Posts Tagged ‘public relations crisis’

Facebook Change to User Emails is Case Study in the Limits of Spin

June 29, 2012 1 comment

The Bait and Switch

As you’re likely aware, recently Facebook changed the email settings of all users so that the email they signed up with is no longer visible – replaced by their email address.  The company rolled out an email service back in 2010.  My guess is that adoption was lagging so given the new pressure they’re under as a result of their IPO to monetize the service, they made the switch.

They’re perfectly entitled to do this; after all they’re a private company providing a free service to users.

HOWEVER, what you’re ENTITLED to do and what you SHOULD do are two completely different things.

MOREOVER, WE do not control the language – THE PEOPLE DO (in this case, the users). Read more…

In Defense of WOOD TV 8 and the Handling of Suzanne Geha’s Departure

April 25, 2011 12 comments

The recent departure of longtime local TV anchor Suzanne Geha from WOOD TV 8 has generated a storm of backlash from the West Michigan audience that watched her for the last 30 years.

The reason the public is upset is that they’re justified: the station deliberately marketed its anchors as personalities and made community involvement a component of their jobs when they were away from the set. They invited the public in to see the positive aspects, and then when an uncomfortable/unpopular development happened – they shut the people out.  Or at least, they tried.

The public has flooded social media with commentary, speculation and condemnation.  I’m pretty confident the full story will come out somehow, no matter how hard the decision-makers try to obscure it with nondisclosure agreements and other old-school tools for enforcing opaqueness.

That sort of detached, clueless decision-making smacks more of a large corporate conglomerate than a local business.

The real problem is that WOOD TV, like so many media entities, is owned by a parent company: LIN Media, a publicly-traded company based in Rhode Island.  I doubt the decision to end the relationship with Suzanne Geha was made at the local level.  It was probably part of budget cuts made by some suits with MBAs in a corner office in Providence who over-value quarterly earnings reports and under-value public relations.

The story of news entities being bought up by conglomerates and subsequently starved of funding to increase profitability is a very common one in the past few decades, so I feel bad that the station’s been hammered so badly in the public sphere.

That concentration of media ownership is also a key factor in the problems traditional media have had in being able to innovate and evolve in response to the social media revolution that has eroded audiences.  Rather than investing the massive profits of the 1980s in development for the long-term future, the corporate ownership of most news entities (including print, radio and TV) pocketed the money and are now in the process of wringing the last remaining drops of revenue out of those acquisitions.

Unfortunately we may have to wait until investors lose interest in news media enterprises before they’re able to return to people who actually value news gathering and begin the difficult process of innovation.  It may be too late, though; and the next stage of evolution for the news may be usurped by the social media-driven ventures that exist outside the traditional model.

One thing is for sure regardless of which path is taken – the road will be a rocky one.

Social Media Crisis Comm Case Study: HS English Teacher Natalie Munroe

February 13, 2011 2 comments
English Teacher Natalie Munroe Responds to Social Media Controversy With her own Blog Post

English Teacher Natalie Munroe Responds to Social Media Controversy With her own Blog Post

[Update: I was able to find a link someone posted to the Google Cache of the original blog: http://tin­­tubjsv]

As part of a webinar I’m presenting this week on Social Media Policy (“Social Media – Campus Policies & Protocol” – February 17, 2011 from 2-3:30 p.m. EST), I’ve been tracking some very recent case studies to discuss with the audience.

One of them was the story of Natalie Munroe, a High School English Teacher who was just suspended from Central Bucks East High School last week Wednesday after a current student happened across her blog ( which contained disparaging comments (including calling one student a “rude, beligerent [sic], argumentative f*ck”) about students, parents and co-workers.  The student forwarded the link to past students of Munroe’s.  Eventually some parents found out about it and notified school officials.

What’s become particularly fascinating about the case is that yesterday, Munroe used her blog to respond with her side of the story (as I write this, the local news media in Bucks County appears not to have picked this up yet).

For what it’s worth – responding via one’s blog is a rather bold and inspired strategy.  In the research I’ve done on cases like these (and in crisis public relations situations generally) people typically regret remaining silent at the advice of counsel and wish they would have weighed in to help influence public opinion on their own behalf.

From a PR perspective, I might suggest to Natalie that she undelete/republish all of the content from her blog.  Here’s why:

  1. hiding it tends to imply that one is admitting that the content is shameful (whereas being transparent tends to be a quality that inspires respect/deference)
  2. it removes the context that the benign portions of the blog provide and allows people to focus on the sensational excerpts posted in the news
  3. as Natalie herself noted, there are already cached copies in circulation anyway

Our society is going to be engaged in a difficult debate about the limits of free speech for the next few years as more people begin to publish information about themselves via social media.

Until we’ve crystallized opinion and established a legal/societal framework around how open we allow people to be depending on their role – it’s best to avoid becoming a case study at all costs.  The nascent legal framework in place and the fact that many judges/prosecutors/jurors/board members are largely ignorant of the intricacies of social media means you can’t be guaranteed a fair trial.

New Cocktail: The “Bloody Libel” [Instructions]

January 13, 2011 1 comment

How to Make a Bloody Libel Cocktail

Perfect for a mama grizzly after a long day at the office…

(with help from @JocelynGR)

More PR Trouble for BP: Great Case Study in the Filters of the Web

June 1, 2010 Leave a comment

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I wrote a while earlier about the impact of the new era of transparency on BP’s continuing public relations crisis.  Since then, a couple of other new phenomenon caught my attention:

  • Google Sidewiki: This somewhat-forgotten tool created by Google to accompany webpages and help contextualize them with user contributions has a bit of content that isn’t exactly kind to BP.
  • The Black Oil Firefox Plugin:  Designed by design agency Jess3, this add-on to Firefox makes the pages viewed by your browser look like a redacted document from the CIA as it blacks out references to British Petroleum (the blacked out portions eventually animate and drip ala crude).

These two items may seem like frivolous distractions, but they’re not.  They’re exquisite reminders of how little control we exercise over the web, particularly as the content that populates it and the tools that browse it become more and more sophisticated and oriented toward individual control.

You can spend all the time you want tweaking your website until it’s just the way you want, but what you create may not at all be what ends up being delivered to the end user.