Managing QB Manning’s ‘crisis’ over HGH

We won’t know for some time, if ever, who’s telling the truth about allegations that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning used human growth hormone when recovering from potential career-ending injuries a few years back.

And, given the sorry history of Lance Armstrong and many others, it’s not worth speculating or taking sides. Today’s Washington Post, in advance of Sunday’s 50th Super Bowl, and possibly Manning’s final game, dives deep into what transpired around the controversial Al Jazeera report.

But what is clear is that Manning is taking no chances with his reputation, hiring lawyers, private investigators and one of the most high-profile crisis managers available, former presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Why?

Because if you don’t like Papa John’s pizza, or you’re not one of the millions who can’t get the Nationwide Insurance jingle out of your head, then surely you understand that Manning stands to make as much or more money in the next decade as a TV pitchman and possible NFL commentator as he did on the field.

For Manning – a long-time media darling perceived as one of the NFL’s best, as well as one of it’s ‘good guys’ – much is at stake.

What has his investment returned?

At least he has a smart crisis manager. If you read the Post story, Fleischer walks several fine lines, commenting and appearing transparent when he can, but retreating behind health disclosure laws when he needs to. He plays the crisis management game at the same high level Manning does in the NFL.

This certainly beats what we call the ‘Death Strategy,’ delay, deny, deceive. Or, the more frequently used duck, cover, no comment approach. Both are devastatingly bad.

Manning previously had a squeaky clean reputation, which is why many of those accused with him faded into the background in follow up stories. No one wants to believe this aw shucks guy with the golden arm fell victim to the ethical failures and cheating that drove many others to sacrifice integrity for money. And at this point, no one can say he did.

But as one would expect from a Super Bowl quarterback, he’s mounting a good offense.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

 

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Flint water a huge problem for Michigan’s governor

Politicians don’t have it easy these days. But sitting office holders who upset the populace usually face impeachment [see, Governor of Maine, Clinton, Bill] or a well-financed opponent in the next election.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder is in a class by himself. Residents of the hard-bitten city want him arrested.

In case you’ve missed this mess, and according to mlive.com, Snyder declared a state of emergency in Flint earlier this month because of the city’s lead in water crisis, apologizing for the state’s role in rising lead levels in Flint water and in the blood of young children.

The city changed its water source from Detroit’s source to the Flint River in April 2014. Following the switch, residents began complaining about discoloration and the water’s taste and smell. The city initially struggled with bacteria levels and the presence of a disinfectant byproduct, TTHM, in the water. The city eventually switched back to receiving water via the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which gets its water from Lake Huron. Those developments all occurred while the city was being run by an emergency manager appointed by the governor, mlive.com reported.

Earlier this week, Snyder called out the National Guard to help distribute bottled water to residents. Now comes word that 87 cases, 10 fatal, of Legionella bacteria were found in the Flint area, though any connection to the water crisis is unclear.

When government fails to meet its base obligations — chief among them maintaining public safety — residents will be furious. And they will be emotional, especially when their children are at risk.

This won’t be an easy crisis to solve. The governor can’t blame others; he can’t feign ignorance; and he can’t pretend the problem is exaggerated. Apologizing, which he did, is a good start.

But unless he finds a quick and lasting solution, his best move may be to resign.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

 

 

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Amazon belatedly responds to New York Times takedown of its employee culture

Jay Carney, now the global vice president for corporate affairs at Amazon, served as President Obama’s press secretary. He knows about quick, factual responses to crisis issues.

Thus his — and Amazon’s — languid approach to finally countering a New York Times August 15 takedown of the web retailing giant’s work culture is paradoxical.

jayCarney’s seemingly calm, but devastating, rebuttal — replete with facts about the named sources in the Times’ diatribe that seriously question the newspaper’s and its reporters’ professional ethics — is smoothly effective.

As a former Time [singular] reporter, Carney knows the journalism business and the culture. He systematically dismantles the story’s most dramatic testimony against Amazon.

For its part, the Times trots out the usual journalistic red herrings. The reporters spent six months on the story; they interviewed more than 100 people; Amazon is ruthless and says so itself. None of it undermines Carney’s body blows. The newspaper’s defenses so far feel more like explanations of why this was a newsworthy story — which no one disputes — than a factual girding of the reporters’ methods and writing.

