The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s often said that the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. But until recently, the camera has always been in the hands of responsible and professional photographers, videographers and journalists. Not in the hands of passengers documenting airline brutality or murderers recording their own deeds as selfies.

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Photo courtesy of: Time.com

Now everyone with a cell phone, and that’s pretty much everyone, is a documentarian, taking cameras and matters into his or her own hands. And thanks to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, et al, there is no shortage of airtime.

Traditional print media like the New York TIMES, which narrowcasts to only those who choose to pay for it, advertises its policy of “all the news that’s fit to print.” But these social media publishers have yet to restrict the freedom of their presses.

According to Wikipedia, Clint Eastwood’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was one of the greatest and most influential Westerns of all time. But today’s citizens offer cowboy justice at its best and worst because there are no filters on these cameras.

In our Los Angeles media training and social media training world, this is the phenomena of loose cannons. Executives  must be Ready for them. It cannot be the “shoot from the hip” approach taken by United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz recently. There must be a sensible crisis plan, designed, prepared and practiced in advance.

Crisis training would have explored whether it is the best policy to boot paying customers to make way for employees.  Then, not defend employees’ actions in the face of excessive force without being aware of the details: a passenger being beaten seriously enough to cause a concussion, two broken teeth and a broken nose.

Then, after a deluge of negative traditional and social media not abjectly apologize saying Dr. David Dao “did nothing wrong.” A more appropriate response would have been, Dr. Dao was badly mistreated. But for the safety of all the passengers on my airline, everyone needs to follow the orders given by my people, even if you think those orders are stupid or unfair. And for that, I will not defend his actions either.

The cost to United Airlines in dollars and reputation is impossible to estimate. Each passenger on that flight is now being reimbursed for the price of his or her ticket, which may set a precedent that other companies will be forced to follow every time someone pictures and posts a misdeed. Finally, the passenger who was documented being dragged bloodied and broken down the aisle by countless cell phones is very likely to sue and is from Asia, an important market for the company.

The lesson, of course, is to get in front of a crisis, but to do it correctly. As the victimized doctor’s code would suggest, “First, do no harm.” And not respond impulsively without planning or design.

The world wide web offers the broadest of broadcasting possibilities to everyone who holds a cell phone. And that’s pretty much everyone.

 

A Rose By Any Other Name

 

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ABC’s newest Bachelor,  Juan Pablo Galavis seemed to be homophobic with his remark that gay people are more “pervert in a sense.” And ABC did not give a rose to Mr. Galavis for his comment. Instead they stated that his,

comments were careless, thoughtless and insensitive, and in no way reflect the views of the network, the show’s producers or studio.”

During the interview, Bachelor Galavis said in response to there being a gay bachelor,

“I don’t think it is a good example for kids to watch that on TV. It would be too hard for TV.”

Since then,  Mr. Galavis has apologized on his own Facebook page saying that it was an issue of  the language barrier, that “pervert” was not the word that he meant to use. He also was in touch with a gay rights organization, GLAAD, where he expressed:

“I have heard from many gay Latinos today who are hurt because of what I said and I apologize. I know gay parents and I support them and their families. They are good parents and loving families. I am a father and I know the feel of being a father, why wouldn’t I want my gay friends to also be happy parents?

I also want gay and lesbian youth to know that it is fine to be who you are. Gay or straight, Black or White, Latin or American, what matters here is to respect who we are.

Gay and lesbian people, and the children they are raising, wrongfully face discrimination and I want them to know that I’m on their side.”

Although Mr. Galavis  blames his vocabulary and language barrier, his portrayal in the limelight could have been saved with a few media interview techniques. His struggle for a response shows he also did not receive media coaching in either English or Spanish in order to understand what he should or should not say.

In the media, as in sports, the best defense is a good offense. Having Ready answers to bridge to when the media blindsides you with difficult questions is the answer!

 

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.