An Unaffordable Media Act

What began as an off-the-cuff comment made during a college lecture by Economics Professor Dr. Jonathan Gruber of MIT quickly became a nightmare as it exploded into a full-blown media frenzy. A video recording of his lecture went viral, then became a national news story and rallying cry for Obamacare opponents.

Courtesy of politico.com

Courtesy of politico.com

Credited as the “architect” of Presidents Obama’s Affordable Care Act (Obamacare,) who was reportedly paid millions for it, Dr. Gruber said that the “stupidity of the American voter” helped pass this signature piece of legislation for the President.

When the story broke, the Obamacare website had already suffered an embarrassing opening with crashing servers and a confusing interface. This story was reported as the second launch of the site was set to be released. Rather than the media coverage being about the Obamacare site finally getting it right, it turned toward Gruber and his “stupid” soundbite.

In this New Age of electronics, camera/video phones are everywhere. Even though you are not in a formal interview setting or studio, everyone in your audience is a reporter for social media and any words spoken or actions taken, can become the news heard ’round the world!

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.

 

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.

 tweet boldon

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!