Archives for February 2014

Action Speaks Louder than Words

 

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In mid-February, residents of Bobtown, Pennsylvania were awakened by the sound of a massive blast in the town’s Chevron-owned fracking well. The blast killed one worker and injured another. And although the fire is out, residents are still concerned about the gas and heat being emitted into the atmosphere.

In response, Chevron’s Community Outreach Team compensated residents by distributing some 100 coupons for a free pizza and a 2-liter bottle of soda, accompanied by a statement:

Chevron recognizes the effect this had on the community. We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbors, our employees, our contractors, and the environment.

The letter also included a “toll-free community hotline” that led the caller to the voicemail of an unidentified person.

In making light of this very serious and tragic event, the oil giant turned it into a PR disaster, too. The apology was greeted with social media backlash from Bobtown residents and people around the country.

One blog even opined, “I see a possible new marketing campaign for Chevron: ‘We guarantee your fracking rig won’t explode, or your pizza is free!’”

Chevron would have benefitted more from their pledge striving “to achieve incident-free operations” with a more strategic and thoughtful plan, rather than seeming to buy off the community with pizza and pop.

Residents should have been addressed about the accident head on through a press conference held by Chevron executives and followed through with an investigation.

Moral: Every public relations response should be respectful and appropriate for the situation.

 

Adding Injury to Insult

Los Angeles broadcast journalist Sam Rubin created a recent media debacle when he made an amateurish mistake of confusing the celebrity he was interviewing with another.

Speaking with Samuel L. Jackson on KTLA about his new movie remake of RoboCop, Mr. Rubin asked via satellite,

“Working for Marvel, the Super Bowl commercial, did you get a lot of reaction to that Super Bowl commercial?”

Automatically Samuel L. Jackson knew that Mr. Rubin mistook him for Laurence Fishburne in the Kia Superbowl commercial and retorted:

“See, you’re as crazy as the people on Twitter. I’m not Laurence Fishburne! We don’t all look alike! We may be all black and famous, but we don’t look alike.”

Mr Jackson dealt humorously with the interviewer’s mistake, but seemed enraged and continued to rant…

 “You’re the entertainment reporter?!”

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Later in the broadcast, the journalist apologized for the mistake:

 “More often than not, I really do know what I’m talking about. But I didn’t 30 minutes ago, and I’m really embarrassed about it, and I very much apologize to Samuel L. Jackson and anyone else who was offended for what was a very amateur mistake.”

Mr. Jackson did not let it go. He could take a few pointers from Martin Short’s surprised, but gracious reaction to the Today Show’s Kathy Lee asking after his wife, who had died two years earlier, as shown here.

It was a mistake for Rubin to confuse celebrities, but for Samuel L. Jackson to make it about race was not the answer. He was the only one who played the race card…

“I am the ‘What’s in your wallet’ [Capital One] black guy….And I’ve actually never done a McDonalds or a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial. I know that’s surprising.”

Media training is usually reserved for media guests. But, interviewer Sam Rubin needs to learn some of the C’s of Communication: clarity, compassion, and correctness to avoid hurting his image as well as the image of his guests.

In Samuel L. Jackson’s words:

“Do some work. Do some research.”

Moral of the story: make sure you’re ready for the media; from both ends and that you act graciously when a mistake is made.

Behaving Badly

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When Richard Sherman sealed the Seattle Seahawk’s spot in Super Bowl XLVIII in his game-saving play against the San Francisco 49ers, he also sealed his spot as the sports world’s latest “classless” wonder.

His adrenaline and aggression were at an all-time high in a post game interview with …

Well, I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get. Don’t you ever talk about me.”

What is just as bad as being a sore loser, is being a sore winner. As Ato Boldon, four times Olympic medalist stated in his tweet, it was evident that there was no clear media training done for the opinionated and classless Rich Sherman.

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Despite tweets on his arrogant stupidity, Mr. Sherman did graduate from Stanford with a degree in Communications. This may be the reason why in the passionate reaction to his game-winning play, he did not use curse words and turned to camera to make direct eye contact.

But he should have also known not to waste precious press time talking about his opponents and the other team! With Mr. Sherman’s spectacular play, he gave himself the opportunity to share his pride in being a “Seattle Seahawk,” give credit to both his own quaterback and receiver who scored the winning touchdown, etc, etc. …. In short, brand, brand, brand.

He became Twitter’s latest “trend,” not only for his commendable game, but his foolish response. And Mr. Sherman didn’t apologize, but said that he regrets the “storm afterwards” and how it was perceived in the media. He did admit that he probably should not have attacked Crabtree,

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”

Although these antics garner media attention, always remember that bad press is not better than no press at all. Instead, it is important to portray yourself at your best and in Sherman’s case, win with composure.

Having to Say You’re Sorry

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In the past year, Lululemon has been under fire not only for the “sheerness” of its yoga pants, but also for the explanations of the brand’s founder, Chip Wilson. “Yoga pants become see-through when women buy sizes that are too small for them.”

Backlash from women all across North America registered shock that a company who promotes “quality is at the heart of everything we do” blamed customers instead of stating that there was an issue with the fabric.

What happened to  … “the customer is always right.”

In March 2013, the company was forced to pull nearly 17 percent of its popular black yoga pants from stores. The pants have since been put back on shelves, but Lululemon faced a new barrage of customer complaints, this time involving the pilling of the fabric. Mr. Wilson claimed that when his $100 pants wear out, “it’s women’s fault. It happens when their thighs rub together.”

Mr. Wilson later released a video stating his sincerest of apologies to his company …

“I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions, I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about that have really had to face the brunt of my actions. I take responsibility for all that has occurred, and the impact it has had on you.”

He does not seem sad for the customers he insulted, instead he tells them how to react:

“For all of you who have made Lululemon what it is today, I ask you to stay in a conversation that is above the fray. I ask you to prove that the culture that you have built can’t be chipped away.”

They didn’t stay above the fray. There have been multiple class action lawsuits against Lululemon, most from customers of the brand.

And customers weren’t the only audiences offended. Shares of Lululemon stock plummeted from 11-15% over the last year. The stockholders also sued.

Mr. Wilson has since relinquished his seat as CEO of the company he founded to a hopefully more consumer-savvy executive, Laurent Potdevin, former President of shoe company, TOMS.

Moral: Every CEO needs media training!