University of Georgia, as she is one of the most knowledgeable and caring people I know. Her genuine desire to see her students succeed and willingness to offer advice around the clock never ceases to amaze me. I would not be where I am today without this magnificent mentor in my life. I look forward to her continued guidance as I grow in my career, as well as becoming a mentor to a budding PR professional.
Have you had an impactful mentor, and how have they shaped you as a person and excel in your career?
I’ve always been a fan of the television medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” a show that follows the fictional lives of surgical interns and residents as they evolve into expert physicians at a Seattle hospital. Even in the seasons when the writers seemed to be on an extended vacation (season four), the show’s complex characters and medical challenges have continued to hold my interest.
Usually, when the show’s medical content strays from reality, I don’t let it bother me. After all, it’s fiction. But a few weeks ago, “Grey’s” ventured into hospital crisis communications – or rather, a fictionalized version of it – and I couldn’t keep myself from feeling agitated.
Here’s the short version: The hospital discovers that one of its surgeons has unknowingly passed a fatal infection to several patients. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has investigators on site who pinpoint the source of the problem and provide oversight for eradicating the issue. One hospital leader suggests putting out a press release explaining why the CDC is in town, but his colleagues nix the idea. Viewers are left to believe the hospital sits on its hands in terms of communications (and does a bad job of dodging patient questions) until it simply issues a press release after the crisis is over. And by “issuing a press release” I mean handing it to a young patient who wants to be a journalist so she can scoop the other media in town.
Are you ripping your hair out yet? The show completely ignores the communications steps that a hospital should, and hopefully would, take during such a crisis. In fact, nobody even seems that concerned with developing a crisis communications plan to answer questions from patients, staff and the general public. There’s no talk of how the news could negatively impact the hospital’s reputation and admissions if it isn’t handled properly. Who knows what was in that press release handed over with such nonchalance, but I guess the hospital thinks it says enough to avoid the likely storm of negative press and frightened calls from patients.
Of course, as anyone who has ever seen public relations portrayed in mainstream media knows, it’s highly unlikely that a medical drama would take the time to give crisis communications the airtime it could consume. But it made me wonder why, if it was going to get such flippant treatment, was communication strategy mentioned at all.
You may not be a “Grey’s” fan, but I know you know what I’m talking about. What is your favorite – or least favorite – television portrayal of public relations?
A little rain Saturday morning didn’t stop runners from competing in the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon. I was one of the crazy ones out there at 5 a.m. gearing up to run my first half marathon. Running a half marathon was not something I ever saw myself doing, but some coaxing from friends led me to a spur of the moment decision to sign up in December, and it was quite the experience.
The rain began around 5 a.m. and only got worse. You would think this would deter
runners and fans from attending, but that couldn’t have been more untrue. I was part of a determined group of some 30,000 people all competing for different reasons. The positive atmosphere was contagious, and you could feel the excitement and adrenaline throughout the crowd. It was the first major U.S. race since the Boston Marathon, and sentiments were high. “Do it for Boston” was a reoccurring theme of the event, giving runners that extra “push” they needed when they didn’t think they could go another step, let alone another mile. Bands and fans filled the sidelines of the course, not giving in to the disastrous weather. They truly made a miserable setting from Mother Nature, enjoyable.
This was the 14th annual Country Music Marathon, a part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series benefitting St. Jude Children’s Hospital. The race has become a Nashville tradition, each year attracting runners and fans from around the country, bringing multi-millions of dollars to the city. Visitors often come a few days ahead of time to spend some time in the city and enjoy the Honkey Tonks.
I can’t say that I’ll be jumping on the bandwagon to run 26.2 miles anytime soon, but I think I’m up for another 13.1 next year, hopefully with some luck better weather too. Did you attend this year’s race? What are some of your favorite Nashville traditions?
Many companies wonder if their logos and brand graphics need a fresh look after a number of years. Do we need to rebrand or simply tweak our current brand in order to remain relevant? Sometimes a brand tune up is all a company needs.
While I’d prefer to focus on Kmart’s radical attempt to make its brand more hip and
relevant (the brilliant and hilarious online ad that promotes shopping for Kmart products online, which resulted in a media frenzy and almost 15 million YouTube views in the last week) but some people have taken offense to the ad, so I’ll stay on safe ground and discuss a less radical but still relevant rebranding effort….the Kool Aid Man.
Starting in the 1960s, children grew up watching the iconic gigantic pitcher of red Kool Aid crash through doors and walls. This beloved mascot is definitely recognizable and possesses a lot of brand equity so it’s no wonder Kool Aid chose to keep its beloved mascot and simply update the look. The company is retiring the human suit and replacing with it with a technologically advanced GCI character that has a colorful personality, a distinctive new voice and a more robust vocabulary to increase the “mom appeal.”
The new look launched this month in conjunction with a new brand campaign called “Smile, It’s Kool Aid” and included new television ads and a Kool Aid man Facebook page, providing followers with games and giveaways in order to keep customers engaged.
Like I mentioned, the company is by no means abandoning the brand that made it the most popular flavored drink mix. The company reports that the newer, slicker, more well-spoken Kool Aid man will continue to bust through walls. Oh Yeah!
While walking by a Lululemon Athletica Inc. store in Nashville last week, I noticed the words “The Great American Yoga Pant Crisis” across the store front window. Thank goodness we survived the controversy, but will the company?
Since Lululemon last month announced a recall of women’s black Luon yoga pants due to sheerness and issued a warning of a yoga pants shortage, there has been a steady media buzz on the story from parodies on late night talk shows to social media. News outlets around the globe seem unable to resist the temptation to make a pun in the headlines.
All jokes aside, the recall amounts to 17 percent of all women’s pants sold in Lululemon stores and the company adjusted their first quarter revenue projections down between $333 million to $343 million from previous expected revenues between $350 million to $355 million. With competitors such as Nike and Under Armour trying to woo customers through aggressive campaigns, the quality control issue at Lululemon is a serious one.
Last week, the company announced its chief product officer was stepping down, and they instituted new senior level capabilities in quality, raw materials and production. These actions are positive steps to remedy the situation and avoid a repeat in the future that will go a long way to ensure consumer and shareholder confidence. Consider the following tips to successfully navigate a PR crisis:
Take responsibility. In the case of Lululemon, the company initially stated quality problems were due to an overseas supplier. The company later accepted partial responsibility and said its testing protocols were incomplete and the fabric used in the pants was “on the low end of Lululemon’s tolerance scale” Accepting responsibility for the lapse in quality was the right move to help restore trust in the company’s leadership and products.
Act swiftly. Once you know the facts on the issue, scope and potential impact on the company, develop a communications action plan and follow it through. It’s critical to have the necessary tools in place to effectively communicate to both internal and external audiences. These tools should include key messages, FAQs, media response statements, social media responses and internal communications such as a letter to employees so everyone is informed and empowered to communicate to key stakeholders as appropriate.
Respect customers. Customers are more powerful than ever, taking to social networks to rave about their favorite brands and rant about them when they make a mistake. In light of the yoga pants issue, Lululemon pulled products from store shelves and offered refunds to customers. The refund policy initially drew some criticism but was clarified and ultimately a successful strategy to repair customer relationships and get beyond the controversy.
Lululemon may have taken a few hits when the story broke but as long as the company continues to focus on improving its production processes they should be able to weather this storm with their reputation and loyal customers intact.
What do you think? How did Lululemon handle the PR crisis? What impact will it have on the company?