But the problem with Carney’s rebuttal is that it comes more than two months after the original story ran. Not only did more than 2 million Times readers [print and digital] have a chance to read the original story, but it was a shared sensation across social media and the web. Conclusion: Amazon is a modern slave driver.

Amazon founder [and Washington Post owner] Jeff Bezos did at the time make some reactive comments about the story, defending his company. But they were pro forma and not specific enough to matter.

Carney’s counterpunch, however, was on the nose. But he threw it so late one has to wonder what effect it will ultimately have in changing readers’ perceptions of Amazon’s culture; and, it begs the question of why.

Clearly, Carney and his team needed to dig into the story’s charges, track down the former employees and fact-check their stories. You don’t want to rebut The New York Times with half the facts. He also probably had to run the whole thing by corporate lawyers, since the piece includes release of an email from one of the reporters to an Amazon official that publicly undresses the reporter’s motives and ensuing hypocrisy.

We’d commend Carney and Amazon for getting out the facts and in an effective vehicle. But they failed in the other half of the “facts fast” equation — to the company’s detriment.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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Planned Parenthood not yet crisis free, but doing a lot correctly toward that goal

When videos surfaced in July of a Planned Parenthood official from Southern California discussing the costs of supplying fetal tissue for research, the outrage was quick and the crisis immediate.

But Planned Parenthood — and especially its president, Cecile Richards — built an effective and aggressive crisis-management response.

Image result for cecile richards planned parenthood congress

First, the organization that supports and promotes women’s health, detailed the facts. As The New York Times reported:

Of Planned Parenthood’s nearly 700 health centers nationwide, only two — one in California and one in Washington State — supply fetal tissue to researchers, and only the one in California has been getting reimbursed, the organization said.

Next, Planned Parenthood had experts examine the video taken by an unabashed opponent, and put out a report showing how it was edited to maximize the anti-Planned Parenthood effect. While not a third-party assessment, it helped supporters find reason to stay the course.

Then Richards stepped to the fore and on the cusp of Republicans threatening to close down the government over Planned Parenthood funding in the federal budget, she went before two Congressional committees and presented facts with aplomb.

While it’s difficult to find neutral observers in this fight, after her testimony the Republicans opposing federal funding for the group did not achieve the votes to pull it, or to shut down the government in protest.

Then, on Tuesday, Richards announced that Planned Parenthood would halt supplying any fetal tissue to anyone. This is smart. And while the organization is a long way from salvation on this issue — five more Congressional committees plan to hold hearings — it maneuvered through this crisis as successfully as anyone might have expected.

“This is Planned Parenthood standing strong, saying that we are not going to be bullied, even by five congressional committees, into walking away from important research and women’s desire to donate,” said Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of the group. “We are not going to stand around getting flogged with false accusations for something that’s never been our motivation to participate in tissue donation.”

It’s a good case study on what to do.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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Survey of corporate imperatives shows people demand integrity, so prepare now

The siren song of crisis management is to train for and establish a crisis plan before a crisis hits.

Any crisis manager will tell you that for every call he or she receives from a client who wants to create a crisis plan when there is no crisis, they receive 10 from clients bogged down in the midst of one, desperate for help.

It’s with those thoughts in mind that an interesting survey of corporate responsibility came my way, thanks to EMA Senior Partner Sandy Gingerich. Its findings are more reinforcing than surprising, but they demand company leaders’ attention.

Most recently we’ve seen the Volkswagen scandal; a new CEO jacking up the price of a prescription drug; General Motors’ ignition deaths; the Sony email hacking and many others.

The survey, by Just Capital, concludes that Americans want their corporations to be better citizens, to improve ethically, not to shave so many corners.

The findings are overwhelming in a polling context. These aren’t 30 or 40 percenters. The conclusions come from all income groups and detail that nearly 80 percent say they would buy from more ethical corporations, invest in them and work for them.

Asked to identify elements of corporate justice, people’s top choices were good employee pay and benefits, satisfied workers alongside fair hiring practices and products or services that have a strong impact on society. A majority of the 43,000 respondents agreed that businesses should not pay rock-bottom wages, and that those wages were not justifiable. 

The lesson herein, then, is that consumers want more ethical corporations, will shift their buying and investments accordingly, and that maintaining and improving a corporate reputation likely involves preparing for the worst — before it strikes.

Because the damage a crisis exerts is not tied to its severity or initial drama, but to its duration. GM has gone years with this ignition problem pulling down sales and profits; Volkswagen faces years of scrutiny, criminal investigations and fines.

Preparing in advance for effectively reacting to such crippling events can only help the ethical corporation.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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VWell handled, Volkswagen owns up to its mistakes and takes responsibility

Volkswagen has a smelly mess — and that’s not just its diesel exhaust — reporters already christened “Dieselgate.”

Jalopnik reported that Volkswagen and Audi face a maximum fine of $18 billion, including the possibility of pending criminal charges and being subject to Congressional hearings, as well as the company’s market value plummeting almost 20 percent following news of the scandal.

The issue affects almost 500,000 diesels from Volkswagen and Audi in the United States with the 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. Models were fitted with “a sophisticated software algorithm” that would adjust the emissions during EPA testing, and did not reflect actual normal driving conditions.

In other words, serious fraud.

As also reported by Jalopnik: Speaking just before the unveiling of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat at an event in New York, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America Michael Horn made a short statement on Volkswagen’s recent diesel cheating scandal: “Our company was dishonest; we screwed up.”

Image result for VW Michael Horn

This is an enormous mess and scandal and taking responsibility is not going to ease the financial and legal penalties VW faces. But compared to how many companies and CEOs react — recall GM’s years of stonewalling on the ignition issue — Horn’s approach is refreshing.

And, it’s the best way to go.

Horn said the ongoing Dieselgate scandal was “completely inconsistent with our core values,” and, “We need to make it right with all of you.”

Horn finished his statement with “We will correct this TDI issue. We will straighten this out. We will pay what we have to pay.”

A CEO standing up and being forthright, honest and frank sets Horn and VW apart. It’s the best way to handle a mess like this. What impact it will have on Congress and other authorities is still unknown.

But it’s a very good start.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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Hillary Clinton apologizes, her credibility dashed, 200 days after she should have

Hillary Clinton said she’s sorry. You know, for that email thing.

Finally. Twenty-eight weeks after she should have.

A March 2, 2015 New York Times article broke the story that Clinton had used her own private email server rather than a government-issued one throughout her time as U.S. Secretary of State, and that her aides took no action to preserve emails sent or received from her personal accounts as required by law, according to Wikipedia.

Today she fully apologized. After denying there was a problem. After pretending what she did was OK. After saying nothing classified was in her personal emails. After realizing her presidential nomination could be jeopardized. And, sadly, after her campaign ran focus groups on the impact.

It’s almost silly how clear it was in March that she needed to stand up, take responsibility, explain her thinking, accept her mistakes, say she was sorry. Now, seven months of damage later, she finally does what she obviously should have long ago.

“That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility,” Mrs. Clinton said in an interview with David Muir of ABC News broadcast Tuesday night. “And I’m trying to be as transparent as I possibly can.”

Everything seems forced and staged. The Times reported yesterday that her staff said she would become funnier and more natural on the campaign trail. Really? Why do campaign officials say such stupid things? Why not just let her go out and be less forced and funnier? Then let the media report that. It’s like focus groups could vote.

This email crisis has been mucked up from the start. She’s been on the defensive. She even tried at one point to pretend that she thought wiping a server clean meant dusting the outside of the tower. And her original news conference March 10, billed as her coming clean and answering all questions, is now a case study on how not to handle a crisis.

Even she didn’t believe what she said.

Crisis managers will tell you: The truth has a way of bubbling to the surface. It may take weeks, months or years, but the truth rarely stays hidden. With that as a foundational realization, leaders must realize that if there is bad news to share, that they be the ones to share it, and release all of it at once. Take your hits, pay your fines, move on.

After 200 days of pretending she did nothing wrong, Clinton finally owned up to her mistakes.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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